Too often, business owners and marketing professionals seem to place quantity over quality in managing online listings. In the past, we’ve discussed how many of the top business listing management services encourage you to list your business on dozens or even hundreds of sites. What these services fail to mention is that in doing this, you are paying to place your business in front of an empty audience.

Similarly, when you are setting up your business categories on listing sites like Google+ or Yelp, it’s important to focus on your target audience. Just as you do not want to pay to be placed where no one will find you, you also do not want to invest time in selecting business categories that put your business in front of people who are not looking for the products or services you offer.

For this reason, it is important to only select business categories that pertain to your business. Adding non-relavent business categories ultimately creates a bad listing and when consumers waste their time because of a bad listing, your business’s reputation can be negatively impacted.

Google Best Practices

As stated in Google’s guidelines: Business categories help your customers find accurate, specific results for services of interest. In order to keep your business information accurate and live, make sure you:

  • Use as few categories as possible to describe your overall business
  • Choose specific categories representative of your main business.
    • Do not use categories solely as keywords or to describe business attributes.
    • 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.

For Chains and Brands:

  • Locations of a business must share the one category that best represents the business. If you have multiple types of locations (e.g. sub-brands, multiple departments, or various types of operations such as retail, distribution center, and office), this rule only applies within each of these sub-groups.

Google focuses on providing information that is relevant to its users (your potential customers). Because of this, if you run a tire shop but select “Transportation Services” as another category, Google may not rank you as highly due to your information being too widespread. However, if you had “Tire Shop,” “Automotive Repairs,” and “Maintenance” selected as categories … Google would likely rank you with more relevance because you have closely linked categories that could very likely be searched for by the same group of users.

In essence, you want to ask yourself exactly what it is you do and stick to that. If you don’t offer transportation services (buses, limousines, taxis) and you only repair vehicles … stick to categories that pertain to automotive repair only.

Business Category Tools

A good tool to use if you are having trouble selecting appropriate categories is Mike Blumenthal’s Google Places Category Tool. Simply type your industry into the search box and a list of relevant categories will populate. Both Google+ and Yelp categories are available which can be used on other sites as well.

If you have several good options to choose from, you can use the Google Keyword Planner to decide which one is the most valuable to your business. Enter potential business categories into the Keyword Tool and see which one has the most local searches. Wording may vary from site to site on available business categories so choose the option closest to the keywords with the highest search rate. For instance “Car Detailing” is a highly searched keyword and “Auto Detailing” is an available Yelp category.

*Updated August 16, 2016: Google AdWords accounts with a low monthly spend may see a limited data view in the Keyword Planner. This means, if you are just using your AdWords account to pick business categories and not advertise, your view of the data may be limited.

Merchant Centric offers a full list of categories for all of the top sites within the Master Listing section when you create a free trial. You can simply select which ones are right for each listing, and then we will populate those categories to the sites you control.

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Questions? Please call (818) 889-1688 or email us at your convenience.