The way in which you categorize your local business for local or mobile search is critically important when optimizing your site for Google Maps. This information sends a thematic signal to the search engines about the site’s theme, and is what will be used when your business citations are created on directory sites (also known as parasites). Choosing the right categories for your business has assumed enormous importance in the light of recent developments in local search, not least because of the release of the Pigeon update in 2014 which targeted organic local search and made specificity and accuracy of listings a top priority. A poll of local search experts by Moz also cited proper category associations as the most important signal of relevance. And, according to local search expert Mike Blumenthal,
“Categories are a critical piece of how Google determines the relevance (not rank) of a listing in local search …”
These citations, whether they’re on Google My Business, the Yellow Pages, Yelp, etc. all send powerful signals about the credibility and trustworthiness of your business to the search engines, and accuracy of information is absolutely essential. Accurate categorization helps to provide additional contextual relevance to your keyword strategy. For your business to get the most value, it is critically important to choose the most relevant and specific category.
If you list your business under the wrong category, this will have a significant impact on your ability to rank in the highly competitive Google Maps Search and Google Web Search. This is especially due to Google’s Pigeon algorithm which has taken organic local search to a whole new level with a strong focus on accuracy and specificity. The algorithm is the biggest local search algorithm that Google has released, and it has connected web search and map search.
When creating your Google My Business page listing for example, there are two points where you’ll be prompted to select a category for your business. In this situation, the most important category you choose is the primary category for the business. Once inside the dashboard, you’ll then be allowed to select up to nine other categories for your business. Note that all categories must be chosen from Google’s existing pre-set taxonomy. You won’t be able to create any custom categories for your business. This means that you’ll may have to choose a much broader category than you normally would.
For most businesses, categorization ambiguity will not be an issue because your choice of categories will often be obvious. For example, if you’re a bakery, Google will provide three clear and unambiguous options for you to choose from which include: bakery, wedding bakery and wholesale bakery. However, things may not be so clear or straightforward for you if you are in a very niche industry. In this case, you will have to choose a much broader category that is suitable for your business.
One of the most important and helpful resources for categorizing your business is Mike Blumenthal’s business category list which lists all of the Google My Business categories by country. If you are struggling to select the right category from Google’s existing taxonomy, this list will make it somewhat easier to find a category that can work for your business. You can also use the Moz Local tool which you’ll find here.
When choosing a primary category for your business, you’ll want to first of all do your keyword research to find out what keywords get searched the most, and then base your categories on those keywords. Look for the most specific type of product or service that describes majority of your customers. For example, if you sell Air Jordans, it might be better to select the more specific sport shoes business as your primary category instead of the broader shoe business. On the other hand, if you sell different types of shoes, then you may want to categorize your business as a shoe business.
It is important to keep in mind that when you’re creating citations in other local business directories and indexes, these platforms will not necessarily offer categories that are identical to those in Google’s system. You’ll need to take time to discover the most relevant categories on each platform as you build each listing.