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Does Creating Backlinks to Your Google My Business (GMB) Listing Help Ranking?

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.

Test 1:

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

Test 2:

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.

Test 3:

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.

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Joy Hawkins

Joy is the owner of the Local Search Forum, LocalU, and Sterling Sky, a Local SEO agency in Canada & the USA. She has been working in the industry since 2006, writes for publications such as Search Engine Land, and enjoys speaking regularly at marketing conferences such as MozCon, LocalU, Pubcon, SearchLove, and State of Search. You can find her on Twitter or volunteering as a Product Expert on the Google My Business Forum.

This Post Has 32 Comments

  1. My team and I were thinking of doing similar tests to see how the visibility improved for a GMB listing. Thank you for sharing your test results as it saved us from doing the same.

  2. “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.’

    How? I have used the ‘build it and they will come’ approach, and ‘they’ are a long time coming. Do outreach? We are an e-commerce site selling greeting cards and posters, so we are not going to set the world of fire with anything we publish. I think I choose poor keyword phrases, but nothing I can think of is that world shattering. Pay Per Click is a problem because of the low value items we sell.Our converting traffic comes from Google search and direct, not from social media (as far as I can analyse) so it’s hard and I am at a standstill.

    1. Hey David,

      Link building is definitely time consuming and difficult. Here, our approach is to have several people on staff who have backgrounds in PR and can get clients quoted in various media outlets. Often, you don’t need a giant linkable asset because reporters just need an opinion on a particular topic from an expert or form someone who runs a business. For example, we had several businesses quoted in articles that dive into how COVID-19 is impacting their business. Another strategy we’ve seen work well is B2B testimonials. So if you have other businesses that you’d recommend, offer to give them a testimonial that they can use on their website and they’ll often link back to your site to help prove you’re a real person. I’d also check out ZipSprout’s local sponsorship tool if you have a focus on any particular local market.

  3. Nicely done Joy. It sure takes time and effort to test things within GMB. Thank you for sharing. I have noticed spammy businesses adding plenty of citations links to the GMB business sites. I called them spammy because a lot of them don’t have real locations, yet they are displaying random houses or parking lots and they are ranking in the local pack.
    Have you seen that kind of tactic? Literally, in the few businesses I’ve seen they have added citation links to the business site you get from a verified GMB location.

  4. So, it sounds to me like the links worked. Do people really think in SEO that you can do something one time (links) and then sit back and it’ll bear fruits forever? No, you have to continue working. I don’t know how you can come to the conclusion it didn’t work. Your analsysis showed it worked.

    Now if you were asking: Does building links to a GMB profile permantently increase rankings? The answer would be no.

    That’s like saying don’t get backlinks because you’ll just have to get more backlinks as time goes on. Who would ever say that?


      1. Disagree with what? Didn’t I read that the rankings increased after the backlinks but then diminished over time?

        1. The increases that we saw didn’t last longer than a month or 2. I don’t think it’s a good idea to constantly try and build links to the GMB listing. We also don’t see this pattern with tons of traditional SEO tactics like normal link building to your website or onsite optimization tactics. We don’t see the impacts of those reverse after a month. Sure, as time goes on and your competitors build links too, you need to do more to keep up with them. But even in that case, we don’t see this pattern of reversal.

          1. Interesting. I’ve seen that overtime, it seems that overtime a single backlink eventually loses power over time. Perhaps its because competitors are doing SEO work and gaining on your site. If I can get clients results by backlinking to their GMB profile, and it’s something I need to do every few months, it certainly seems like something to do. Minimal amount of actual work, and high potential for ROI. I appreciate you doing this analysis, but I think you came to the wrong conclusion. Perhaps its because you want to stay on the ‘white hat’ side, but your findings definitely indicated that backlinks help, it’s just a process. What is the difference in building backlinks to a GMB and reporting spam of competitors? Both are ongoing processes, both can improve results (both do improve results based on your findings).Just wondering, why you report one works and one doesn’t when both work, and both require continual monitoring, and activity?

          2. For the first test we did, we couldn’t conclude at all that the increase was related to the backlinks because there was too much going on with the site as whole and there was only 1 page that was even indexed that got the link from Yext. For case 2, there was no improvement whatsoever. For case 3, the improvement only lasted a couple of months. My conclusion is that it would be extremely hard to replicate the increase we saw in the 3rd test due to the fact that these links were coming from really high domain authority sites (not sure how I could continue to replicate that for several months on end) and the keyword we targeted had extremely low competition. You’re dead on that my conclusions are coming from a white hat perspective so I’m not surprised that there are people that disagree with me 🙂

  5. I always love the content from sterlingsky! I know it’s trustworthy and I generally use it to hone my skills as an SEO practitioner. Thank you…this was just the type of info on backlinking to my GMB that I was looking for.

  6. If the rankings do improve for a two month window. The click through rate from those improvements should also move the needle. If that listing provides a relevant result. Click through and engagement with GMB listings are the most prominent values to Google in the testing we have done. On going backlinking, posting, value and engagement will always keep you at the top of the map pack.

  7. Thanks for sharing this experiment , I think it worth testing too but maybe with super related content like if the backlinks where in maps or similar business maps directories i guess it will improve it’s ranking.

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