Questions about the Google search link modifier

One of the common things I see in SEO discussions is “links” and how they might affect SERP position.

I decided to do some testing in hope that I might see whether or not backlinks seem to have an effect on SERP position.

If I remember correctly, in the past the correct use was to search for (with an “s”)

But looking around the Google documentation now, all I have found is link: without an “s” so there is a better than good chance my memory is incorrect.

Anyway, it seems this search modifier is broken or no longer kept up to date, or I’m doing it wrong.

I realize that Google never claimed such search results would have “all pages”, but I have seen inconsitencies and differences that go far beyond what I would consider to be within a “margin of error”

Note that I am not logged in to my Google account and I have cleared browser cookies before each search to reduce the possibility that previous searches might be influencing results.

A search for gives me “did not match any documents” yet a search for gives me “About 21 results (0.79 seconds)”

It gets even more perplexing when add the site: or -site: modifier.
My understanding is that these can be used to filter results to “only this site” and “only not this site”

Yet gives “About 1,610 results (0.42 seconds)” gives “About 234,000 results (0.66 seconds)”

If link is all pages that link to the domain, site is pages with internal links and -site is pages that link to the domain from external sites, the numbers not only don’t add up, they don’t even come anywhere near to being close to adding up.

If I search for (with an “s”) I get “About 958,000 results (0.47 seconds)”

My guess is that Google puts more emphasis on checking backlinks from Webmaster Tools, and that what I’m seeing suggests how little importance backlinks now have on SERP positioning.


Google says the search will return “a sampling” of links to the site, rather than a comprehensive list.

My guess is that this is related to Google’s attempts to persuade people that PageRank is not a metric to obsess about. As links are directly related to PR, if they’ve ceased issuing public updates on PR, it makes sense that they no longer give detailed information on links, either.


Yes, that thought did cross my mind as well.

Though I suspect that alone is not the reason. I imagine that maintaining backlink data for every site would be extremely resource intensive.

That is, from a business perspective, if I were weighing the cost against the benefit, I would scrap that link modifier and stop publishing Page Rank updates.

I guess expecting some type of “invalid search modifier entered” message would be asking for too much, but just the same even having something like “deprecated” on the answer page you linked to would be nice.

Meh. Google does what Google does and who’s to understand.


:slight_smile: :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

I just checked one of my sites and had to add quotes to overcome the hyphen and delighted to say About 754,000,000 results (0.24 seconds)

It looks as though there is no correlation between the results and:
Google-WebMaster-Tools → Search Traffic → Links to Your Site
which only shows “Total links: 5,428”?

I’m beginning to think it likely that not only do rel noffolw links have no influence on SERP position, but that it is indeed possible that backlinks of any kind have no influence on SERP position.

The possible searches that you see are based on what other people are searching for and the content of web pages indexed by Google.

No mention of “number of backlinks” at all.

I couldn’t confirm this for certain, Google being the enigma it is, but it’s no secret that “back-links” are far less significant than they used to be as a ranking signal, after the PR system was (and continues to be) so badly abused by Search Engine Obsessives (SEOs).


I think what that article is referring to is Google’s prediction of what you are searching for, not how the results are sorted. Not the same thing.

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