What are Google Local Business Categories and How to Choose Them
With more than 3 billion daily searches, Google needs to regulate them somehow so all those queries would find the right destination. What helps the search engine with a proper organisation is Google’s local business categories.
Yes, this is that tiny yet essential detail business owners and SEO specialists often forget when fighting for high ranks in Google.
Back in 2018, when Moz surveyed local search ranking factors, business categories appeared as a core element to have for ranking well in maps and the local pack. By picking up the correct local business categories, you allow Google to categorise your business right for potential customers to find you. More than that, the primary category you choose for your business makes a big difference, influencing your online visibility and reputation.
With that said, you understand that Google sets a high value on local business categories. You know they can help a website rank higher in local search. But what is a local business category, exactly? And how to choose it for your business page?
Keep on reading to find this out.
What are Google’s local business categories?
“A local business category” describes your business type at listing sites like Yelp, Google My Business, social media business pages, etc. It’s a classification used to group local businesses with similar characteristics. It helps search engines define when to show them based on a user’s search.
You select local business categories when creating your business page in Google My Business. You can easily edit those categories from your dashboard if you already have the page there.
Each time you create a local business listing, you’ll need to choose how to categorise your business there. Google allows you to choose up to ten categories, but you still have to decide on a primary one. Selecting the wrong local business category can hurt your ranks in Google’s local results pack.
That’s what your business looks like in Google search when you add it to listings and assign its primary category right:
Local business category associations have been among the top-ranking factors for a long time already. Google’s guidelines encourage you to choose them carefully, ranking them as the #3 factor for local packs. When selecting categories, ensure you avoid repetitions and be as accurate as possible: the wrong categorisation leads to irrelevant search results and rankings.
The problem with local business categories in Google
First, they are more than 2,000 to choose from.
Second, Google constantly changes, removes, renames, and adds new categories to the list. So, despite such diversity, it may not be easy for businesses to find a category that would represent them best.
The best decision is to choose as many closest categories as possible. Not quite. While Google guidelines allow you to choose up to 10 local business categories, they indicate that the fewer but higher specific, the better. That’s what they say:
“To keep your business information accurate and live, make sure that you:
- Use as few categories as possible to describe your core business from the list provided.
- Choose categories that are as specific as possible but represent your main business.
- Do not use categories solely as keywords or to describe attributes of your business.
- Do not use categories that pertain to other businesses nearby or related, such as a business physically contained within your business or an entity that contains your business.”
But here goes a controversion:
Also, you can’t choose general and specific local business categories to avoid redundancy. For example, the first result in the rankings below didn’t use any categories with keywords. Still, it was specific enough to appear in the search:
It seems complicated, no?
What you need to know about local business categories
When working with local business categories for better SEO content and rankings, remember the following:
- Google changes the names of categories all the time.
- It removes old categories and adds new ones.
- Categories have different names for different countries.
- The primary category gives you more ranking power.
- New categories can improve your ranking.
- It’s not true that having a few categories on your local business listing weakens your ranking.
- With more than 2,000 categories and subcategories available, they may appear differently in Google search results and your Google My Business dashboard.
The image and info are taken from Search Engine Land.
How to choose a primary local business category to rank right and high? How many categories do you add to your local business listing besides a primary one, and how do you decide if they are specific enough for Google to understand? How do you know when Google updates its categories list and when you need to update your categories? And what other business listings, besides those from Google, to consider for specifying your local business categories?
Stay with us to learn more.
How to pick a primary business category?
A primary category is vitally important: it influences your visibility in search engines for all related terms. For some, it seems obvious how to choose it: just pick what you are, right? But everything is more complex.
Google recommends you choose a primary category that would describe your business. While it’s easy to do for businesses with a narrow focus, those with a broad focus or multi-location ones may get misplaced.
- If your business is narrow-focused and single-location, just choose your specific category from the list. (Example: “divorce attorney,” “boat dealer,” “nuclear engineer,” etc.)
- If your business is single-location but broad-focused (water conditioner installation, plumbing, etc.), you need to decide what part to prioritise for search engines. Choose a primary category accordingly: consider where you want to grow, but make sure that your marketing content, backlinks, and citations align with that business category.
- If you work with a multi-location business, choose primary categories so they wouldn’t compete. (For locations close to each other, their business listings may compete in Google search if they have the same type.) The more specific category you can get for each location, the better. Also, test different options to find the best category combination that brings both shows in Google and high-quality traffic.
