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Understanding Google My Business & Local Search

What Should Your Business Listing Categories Be in MapMaker

A client asked me to advise him on the best way to handle the categories in the MapMaker listing for his business. I felt that the question deserved a thorough and comprehensive answer so once again I turned to Dan Austin, MapMaker contributor and expert, with these questions:

What is the best practice for adding categories in MapMaker? How many is too many? What are the limits? What are the Gotchas?

Dan’s response:

There are no real best practices, other than avoiding keyword spam.

There’s a few problems with categories in MM, namely:

*Categories in MM don’t match the categories in Places, creating data issues.

*Categories are not comprehensive. There’s quite a few “missing” categories. There’s no transparent process for dealing with category changes, additions, or deletions.

*The Place page utilizes the Establishment/Point of Interest category for all new POIs and for non-standard categories that Map Maker doesn’t recognize.

Here are my best practices:

*I usually limit it to five, since that’s all that’s present in the Dashboard. The only exception is Establishment/Point of Interest, which is an ‘invisible’ category on the Place page. If you utilize that as your Primary category on MM, you can have five additional categories, which should show up on the Dashboard. If it’s already present on MM as a Primary category, then you can either leave it or convert it to a different Primary category. I usually convert it to get the Payment options to appear and be editable in MM. (Since payment options are not displayed on Google+, this is almost a non-issue.)

*If I have more than five, I structure the non-standard categories last, and the two categories that I want to best describe the business first, since only two categories will be visible on the Place page. The rest will be invisible, but can still be used for search purposes. Non-standard categories are usually invisible, regardless.

*The Primary category in MM should always be what the business basically is. The category that follows should help best describe also what the business is. Example: A gas station. I would use: Gas Station, Convenience Store. The rest should just be considered for search purposes (like Service Station, ATM, Car Wash, Propane Supplier, Beer Store, Wine Store). I go for generic search purposes rather specific terms, which is why I stick to the main categories. I try to think like someone looking for a place. If they can’t think of the name, what’s the first thing they think of? That’s the Primary category. What’s the second thing they think of? That’s the secondary category.

*Primary categories are not recognized by either the Dashboard or the Place page. The categories can get jumbled up, so the order you see on Dashboard, MM and the Place page can be different. The Place page is king, so if you want two categories to appear on the Place page, and you don’t see those two categories on the Place page, then you’ll need to edit the Place page directly using community edits, and then go back into MM (where the Place page is usually pending in your edits) to add the categories you just deleted back in. You’ll need approval for both set of edits for this to work.


So, in summary:

*Five categories. Six if you’re using E/POI as your primary category, which can be ignored, since E/POI is invisible.

*Standard categories only. Non-standard categories should be added only if there’s no better category. Non-standard categories can be added in addition to the five category rule, but should be added last. Non-standard categories are almost always invisible on the Place page.

*Only two categories are visible on the Place page. Use the best two standard categories to describe the business. Primary categories are not recognized on the Place page or Dashboard.

*Place page categories don’t match MM categories. Use Place page standard categories whenever possible to avoid data issues.

*The Place page is king. It may be necessary to edit the categories directly on the Place page, and finish up in MM.

Sorry if this sounds complicated, but it really is.

An issue to take up with Google:

Fix the dang categories! Categories should be consistent across all the products. There should be a comprehensive set of categories (presently they’re not). Primary category should be Primary on all the UIs, and Primary should be ‘locked’ to prevent non-standard categories from being added. So if you go on the Dashboard, the first box should have some sort of dropdown field that allows you to pick a Primary category, and nothing else. The rest should have a dropdown box and be free form, like MM.