Google Local Business Center Categories – The Complete List

Update 02/11/10: These Google LBC categories have now been placed in a searchable database too located on the Google LBC Categories page of my website.

Picking the right category with the Local Business Center is one of the keys to success in Google Maps. Categories are critical to being considered relevant on any given search and should be chosen carefully to meet your short and long tail priorities. Since a business may only enter 5 they become very important.

Given the way that they are presented, it is difficult to plan ahead which categories might be the most appropriated for you or your client’s listing.

Here is a complete list of every category and synonym that Google currently provides within the Local Business Center. At some point in the future, I will provide the information in a searchable database to make it more useful for planning purposes:

Google Local Business Center Complete Category and Synonym List

On the list you will find 2239 categories which includes plurals ie lawyer and lawyers as well as certain geographic place categories like “estuary” and other geographic phrases. The fact that the categories include both singular and plural should reinforce the sense that you need to pick the ones you need for your listing carefully.

When the Local Business Center was first released Google only offered a choice 450 categories and no custom categories. At the time if you used any of the limited categories offered in the LBC, Google would use those to supplant any that had been provided by the Superpages. So the upshot during that timeframe, was that you had to remove ALL categories from the LBC to get into a given Superpages category in Google maps results.

In March of 2008, Google subsequently went to a more free form, expanded categorization structure, initially not requiring the use of any of their categories. This summer, Google started requiring that a user select one preset category and then allowing for 4 additional preset or custom categories.

I would love to hear how you use this list.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google Local Business Center Categories - The Complete List by

64 thoughts on “Google Local Business Center Categories – The Complete List”

  1. Mike,

    Thanks for the great post. A bit confused though, I found my category – Is it recommended then to only choose from the list of synonyms for the rest of the category slots?

    Should I avoid putting my state and city as a category?

    Thanks

  2. I would recommend against using geo phrases in your categories. Google knows full well where you are and they seem to be penalizing excessive use of geo terms.

    The synonyms are Google’s way of guiding users to a predertimed category. When you type a synonym in the field, it will suggest one of the categories related to it.

    I would determine the broad categories and search phrases that you need to show in. Pick the one required category from the list. For the other 4 decide if a pre-chosen or custom category best suits your needs. Whether you use one of the synonyms is up to you.

  3. thanks Mike….muchly appreciated, and after a quick look I see some purely Canadian entries too, ie ballet and border crossing and United Church…but that’s it….hmm…may need to think on this…

    but yes, thanks!

    and oh one question, where’d you get same?

    🙂

    Jim

  4. Thanks Mike!

    The categories have come a long way from when Google used to use Superpage’s.

    I have once was penalized from the incorrect use of categories when I entered a geographic location in to one of them. I’d recommend against that.

  5. Thanks Mike. I’m confused a bit by the synonyms. I found some brand names and wierd descriptions. Are these descriptions that are found amongst the categories? If so how are they distinguished from categories?

    Are they long tail “adjectives” that further describe categories?

    How are they used within the categories?

    Thanks for the list.

  6. 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. So I would agree with Mike, don’t try adding geo-terms into your categories. Keep categories tightly on topic.

    When choosing only 5, and you offer multiple services, beyond 5, just go after you biggest 5. The ones you see most volume in. Those are then likely the ones more people are searching for. You have to accept the limitations of Maps and ignore some of your offshoot services, if you’re well beyond 5 distinct categories.

    When it comes to selecting amongst different wording or spelling variations of the same and similar terms us a tool like Google Insights to gauge what the more popular versions are, as far as how people actually type things into a search engine. In insights you can drill down to the state level to see how people are searching near you, which could possibly be different in another state. Kinda like “pop” vs. “soda”.

    When it comes to things like plurals vs singular, I often opt for the plural. In organic SEO the engines are pretty good at matching up a plural to a singular because the plural has the root word in there for an almost match. But the singular does not have quite the match against a plural (missing an S). Now as far as how Google looks at that inside categories in maps, I don’t know for sure. It does look like it matters a bit. But it also seems to me Maps is pretty decent about matching up some of the service type terms that may be searched using an “ing”. Like plumber vs. plumbing.

