I was talking to 2 colleagues the other day on Skype and they both brought up the issue of creating/claiming Google My Business (GMB) pages for niche sites. It turns out this is something that some niche site publishers do.
My colleagues hadn’t done so yet, but had heard it suggested that it’s one way to communicate to Google that your niche sites are legit. In other words, it’s intended to communicate trust to Google in the aftermath of the Medic update carnage. At the end of the day, the sole purpose is for SEO rankings.
Since I like search traffic, I decided to investigate further and give this approach some thought.
I’ve been considering this tactic for two days now, but I can’t help but believe it to be a bad idea.
I came to this conclusion from the perspective of someone who uses Google My Business for local business info, not as a niche site publisher.
Consider the following scenario:
Suppose I want to find a local store that sells mountain bikes.
I search in Google and up comes the “Ultimate Mountain Bike Rider” GMB page saying it’s located near me. I see the address is not far from my house. It has 50 excellent reviews. Looks like a winner.
I click into it, visit the site, but all I see are mountain bike reviews. I dig around on the site looking for mountain bikes for sale. I don’t find any. I go to the contact page and see the address. I jump in my car, head to the address only to find out it’s a house on a residential street.
I go to the door, thinking maybe, just maybe, they’re selling mountain bikes out of the house. After all, I’m an optimist, but it’s not looking good at this point.
I ring the bell. A guy all decked out in mountain bike wear answers, looking perplexed wondering who the heck I am.
I say “hey, I’m here to buy a mountain bike. I found your address as a Mountain Bike store in the Google pages. Can I check out the bikes you have for sale?”
The guy chuckles and says “sorry man, my website reviews mountain bikes. I don’t sell them. Sorry for the confusion.”
I thank him and head back home… without a new mountain bike.
I think you’ll agree with me that this is a major waste of time. I think you’d also agree with me that Google does not intend for that to happen with its local listings.
Which leads me to conclude creating GMB pages for niche sites, despite intending to communicate to Google you’re a legit company, is not the best way to go about it.
As an aside, you know niche sites doing this have more and better reviews than all the other local businesses. Go figure. Marketers will be marketers.
However, maybe my thinking about this is all wrong. I’ve been wrong before. I’ll be wrong again.
I reached out for second opinions on the issue. Here are some more opinions on whether GMB pages are a good idea for niche sites.
Tyler Bishop at Ezoic:
I don’t inherently see it as a something other than an unproven hack. As you mentioned, it is not the intention of the GMB listings/pages.
Google has typically been great at taking the value out of (or penalizing) activities that are meant to cheat their systems or use them improperly. I don’t see this as a traditional white hat technique and is something I think will eventually provide no value. I doubt it will be penalized, but it does take time away from the thousands of other things publishers can be doing to improve their SEO. In my opinion, niche publishers don’t spend enough time researching new content, structuring their content to maximize results, or augmenting existing content based on data from popular SEO tools.
Andrej at Alphainvestors.com:
I completely agree with you that niche sites shouldn’t be creating those profiles, but I do it anyways (money hat on) :I. I, personally, build 100 or so citations (GMB included) for each of my content sites. The main reasons behind this is to get some initial ‘credibility’ in Google’s eyes, speed up indexing, and to pad my anchor text profile with branded anchors so I can play around with it later when the time comes.
Spencer Haws at Niche Pursuits:
I had never considered doing that [i.e. claiming and publishing Google My Business pages for niche sites] because I felt like it wasn’t really what that service was all about. It’s an interesting strategy, that I hadn’t put much thought into. I don’t plan on doing it at this point.
Doug Cunnington at Niche Site Project:
No, I won’t be doing it. I 100% agree with your assessment of the spirit of GMB. Unless it’s relevant for the site and the local community, then I see it as trying to game the system which I tend to avoid. I know that trust is associated with having a physical address on a site, and trust is important. I opt for building trust via social proof instead of putting an address. So I like to place a “featured on” type banner so visitors can see that other sites think my niche sites are valuable and trustworthy. I believe that Google sees links from authoritative sites as a demonstration of trust.
It seems there’s pretty good agreement that GMB pages for niche sites aren’t what Google intends, but is indeed a hack (for now).
Even if 10 people told me it’s the best idea and it skyrockets rankings in Google search, I can’t get on board with this party because of the scenario I set out above. Niche sites getting listed in what is really a local directory is not what Google intends.
Sure, there are always exceptions.
If you actually sell or provide the services set out on your GMB page in conjunction with running a niche site such as an Amazon affiliate site, it’s fine.
For example, if you blog about model trains but also buy and sell them, a GMB page may make sense. As long as you have something to sell or offer services such as model train repair, a GMB page is fine.
The litmus test is if someone shows up at the business address listed, can you deliver what the GMB page says you deliver?
You’re such a Google suck up Jon, what gives?
Haha, you’re right. Once bitten, twice shy. I’m a casualty of the first Penguin rollout. It’s been 7 years (as of last month BTW) and I have not forgotten.
So yes, I toe the line. It’s not a moral, ethical or legal decision to me. If it made good business sense to game search rankings, I’d do it in a heartbeat.
However, since choosing to toe the line 7 years ago, I’ve managed to build up a reasonably good online publishing business. I’ll stay the course.
What do you think?
Jon runs the place around here. He pontificates about launching and growing online publishing businesses, aka blogs that make a few bucks. His pride and joy is the email newsletter he publishes that’s “the best blogging email newsletter around.”
Hyperbole? Maybe, but go check it out to see what some readers say.
In all seriousness, Jon is the founder and owner of a digital media company that publishes a variety of web properties visited and beloved by millions of readers monthly. Fatstacks is where he shares a glimpse into his digital publishing business.