“Local business categories” are the terms that describe what type of business your company is. These are selected when creating local business listings. For example, a legal firm may select the business category “Criminal Justice Attorney,” “Personal Injury Attorney,” or “Law Firm.” It’s similar to the way businesses used to choose which section of the print Yellow Pages they’d appear in; your local business categories tell search engines which types of searches you’re relevant to.
Each time you create a new Google My Business listing (or nearly any other local business listing), you’ll be given a choice of how to categorize the business. Google, for example, allows you to choose up to 10 categories from their pre-set list. Failure to properly categorize your business can have a profoundly negative impact on your company’s ability to rank in Google’s local results packs.
- Papa John’s offers pizza takeout and delivery, but does not offer on-premises dining. It should use the category “Pizza Delivery” and the additional category “Pizza Takeout” (instead of the less specific “Delivery Restaurant” or “Takeout Restaurant”).
- Navy Federal Credit Union should use the category “Federal Credit Union” (rather than the less specific “Bank”).
- Super 8 is a motel with an onsite swimming pool. It should use the category “Motel” rather than “Hotel” and should not include “Swimming Pool” as a category.
- 24-Hour Fitness should choose the category “Health Club” (and not its amenities, “Gym” or “Swimming Pool”).
- A1 Check Cashing should use the category “Check Cashing Service” (rather than the less specific “Banking and Finance”).
- Wendy’s is a fast food hamburger restaurant that also offers some desserts on its menu. Wendy’s should choose the category “Fast Food Restaurant,” and the additional category “Hamburger Restaurant,” but notuse the category “Dessert Restaurant.”
Correct categorization is so important that Google devotes a whole section to explaining their preferred category practices in their guidelines, which reads:
Categories help your customers find accurate, specific results for services they’re interested in. In order to keep your business information accurate and live, make sure that you:
- Use as few categories as possible to describe your overall core business from the provided list.
- Choose categories that are as specific as possible, but representative of 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 that are nearby or related, such as a business physically contained within your business or an entity that contains your business.
You should focus primarily on adding the most specific categories for your business. For instance, when you select a specific category like “Golf Resort,” Google implicitly includes more general categories like “Resort Hotel,” “Hotel,” and “Golf Course.” Feel free to skip adding any category that’s already covered by a more specific category you selected. If you can’t find a category for your business, choose one that is more general. Google can also detect category information from your website and from mentions about your business across the web.
Finding your local business categories
Each local business listing platform has its own category taxonomy, so you’ll need to discover what’s available as you create each citation and then choose best-match options.
If your business lies within an especially unique niche, you may not discover ideal categories in Google’s category base or the category sets of other platforms. Instead, you’ll have to pick the closest match you can find, relying on the business description, photos, and your business’ website to further clarify the exact nature of the company’s services. Fortunately, this scenario is typically the exception rather than the rule, and most businesses will be able to find at least one good, relevant category.