The Best Practice Guide to Setting and Testing Your GMB Category
Founder and VP of marketing at Steady Demand, Ben Fisher, is a well-trusted expert when it comes to local SEO. And as a Google My Business Platinum Product Expert, Ben is the ideal candidate to share his experience and knowledge on the world of GMB categories.
Read on to find out why GMB categories matter, how to pick the right one, and how to test GMB categories.
What are GMB categories and why do they matter?
A Google My Business category helps Google Search understand what your business represents and then, by using this information in conjunction with many other ranking signals, it displays your business in search to any user whose search query matches your content.
To put that simply, categories help Google show you to the right people at the right time.
Where can I set and add categories in Google My Business?
This is actually very straightforward. You visit business.google.com or open your listing on your mobile app. On desktop click into your listing, then click on the info tab. Once there, under your business name, there is the place to add/edit categories. Click on the pencil icon and now you can change your primary category, or add additional categories.
It’s worth bearing in mind that:
- You can have one primary category and nine secondary categories.
- You cannot make up your own category. You can suggest it to a Product Expert in the community, but there would have to be a really good reason that impacts millions of businesses.
- Changing your category (especially your primary one) can force a re-verification. So, choose wisely.
How can I determine the best primary and secondary categories for me?
Choose the best primary category that represents your business as a whole. If you have other services that you offer, that is fine, just make those sub-categories.
Google does a really excellent job of explaining how to properly use categories:
On this page, they use an example of how to pick a category for a pizza restaurant. If this is your primary category your listing may be able to surface for ‘restaurants’, ‘Italian restaurants’, or even just ‘pizza’. The search intent is aligned with categories and since they are all semantically connected this makes sense as to why Google could make a connection between the searches.
Let’s look at a few other primary categories and search terms that they display for. (In each example, they only have a primary category set, no secondary categories).
- Personal Injury Attorney: Accident Attorney, Accident Lawyer, Car Accident Attorney.
- Garage Door Supplier: Garage Door Repair, Garage Door Opener, Garage Door Springs, garage door installation.
- Divorce Lawyer: Divorce Lawyer, Law Firm, Abogado De Divorcio, Child Custody Lawyer, family attorney.
- Italian Restaurant: restaurants, creme brulee, food near me, alfredo, antipasto platter, date restaurants, family-style dining, pasta Pomodoro.
How can I tell if I chose the right categories?
Recall about how earlier we were talking about choosing the category that most appropriately describes your business? I recently had a client of mine who is a lawyer and the primary category was ‘Personal Injury Attorney’. They wanted to rank for ‘Insurance Attorney’, as well.
So we added this to the subcategories and within 48 hours they were ranking for insurance-related terms. This is the power of good category choice and good website content working together.
If you are a seasonal business it is a good idea to change your primary category to highlight what is most important at the time, since the primary category has more ranking authority. A classic example of this is HVAC companies. Having your primary category as a heating contractor in the winter and an air conditioning repair service or air conditioning contractor would make the most sense.
I get asked all the time if having too many categories that are related to your business will hurt your rankings. This is a myth and has been dispelled in tests.
However, adding categories that have nothing to do with your business will negatively impact your rankings. So it is best to stick with categories that represent what you do and are also complementary to the content on your website. If in doubt, test your GMB category choices.
Source: Sterling Sky
Here are a bunch of resources that you can use to help you look for the right category and also one in particular that will analyze your listing and suggest categories:
- Categories from the API, including GCID’s (General Company Identifiers)
- MapMaker category descriptions by Joy Hawkins
- Available categories tool from Plepr
- Plepr’s tool to analyze category competition (not available for SABs)
When all is said and done in SEO there is no magic bullet, however, with categories, you can gain a huge edge on your competition.
Play with them, test them, pick a great primary category that encompasses your whole business, analyze your competition, and add/remove subcategories.
In other words, test test test GMB categories. If you add a subcategory and in GMB Insights, you are seeing more traffic, keep it, and if queries show words that do not relate to you, remove it.
The addition of a category that represents what you do can be a make or break factor.