    In some cases it’s about trying to cover all the bases. For your category you may chose the singular. In your title use the plural, or ing. Within your description and additional fields, intermix the use of the terms as you lightly sprinkle keywords into your text there.

  7. Great post Mike, love your blog. Any clue when these categories will be added to the bulk upload category list?

  8. @Earlpearl

    The synonyms are words that when typed will suggest a primary cagetory in the LBC field.

    For example on the primary category Aerobics Instructor

    If you type or begin to type any of these synonyms: aerobic, cardio, classes, fitness, fitness center, instructors, kick boxing, spinning, ymca, yoga

    you will be presented with Aerobics Instructor as the suggested category.

    I would love to know how Google assembled these synonyms as they are very interesting use of words. I have no idea of they are based on search behavior or their synonym dictionary or frequency….

    @Stever
    I would expand on your point of about geo stuffing. My sense is that Google is penalizing the listing regardless of the where the excessive use of geo terms occurs….

    @Jim

    My programmer located them for me.

    @Scott
    I have no idea when or if they will be added to the bulk upload. currently they are only supporting the original 450 or so categories in the bulk upload but they do offer an extra field for 5 additional “custom” categories.

  9. Great post. Really interesting to see. At V-Enable, I was working with most of the local search/ad providers. It was very fascinating to see the wide variety of categories people were supporting. Often as little as a few hundred, but many up to 10,000! Typically those with that many were just using SICs or yellowpage headings, which often provide for poor categorization, inability to match from normal search queries; resulting in poor overall results. I’ve found that a few hundred categories with synonyms tied to the Parent list reflects a well revised and thought out categorization strategy.

    It will be interesting to see how the Local Listing Ads (if/when they return) may affect this list. You may see Google increasing the volume of categories in order to sell more ads per business since the category name is the primary driver.

  10. Mike,

    One thing that I have wondered is why certain custom categories will produce local results and others won’t. Do a certain amount of people need to have the same custom category?

    For instance, in the past I have seen “local seo” produce results of 1-3 businesses in a city, but upon trying to use that custom category myself, no local results appeared in the geo area.

    In the Pest Control industry I use the “bug control” and “insect control” and always see great results, and usually a top position for those keywords.

    I saw that in your comment to Dave you mentioned that for the synonyms a category would pop up. Is that the indicator that it will show a 7 pack?

    Thanks for this list, I can already see that I will use it when talking to potential clients to instantly check for their major category. I also see this being very helpful to pick up some of the obscure keywords that can drive some pretty good traffic.

  11. @Mike R

    My sense is that Local Universal results show based on click thrus and end user behavior. IE if a search shows Local results and everyone always chooses organic than the listing might drop off the search results.

    That being said, I do believe that “local seo” is falling under the same “evil” spell that is currently affecting the search phrases web design, web hosting, internet marketing and advertising agency where none of them are showing local results do to a bug. It must be in the same branch of the database tree where the wrong bit is twiddled.

    I do not myself, fully understand how Google Maps established the synonyms in terms of defining them, presenting them in the LBC or how they affect search results. My guess would be that it is based on searcher behavior not LBC behaviors.

    Exactly how a listing will be returned in search results based on synonyms would be an interesting exploration which I have yet to do. Categories are more likely to have more searches and synonyms are more likely to be less competitive. Since some of the synonyms are pretty weird and would unlikely produce great search results, others seem valuable as a category choice.

    I.E. A random selection:

    Category
    –Synonyms
    Aerobics Instructor
    –aerobic
    –cardio
    –classes
    –fitness
    –fitness center
    –instructors
    –kick boxing
    –spinning
    –ymca
    –yoga

    Clearly some seem too broad and others very narrow. What “spinning” has to do with anything, is beyond me but it obviously makes sense to the algo.

    Whether to choose one of Google’s synonyms or one of your own would depend on your understanding of the local situation including local search behaviors and phrasing as Stever pointed out.

