This article is part 3 of 9 from my LocalU presentation from March 2020. If you missed the event, the videos are available for purchase here.
This is a question I see frequently in online forums and Facebook groups: Does building backlinks to your Google My Business listing help it rank better? Depending on who you ask, you will get a very wide variety of answers to this question. We wanted to test it for ourselves and share what we found.
We first got the link to the Google listing that we wanted to build links to by getting the CID number. For the first test, we used the featured message section in Yext and pushed these links out to their network of directories (h/t to Blake Denman for the idea). We were able to use a very specific anchor text so we knew what keywords to track movement on.
We tracked the impact over several months and although we did see some original uptick in rankings for this keyword, it didn’t stick long-term (Tool used: Places Scout).
The original uptick was right in the middle of the huge ranking fluctuations we saw in the month of November thanks to the Bedlam algorithm update. I was also skeptical of the links being responsible for the increase because out of the entire Yext network, we could only find one page that was actually indexed on Google that had the anchor text (it was Yellowpages.com).
For this test, we picked a plumber that had no clear SEO efforts going on. He ranked on the bottom of page 1 for his main terms (around position 18-20) and didn’t even have a website. We set up backlinks to the Google listing from 3 pages on different domains that were indexed on Google already. One of these pages was on our website which had a domain rating of 69 at the time. Our concept here was quality over quantity.
Over the course of the next few weeks, the number of keywords that had first-page rankings dropped and so did the overall average ranking.
However, since the links weren’t topically relevant (the websites linking out were marketing websites), we decided to repeat this test once more using a listing for a Local SEO consultant.
For this test, we linked to a listing for a local SEO consultant from 3 different pages that were already indexed, had decent authority, and were also topically relevant. We also used very specific anchor text for a keyword that had very little competition so it would be easier to measure the impact.
Like the first example, we did see an increase in rankings originally, but the ranking increases did not stick and things went back to how they were before after a couple of months. This GIF of the rankings over time (generated with Places Scout) help illustrate that.
Something interesting to note was that in the 2 cases where we did see a slight lift temporarily (test 1 and 3), both used anchor text pointing to the listing. On the case with the plumber, no anchor text was used and there was no positive movement at all.
Although we did see some temporary increases, none of our tests yielded long-term positive results. Getting quality links to a Google My Business listing from authority sites is also going to be hard, if not impossible, to do at scale. It’s a much better strategy to focus on things like building quality links to your website which have a long-term impact on local rankings along with organic.