Updated: May 3, 2020
More than 3 billion searches are performed on Google every day, and 46 percent of them are for some kind of local information.
About 88 percent of consumers looking for local companies wait less than a day before contacting or visiting a business they find in search results, and 86 percent look up business locations on Google Maps.
Despite these impressive statistics, 56 percent of all local stores haven’t claimed their Google My Business listings.
We know business owners like you are busy, but if you want to be busy serving more customers instead of banging away at fruitless advertising efforts, optimizing your GMB listing for local search is critical.
What’s the best way to get your business to rank well?
Google considers plenty of search ranking factors, but the category you choose as the primary way to list your business plays and important role.
Your competitors are already doing all they can to appear in the coveted Google “3-pack,” so it’s time to stop acting like a rookie and step up your game.
Why are Categories Important for Businesses on Google?
Categories group similar business pages together to help Google decide when to show specific companies in response to users’ queries.
In fact, categories are the third most important ranking factor for businesses wishing to make it into the local search pack, a position providing high visibility in both mobile and desktop search results.
Google is all about user intent. We know how annoying it is to type in search terms and get a bunch of unrelated links in response.
Fortunately, thanks to algorithm updates and an increasing focus on relevance, this doesn’t happen much anymore.
Categorizing your business shows Google what niche you fall into and therefore which search terms should prompt your listing to appear. This is essential for getting your business in front of the right potential customers and making you stand out as the best local option to meet their needs.
Failing to understand how to categorize your business or ignoring the option altogether is the mark of a hopeless rookie.
If you want your local search ranking to improve, you need to show Google and consumers in your location who you serve and what you offer.
Categories not only describe your business but also show what needs you fulfil and the types of customers with whom you’re looking to connect. This is a big factor in positioning your business as an authority in a particular market and growing your local audience.
What You Need to Know about Categories
Google lets you choose up to 10 categories for your business, but more isn’t always better.
Unless your business has quite a few sub-specialties, there seems to be a sweet spot between too few and too many.
The key is to choose the options most descriptive of the main purpose of your business. The more specific you can get, the better off you are when it comes to appearing in relevant search results.
We recommend choosing only the categories representing what your business is about.
If you can’t find an exact match, pick whatever is closest.
Keep in mind the primary choice is all Google will show in search results, and this is the category with the most influence in search ranking factors. It should describe your business type and clearly convey your offerings to potential customers.
Avoid being redundant as you choose primary and secondary categories. Some options are very similar, and trying to list your business using too many descriptors could decrease the effectiveness of your listing by putting you in front of audiences outside your target market.
How to Choose Business Categories, According to Google
It’s so important for companies to get their categories right, Google has a page all about how to do it so that your business shows up where it should. The basics are pretty straightforward.
Once you have your business Google presence set up:
Pick the location you want to manage for multiple location or your only listing for a single location
Go to the “info” section
Click the pencil icon to edit or add a primary grouping
Click “Add another” to put in subcategories
Apply the changes
Making significant changes to your listing may prompt Google to re-verify your business to ensure accuracy.
If you’re setting up categories for the first time or your business has changed focus since you last edited your listing, this extra step is worth the effort for the benefit it has for search rankings.
When picking primary and secondary categories, Google advises looking for options describing “what your business is, not what it does or sells.”
For example, if you’re a contractor specializing in drywall installations, list your business as “dry wall contractor” instead of “building materials supplier.”
Some categories give you the option of adding more features to your listing, such as menu links, class ratings, booking buttons and service lists.
This can be beneficial if your business caters to a tech-savvy audience looking for faster ways to interact with local companies or you want to make more connections via mobile searches.
By giving more information to consumers seeking local options, you make your company more accessible and increase sales opportunities.
Optimizing Categories for Different Business Types
Google My Business provides flexible options for categorizing several business models:
Single business offering broad services – Choose the option most accurately describing your business and most likely to draw your desired target audience
One business or practice with multiple locations – Create one listing for every location with categories specific to the unique offerings of each site
One business with multiple practitioners – Create a main listing for the business and separate listings for each practitioner, categorized by specialty
Single locations containing more than one business type – Give each business its own page, or create department listings on a main page
Regardless of your business model, your goal should be to make each listing reflect the primary purpose of the business.
A retailer with an onsite restaurant is likely to see more traffic for both businesses by listing the main store and eatery separately than by trying to bill itself as a place both to shop and to eat.
Other options, such as location groups, make it easier to manage brands with multiple physical stores in a given area without compromising the search visibility of any one location.
Making Your Local Business Stand Out
Although trial and error is part of the process when choosing categories for your GMB listing, you can take advantage of a few tricks to get a better idea of how to improve your chances of raking higher than your competitors in local results.
The easiest way to accomplish this is to discover what categories high-ranking competitors in your niche are using. You can do this using one of two methods:
Search out known competitors in your area, and identify those currently outranking you
Search your primary keyword, and focus on the businesses appearing at the top of the listings
Note the primary categories for the top companies in your niche. You’ll notice Google doesn’t show secondary categories in search results, but there’s a way to find them:
Type the name of your competitor into Google Maps
When the listing appears, right-click to view the page source code in the blue banner area where the primary category is shown
Hit “Control+F” to search the code
Type in the primary category
Hit the “next” option until you see a line of code containing a string of subcategories separated by commas [\"Landscaper\",\"Craft\",\"Design\",\"Decoration\",\"Architecture\",\"Deck Builder\",\"Tradesperson\",\"Design Services\",\"Exterior Design\",\"Business service\",\"Landscape designer\",\"Services Companies\",\"Landscape Architect\",\"Excavating Contractor\",\"Architecture and Design Companies\",\"Construction and Planning Services\"]
If any of the categories you see are relevant to your business, update your listing.
Remember to choose based on the priorities of your company and avoid using different primary categories for multiple locations with the same focus.
It’s also important to include categories to indicate anything special your target audience can get from your business but not from nearby competitors.
The aim is to provide Google’s users with detailed, accurate information they can use to make informed purchasing decisions.
Change Can be Good
Sticking with the same categories isn’t always the smartest choice for your business and might not be possible in the long term.
Google has a habit of changing the names of categories, adding new options and getting rid of others.
Being ready and willing to update your company’s categories in response can increase your visibility, especially if you’re one of the first businesses in the area to update to a new type of listing.
A full listing of the current categories available for businesses on Google is available from several websites, and it’s helpful to check these along with Google’s own updates from time to time.
Look for options you:
Aren’t using but should add for improved relevance
Are using but should remove to reflect a change in your company’s focus
Should include to create a better description of your business
Can add to reflect the addition of new offerings
Can change to emphasize seasonal aspects of your business
As with most efforts directed at improving search rankings and local search visibility, Google categories aren’t something you can set and forget.
Pay attention to local search traffic after making changes to your listing, and assess improvements.
With over 2,000 categories to choose from, you always have the option of adding or removing one or more from you listing until you find the right combination for best results.
Optimizing your GMB listing with the right categories is one of many ways to improve local search rankings for your business.
If you want to drive traffic and get more people in the door, you need to take the time to make your listing the best it can be.
While other business owners are still trying to figure out the smartest ways to reach their customers, you can come out on top whether you run a single location or manage a brand with multiple stores.
We’ve put together some of the best tips in this guide to help you figure out how to make your Google business page stand out.
If you want to make a great impression in search engine results, you need to stay on top of changes in the way Google categorizes businesses and adjusts search algorithms to bring more relevant results to its users. Be on the lookout for new ways to maximize results and draw more traffic to your business through local search.