Depending on the business, you can edit a primary local business category when seasons change. For example, your coffee shop focuses on hot drinks and bakery in winter but on iced tea and lemonade in summer. Changing a primary category to suit the seasonality will yield some dividends too.
Some other points to consider:
What if your business is co-located with another (unrelated) business? Create a unique Google My Business page for each, and categorise them accordingly.
What to do if there’s no category for my business in Google’s category list? Choose a broader one that describes your business best. With more than 3,000 categories available, finding the right one for your business shouldn’t be difficult.
How many categories should a business have?
First things first:
Google allows you to add up to 10 categories to a local business listing. Still, it doesn’t mean you must use them all in the first flush of enthusiasm to cover as many related terms as possible.
Some experts say that “adding a bunch of unrelated categories to your GMB listing will definitely harm your local rankings.”
Founder of Whitespark, Darren Shaw, specialises in SEO and local search ranking factors. This year, he shared the results of the experiment with local business categories in Google listings, proving you shouldn’t add too many (unrelated!) categories to GMB:
So, as you probably understand, a primary business category matters, but secondary ones are still necessary and essential to your business’s relevance and rankings in search engines. That is why don’t limit yourself to a primary category: be as specific as possible, and add 3-4 secondary categories to your local business listing card.
For example, your primary business category is “Divorce Lawyer.” Then, your secondary ones may be as follows: “Lawyer,” “Law Office,” and “Family Lawyer.”
- The #1 rules here: the more specific you are, the fewer businesses you’ll compete for customers.
- The #2 rule here: add the least number of secondary categories possible. The more you have, the weaker each of them gets in a search for businesses.
- The #3 rule here: describe a business, not its services. For example, don’t choose “Bar” as your secondary category if you have a restaurant with a bar.
How to choose the correct secondary categories
If you doubt what local business categories to choose, try Mike Blumenthal’s Google Places Category Tool. Type your niche in the search box, choose a location, see the list of relevant categories, and pick up to four most specific to your business.
This tool provides you with the local business categories of Google and Yelp, so you can use them when planning to add your business to both listings.
Another option for choosing the most appropriate secondary categories is the Google Keyword Planner. Add all the potential business categories into the tool and check those with the most local searches. Use them if they are relevant to what you want to focus on for business promotion.
Local business listings to try besides Google
Google My Business is not the only option to consider when optimising a business for better SEO and visibility. You can create a business profile there with free business listings available.
Online communities, accessible business listing websites, and directories are many, and the more you choose, the greater your online footprint will be for customers to find you. But keep calm and resist the temptation of listing your business everywhere. Choose the most relevant platforms where your target audience “lives,” and add as much information about your business as possible to profiles there.
Here’s a short list of the most popular listings websites for your local business:
- Yelp. This is the third most popular review website, so consider it for placing your business, primarily if you work in the niche of restaurants.
- Facebook. With more than 65 million local business pages on Facebook, this social media network is still prevalent among entrepreneurs and marketers. So why not consider creating a Facebook business page for better visibility and conversion?
- Instagram. Studies show that 82% of customers search for a brand on social media before buying. A visual representation of your business on Instagram will also help you market to younger demographics.
- Yahoo. With Google as the king of search, Yahoo can still bring you around 9 billion potential monthly customers. As well as Google, Yahoo displays local business listings in the search results, so you may want to get there.
- BBB. The Better Business Bureau is your choice to add a business if you work with local law firms or nonprofit organisations. So, create an account, search for your business and (1) claim your listing if your business is already there or (2) submit a request to add your business to BBB if it’s not there.
- Bing. Bing Places for Business is where you can access your local business listings and categories.
- LinkedIn. Use this professional network to present your business as a reputable owner with relevant experience. It works best for finance-related businesses, so create your business profile there if appropriate.
- Whitepages. With over 5 billion records, this directory must be considered for listing your business. Their lists appear across all of their API customer’s websites, adding tons of visibility to your page.
- Yellow Pages. Believe it or not, 60 million people still search for businesses at YP.com. So why not create your local business listing there?
Correct categorisation of your local business in Google has always been a top factor for high rankings. It impacts search results and your online presence for customers to find and know about you. So, when building your local business listings, double-check your primary and secondary business categories there.
Business listings such as Google My Business and others have been designed to send you customers. And local business categories are your instrument to help Google classify your business right.
Choosing the correct category will make it easier for robots to find and show you in search results for people who need your products or services. You’ll show up on Google Maps and in the local pack. People will find you on the top review websites, follow your business page on social media to build community and trust…
…And you’ll definitely see positive results when checking and analysing your backlink profile!