    @Colin

    As I recall the Superpages upon which Google based their initial categorization had somewhere on the order of 8,600 categories. I am sure that historically those were dictated more by financial returns than user behaviors.

    Google took a long time moving from their 450 word category setup with defaults to the Superpages categories so I assume that they spent a fair bit of time analyzing searcher behavior before they implemented them. I still do not know how often, if ever, these categories/synonyms are changing.

    Whether they change or vary based on advertising demands will be interesting to watch out for. Given Google’s searcher centric viewpoint, it will more likely be based on user behaviors than advertiser’s desires but who can tell.

  12. My sense is that Local Universal results show based on click thrus and end user behavior. IE if a search shows Local results and everyone always chooses organic than the listing might drop off the search results.

    —–I created a listing for my news site Go Burley in order to rid unwanted local results that had the word “go” in the title, and where in “burley”. It took around 3 weeks for the map results to dissapear due to low CTR compared to my organic listing. I was very pleased given that a local one box might detract them to a places page instead of my actual news site. I would also hate for someone to drive to the ups mailbox I have for the site (I am so above P.O. Boxes Mike 😉 )

    That being said, I do believe that “local seo” is falling under the same “evil” spell that is currently affecting the search phrases web design, web hosting, internet marketing and advertising agency where none of them are showing local results do to a bug. It must be in the same branch of the database tree where the wrong bit is twiddled.

    ——It is most definitely, along with local internet marketing, internet marketing consultant, or any other keyword dealing with my current business model. It sure seems to be taking a while to fix. “Web Design” use to produce an extremely large number of authoritative oneboxes…I wonder how that played in to the bug.

    Whether to choose one of Google’s synonyms or one of your own would depend on your understanding of the local situation including local search behaviors and phrasing as Stever pointed out.

    ——Great advice! Category testing such a huge determination of ranking…especially when you move into the longtail in my opinion. I have found some synonyms that actually have a higher amount of searches than the main category choice. It would be interesting to do further study on synonyms and their triggering local results. If you need a lab rat, let me know.

    @Stever, your comments on google seeing the “s” in most cases and associating it with the singular category have proved right for a lot of listings I do. Great thought!

  13. Mike,
    I believe Spinning is the athletic club slang for a group of stationary bikes led by an instructor that takes them thru a virtual bike ride with harder and easier stretches. Actually looked like a lot of virtual fun, then I went back to my assigned seat at the juice bar. Pretty popular, at least at one point, so I can see why it might be in the synonyms.

  14. @Bob

    Thanks for clearing that up! 🙂 Now I know what spinning is. It occurred to me that these sort of dated clues might indicate when the synonym list was developed.

  15. Mike, it is so great to see you release this. I had saved my sneak preview of the list to my desktop a couple of months ago and I love to look at it! It’s one of those docs you can refer to when first talking to a Local SEO client to see where their business falls within Maps categories. It’s really helpful and very cool of you to share.

    Spinning…thanks for the clarification, Bob. I would have associated this with things like weaving and cloth!

    Also – want to say, great comment from Steve. Your advice is right on!

  16. @Miriam

    I am glad that you liked it. I am developing a database version of that will hopefully be available in the next few weeks. I find it really helpful too in early stage conversations…

  17. @Mike:

    As you say, the Google LBC categories are crucial for good optimization of your listing. A few weeks ago I went into a panic to see the Google Maps 30 performance graph for one of my clients show a huge (like 80%) dip in impressions. I had fine-tuned the categories a few weeks earlier. A bit of detective work quickly showed that a couple of the categories that I had removed were responsible for the drop. Since this is a client with a lot of different, legitimate categories for the same business, I simply reinstated the earlier ones. Today, when I checked, the traffic is back. I too am looking forward to the database!

  18. Glad to see that your list is finally up Mike – You’ve been working on this for a while. While its clear that city keywords in the categories is clearly under Google’s radar, are you saying city keywords anywhere in the listing are also an issue?

  19. Dev

    Its hard for me to tell whether the listings I saw were being dinged for excessive use of geo phrases in aggregate or had just plummeted due to a change in Google’s criteria and these listings not having anything else going for them. It raised a caution flag for me.

  20. Refreshing to see this issue broached. It has been an interesting set of transitions with GLBC self-categorization.
    We believe that the synonyms primarily play a role in GLBC category assignment and not as much in the local search algorithm. For example, the query “Aerobics Instructor” brings up several places, including sub-categories in Yoga; but the query for “Yoga” does not retrieve businesses categorized just with “Aerobics Instructor”. This is in contrast to the other local search algorithms (i.e. Local.com) which retrieve categories based upon matching their child synonyms.
    These auto-suggest synonyms primarily play a role in GLBC self-category assignment; we’ve not found it to directly impact the local search algorithm. The underlying search framework probably considers all the classifications, including YPH.
    We believe that the transition to require at least one GLBC Validated Category is to set the stage Local Listing Ads. Google’s massive registration of listings can be easily converted from free listing to a LLA.
    It should be noted that GLBC bulk files still support the legacy category id classifications, which we provide, thought I imagine that population will dwindle. However, most listings in Google Maps are still categorized based upon YPH (yellow page headings); which significantly vary across different metropolitans.

  21. The comments on my question were all very interesting but none of them answered my question, which is again,
    ” On the dashboard from google, we are given a report of the top 10 category inquiries to find our website. However, the”other”category is quite large in my case. I want to know how to find out what these keywords are?

    1. Other than the visits to your website which provides you with some information on those phrases, the other data is Google’s to hide and to hold.

      When Google rolled out the dashboard I asked Carter Maslan, VP of Maps and he said:

      MB: I noticed in my test that roughly 20% of my Top Search Queires were “other”. Will we be able to access that information?

      CM: “Top Search Queries” is analougus to Trends in that there is a necessity to protect prvacy on the 20% of the low volume searches. It would be too easy to identify individual searchers if we made this information available.

  22. Thanks for putting this together Mike, however I’m from the UK and the categories seem to be different from the ones in your article.

  23. Hey people great site… I have a problem with Google local we are a Will Writing firm in London UK. The first category which Google gives me is Legal Service Provider which is great.. I then go on and add others such as Will Writing ..
    however when the page gets published it puts a completely different category in front of Legal Service Provider which is estate agents ?????? This is not shown at all in the admin section only when you search live under category..
    This might have been an old category that I was experimenting with but its 100% been deleted and in my dashboard/admin view legal service provider is the first category. any ideas on how I can get this removed…?
    Also any other tips you can give me on my page would be welcomed.

    1. @Payam
      There are several possibilities where the bad category info is comeing from:
      1)It might be from another Local Business Center account for the SAME business
      2)It might come from a data supplier that Google has lots of trust in
      3)It could just be a bug in your cluster that Google is erroneously prioritizing

    1. Chris

      It is necessary to pick one “formal” category from the list before you are allowed to enter your own custom categories. I would suggest a category like “camp” that broadly describes what you do and then add the more specific “touch football” or “football camp”. I would recommend AGAINST using geo phrases in your category selection as it can lead to ranking penalties

  24. Thanks for this info. Do you get penalised for using custom categories. For example there is a category called “Physiotherapist” but I am trying to target the keyword “Physiotherapy” (which requires a custom category). Which one would you suggest?

  25. Mike thanks for coming back to me … sorry it has taken so long for my reply. Guys any other help you can give me on this subject would be great. Also take a look at what i am trying to do on my home page with local keywords at the bottem gr5ey bar. the plan is to link them to a different page with fresh contnet but it will take me a while.. any thoughts on how best to do this people.. please tell me if i am on the wrong track

    1. Google has confirmed some of the category problems as a bug in the Maps forums. If you report it there, they might take care of it.

  26. Just found this blog, awesome stuff. That list of synonyms is quite interesting (and thanks for explaining it Mike, was a bit confused on how exactly to interpret them)

    Nice to hear that google might work on those bugs, kind of annoying to not have your category show up.

  27. This is an awesome list. Thanks!

    Though I did try to use the word “Attractions” and it didn’t work. I don’t know if that’s a bug or not.

    Thanks, again. This is a huge help.

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