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!

December 10, 2009

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.


Great post Miriam!

I've been hearing about this from a few chatters out there, but didn't really know the benefits to it and how it works. Now I know, and I thank you for that.

I believe this is going to help a lot of NEW businesses out there, if these types of business owners find this out before their competition then they will out rank them for sure.

I just went over to the overview video of this resources over on Google and WOW then do the tracking of analytics for you and all that good stuff! That will blow a lot of business owners away with that kind of knowledge and tracking.

Again great content here Miriam! I look forward to reading more of your posts!

Jason Braud

Yes, the whole Local push that Google (and others) are doing is going to really help small, local businesses exploit the web. For too long the web has been seen as a way of connecting with people on the other side of the world, but what about the people in your own community?! They have needs as well!

Thanks for the list Miriam.

"Don't Get Too Fancy, Pal" and I might add it does not take much "fancy" I made one too many tweaks and that #6 position in Google local listing that I was unsatisfied with, well now I am not even listed, oops. Back to the drawing board, be careful folks Google "has ways of dealing with you"

Good stuff Miriam.

Just what I needed Miriam,
a few months ago it was relatively easy to get high in the LBC listings but many of those earlier LBC listings have since dropped out from the first10
Its good to know where to find a list of categories, and how hopefully to get clients back near the top again.

Andy Holt

I was surprised the see the 'first ever' in your article. Anyone who works with Yellow Page listing type SEO work, which focuses on Categories, uses and understands how to optimize for ranking and searches. Or maybe I thought everyone was using this technique, so if not, thanks for bringing it to our attention. There is another aspect I would add that is frequently overlooked - make sure your business phone line, that gets printed in the yellow pages (that you think no one uses but might call 411 to find you) is associated with the correct categories as well. If not, your bad data or incorrect listing goes all over the web and you need to manually fix it or pay someone like Axicom or Localeze to help fix it for you. Happy Holidays.

Another interesting post Miriam!

I just created a listing for a "business coach" client a few days ago and Google required me to choose only one category from the list it presented. In his case, I used "management consultant," but there were no other applicable matches. So I chose to create new categories that accurately represent what he is -- a "business coach."

Even though Google has no established category for this, the business coaches in Houston still appear in a 7-pack, so Google uses the phrase as a local business search term. It seems to me that my client and I are wise to stick to the applicable, but not official categories if they are most relevant to his business.

Several other clients are attorneys -- one in construction law and the other in collaborative law. Again, no official categories for these specialties and they are not in the synonym list for "attorney" either. So again, after selecting the generic attorney category, we also created categories for those two specialties. In local searches for those categories, my clients now appear as the only local result -- Google does interpret them as local businesses.

So while I'm very grateful for the list that Mike put together, I hope your readers won't feel that they have to stick to it. As you noted, you can test other good key phrases and see if Google interprets them as related to local businesses. If so, it seems that up to four of the selected categories can be relevant, but unofficial.

I'm looking forward to the db version of this, but I appreciate the work that went into this project. Thanks & Happy Holidays!

Thanks for the great comments everyone, and I'm glad this article was helpful to some.

Lia - My reference to 'first ever' relates to the fact that this is the first time (so far as we know) that someone has put together a complete list of Google's local categories. The point here is that, rather than having to rely on guesswork and category hunting, people now have a list they can reference and this should make creating good local listings easier. Thanks for stopping by, and for mentioning the important fact that consistency is important across all local efforts. So true.

Hi Paul -
Thanks for raising this point. This has come up in discussions amongst the local SEO crowd a few times and the general consensus is this: pick one of Google's categories for your first 2 choices or so. Then, if nothing that is a strong match exists in the categories, make the rest of your categories custom ones. I agree with this advice.

Happy Holidays, All!

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Search Engine Guide > Miriam Ellis > Landmark Local Categories List