Once you’ve created your Google My Business listing, the next step is to optimize it.
“Optimizing” might sound scary, but really all you’re doing is putting your business in a box (like the different boxes above) so Google can categorize it.
This allows Google to assign certain key words and phrases to your business in searches, as well as tells customers what type of products and/or services to expect from your business.
First, you need to go to Google and make sure you’re signed into the account you used to create your Google My Business account and listing.
After you’re logged in, you need to head over to google.com/business.
On the left side of the screen should be a navigation pane. If you’re not seeing it, click the stack of three lines to the left of the Google My Business logo in the top left corner.
In that navigation pane, click “Info”.
In the middle column, you’ll see a list of information fields. Just below your business name is the Category section. That’s where your focus will be today.
There are two types of categories: primary and additional.
Your primary category should be a category that encompasses your entire business. Your additional categories should expand on the primary category to give Google and customers more insights to what your business does.
For example, if you’re a mechanic that specializes in body and glass repair, your primary category could be Auto Repair Shop, and you could have two additional categories of Auto Body Repair and Auto Glass Repair.
Unless you specialize in anything else, you’d want to leave it at that.
According to Google, if you want to get the most out of your listing, your categories must be few and specific.
But that’s not very helpful, right? What does “specific” mean? And what does “few” mean?
There’s no set-in-stone answer because it’s Google (frustrated eye roll), but the best advice to picking categories Google will like is as follows:
Keep your categories close to your main source of business
Only list categories that deal with the business your listing is for
Skip over the broad categories and choose the more descriptive categories
Main Business Source
Sometimes businesses do a lot of different things but have one main focus.
As an example, I used to work for a company that owned and managed 11 other companies and brands, all within the foodservice industry. Some were distributors, some were manufacturers, one was a restaurant supply retail store, you get the idea.
This business had hands in a LOT of cookie jars.
But just because they had manufacturers and retail stores and online services, didn’t mean that was what they did.
Distribution was their main source of revenue and focus. So Distribution would be the primary category for this business. There aren’t any other descriptive or accurate categories for this business, so this would be the only category to properly use.
Here’s another example, that restaurant supply store also hosted cooking classes to showcase their products.
The cooking classes happened infrequently and were not a huge focus for the business, so even though they had cooking classes, a business category of Cooking Class would not be okay for the business to use as a primary or additional category.
Your Business Listing Categories
Sometimes businesses share buildings with other businesses, and when this happens, businesses are tempted to use categories that reference the other businesses in the building.
Do. Not. Do. This.
It’s not helpful for your customers (plus you’ll get a lot of questions about products and/or services you don’t provide), and Google does penalize listings that try to trick the system this way.
The same goes for side hustles. If the side hustle operations are not run by the business you’re creating the listing for, do not include categories for it.
Descriptive Categories > Broad Categories
Broad categories are only helpful if the descriptive categories are too specific, or if you have such a niche business that there is no descriptive category for it.
When people are shopping or want to pay you for a service, they’re looking to fix a very specific problem, not a general one.
The more descriptive of a category you use, the more likely a ready-to-buy customer is to find you.
For example, if you’re a car dealer who specializes in used Fords, Ford Dealer would be a good primary category with Used Car Dealer as an additional category.
Using both categories allows people looking for Ford vehicles, used vehicles, or both to find your business.
Repeating yourself won’t help your business listing. Instead, it could lower your chances of having it seen by customers.
So don’t be tempted to include an additional category if your primary or another additional category already covers it.
Going back to the used Ford dealer example, if your main category is Ford Dealer, there’s no need to include Car Dealer as an additional category. Car Dealer doesn’t do anything to make your listing more specific to your actual business.
It also doesn’t make sense to switch your primary category to Car Dealer and use Ford Dealer as an additional category because you still aren’t doing anything to make your listing more specific.
You’re just repeating yourself. It’d be like if someone asked what your business did and you said, “We sells vehicles. We sell Ford vehicles.”
Instead you could have said, “We sell Ford vehicles,” and the person asking would still get the same information as they would have if you’d said the first option.
A Ford Dealer and a Car Dealer are exactly the same thing, except one is more descriptive than the other.
But if you don’t sell new vehicles, tacking on Used Car Dealer is fine because that’s also being specific. You’re telling people you sell a very specific type of vehicle, which is used Fords.
“Few” categories is a case-by-case kind of thing. For some businesses, using few categories means having one primary category.
Locksmiths tend to fall in this category because there’s only one broad Locksmith category. Of course, depending on the services a locksmith offers, they can definitely add on more additional categories.
For other businesses, few means having one primary and seven additionals.
You can determine what “few” means to your business by following the rules to “specific” categories up top.
In short, use the least amount of descriptive categories that accurately and fully reflective your main business operations.
If you can’t tell whether or not your categories are overlapping, list them out in the comment section below and we’ll help you weed out the unnecessary categories.