When creating local listings to improve the visibility of your business in local search results, the last thing you want to do is breeze over an opportunity that could be as simple as one more click.
Many people overlook the importance of properly associated categories for their business listing. I have seen local listings with only one category selected, or what’s worse, no categories listed at all. I’ve even seen listings with improper categories associated to their business.
All too often, people seem to take category association very lightly and view it as “one more field” they need to fill out before they can hit Submit. What they don’t understand is that the categories they list with their business are a key signal for search engines. They help search engines figure out what searches your business should be associated with. If your business is listed as uncategorized or if it is miscategorized, search engines won’t even display your local listing at all.
By not understanding how important categories are for your business, you’re putting your listing and business at a major disadvantage in the local search results.
The Local Ranking Factors
In 2013, Moz released the top Local Search Ranking Factors. In the survey, they covered everything from general and specific ranking factors to negative ranking factors. Out of all of the factors listed in the survey, the top overall ranking factor was proper category association.
By adding categories to your listing, you significantly improve your listing’s chance of showing up higher in the search results. The more categories listed and the more specific you get, the more likely you are to appear for one of those detailed search queries.
For example, if your business is a dental practice, you don’t want to stop at listing your business at “dentist”. That is entirely too vague. Instead, list as many relevant and specific categories to your business as possible. On Google Places, for instance, you can get as granular as:
- Cosmetic Dentist
- Dental Clinic
- Teeth Whitening Services
- Dental Implants Periodontist
- Dental Lab
- Pediatric Dentist
- Emergency Dental Service
- Oral Surgeon
If your practice is at all associated with any of those categories, select all that apply. However, keep in mind that selecting a category that is not associated to your business puts your listing at risk for being penalized and removed from local search results and maps.
With all the available categories for business listings, it’s difficult to know whether or not your business is taking advantage of all possible opportunities. To make matters worse, there isn’t a uniform set of categories across the board for every listing service. Each listing service has their own unique set of categories.
Luckily, there are tools available to help us sort through these issues.
As part of their new local platform, Moz Local has released their Category Research Tool. This tool allows you to type in any category and see how different listing platforms like Localeze, Factual, and Superpages categorize that specific group.
This creates an easy way to make sure you are selecting as many possible categories as you can for each platform where your business is listed.
Local SEO expert Mike Blumenthal has also come out with the Google Places Category Tool. It allows you to easily work through the hundreds of Google Places categories to find the correct ones for you and your business.
All you need to do is type in the category you are looking for and select the country and language from the drop down menu. A new window will then appear displaying Google’s current categories with that phrase and related synonyms.
Categories Lead to Local Rankings
Your local listings provide great value for you and your business. They give you a chance to interact with your customers online, it lets customers leave and see other reviews, and it gives search engines another chance to index valuable information about your business.
However, if you don’t provide proper and specific categories for your listing, you are automatically putting your business at a major disadvantage among your competitors. With them though, you create an opportunity to rule local rankings and search results.