Local Search

Categories Count in Google Places

By November 18, 2013 12 Comments

google-places-iconGoogle has over a decade of searcher data that tells it which types of queries are related to which types of products and services. Therefore, the categories in which you place your company in its Google Places listing are critical to being found for the types of terms people typically use when searching for your kind of business.

For example, when someone searches for chapter 7 lawyer, Google knows that they are looking for a bankruptcy attorney. If you have chosen the Bankruptcy Attorney category in Google Places, then your business is among those eligible to earn a spot in the Local Pack of organic results.

Just because you find one category that describes you well, such as HVAC Contractor, don’t stop looking for others. An HVAC contractor might also fall into one or more of these available categories, as well: Air Conditioning Contractor, