On of the long standing mysteries in managing a Local Business Center business listing for Google Maps has been:“Why does my listing not show up in the same category as my competitor?”. There has not been a topic more frequently raised in the Google Maps for Business Group and one that has been more evasively answered by the Google staff. (For an example of this saga see Google Maps Category Mystery Part I: The Problem.)
Categorization has provided fodder for philosophers & scientist since Linneaus first created binomial nomenclature as a means to understand and classify all living things in the late 1700’s. The battle lines have been drawn between the â€œlumpersâ€, those that think there should be fewer categories, and the â€œsplittersâ€, those that think that there should be more categories. All categorization is an arbitrary human artifact that helps us to more easily understand the world around us. There is no one answer to the â€œcorrectâ€ number of categories of any given group.
Business categorization is no different. Add the needs of commerce, the power of computer search and the vagaries of the multitude of ways that humans can search for things make the problem even more vexing. What seems like a simple question: What categories should be used to classify U.S. Businesses quickly becomes a complicated problem that has many solutions. The fact that Superpages has a full-time staff team devoted to Taxonomy Development shows just how complicated.
The SIC code (standard industrial classification) system has roughly 1,500 categories of US businesses. The newer NAICS used primarily for economic analysis has roughly 1200 categories. The SuperPages which has both an offline and online needs has approximately +/-8000 categories and iBegin uses approximately 10,500. Google on the other hand uses only 520 categories and this remains unchanged exactly one year later. (Go here for a complete list comparing Reuben’s 2007 findings and my 2008 results.)
Clearly Google has not added a team of taxonomists to deal with this problem of increasing their limited category sets to a more complete set. Google has not added even one category to their list in the past year despite their exhortation to make suggestions. They obviously fall into the category of “lumpers” in the taxonomy debate although probably due to financial or programing concerns more than philosophical ones. The problem of matching such a small number of categories to a much larger category obviously creates its own very difficult problems.
As we have seen, their category strategy has generated a great deal of dissatisfaction amongst the businesses attempting to control their business record in Googleâ€™s Local Business Center. Perhaps if we could just understand enough about how Google uses its categories we could answer the question: How can I get in the same category as my competitor? Obviously the problem is complicated, and Google’s most recent response “The Google Help Center is your friend” does little to shed light on this.
Given that Google gets most of its data from data providers the question that needed to be answered were two:
â€¢Who is the primary provider of categories to Google Maps?
â€¢How does Google relate its limited number of categories to the categories of its suppliers and the greater business world?