Talk about Happy Holidays and the spirit of giving! Mike Blumenthal has just published the very first Complete Google LBC Category List we've ever seen. This is the gift Local SEOs and local-focused business owners have been waiting for and it vastly simplifies the process of picking the right categories for a given business - something you can't afford to make a mistake about!
Choose 5 And Choose Well
When adding your business listing to Google's Local Business Center, you are prompted to choose 5 categories that best describe the nature of your entity. Just like those old Yellow Pages categories, LBC categories are critical to helping users navigate their way to your business and choosing the right categories can mean the difference between traffic coming to you from Local Search or not.
Some businesses offer many more than 5 different areas of specialization, but the point here is to use the LBC as Google dictates and pick the 5 main categories that best describe what your business offers. With Blumenthal's new list, considering your options just got so much easier.
In the past, when picking categories for my Local SEM clients, I had to do a lot of experimenting to find good choices, typing in various keywords, looking at the competition, etc. Now, all I have to do is refer to this list to quickly understand all of the possibilities and this not only saves time on my part, but it reduces the chances that I might overlook a category that could potentially be of high importance to a client. All of the categories are laid out in plain view, accompanied by a very interesting list of synonyms that apparently cause these categories to be called up.
There is much discussion going on about the synonyms. No one is quite sure how Google arrived at this list. Mike Blumenthal says he senses these are likely drawn from general organic searcher behavior, rather than LBC user behavior, so the synonym list should be taken note of by anyone doing any type of SEO. You may be able to identify some interesting patterns from the keywords associated with each main category.
Don't Get Too Fancy, Pal
I want to share an anecdotal tip here that I feel is important to consider while we're on the subject of choosing categories. Steve Hatcher of Axe Media relates the following:
I had a rash of business owners contacting me over past month or two because their maps rankings plummeted. Most of them had been stuffing extra keywords into the categories, including city names.
Again, the point here is to use the LBC as Google intends it to be used. As a Local SEO, my life is made so much tougher by people trying to get fancy and outwit the bots. They stuff, they spam, they ruin the quality of the results by trying to get ahead fast instead of planning to stick with it for the long haul. Granted, with bugs, glitches and a chronic lack of oversight on Google's part, the temptation to fool around is pretty strong, but it's totally antisocial to do so.
The whole point of Local is to create indexes that yield pertinent, real and helpful information for communities that improve the quality of life for local people. Sets of results that list the same business 7 times in a row with variously over-optimized titles do not deliver a quality user experience. It's my belief that participation in Local carries with it a responsibility to understand Google's rules about their own product and to play by those rules to the best of your ability. It's a smart plan for your business in the long run and a decent way to treat your neighbors.
Stay tuned on this subject of LBC categories. Blumenthal has revealed that he is currently working on a database version of this list that will make finding the right categories for your business even easier than scanning the whole long list. Now there's something to make visions of local sugarplums dance in your head!
Miriam Ellis is the co-owner of Solas Web Design and CopyLocal, providing SEO-based website design, Local SEO and professional copywriting for small-to-medium North American businesses. She is the Local SEO Associate in the Q&A Forum at SEOmoz, a moderator at Cre8asite Forums and an annual participant in David Mihm's Local Search Ranking Factors report. When she and her husband are not working on the web, they're farming organically and working on increased sustainability or roaming about in nature having the time of their lives.
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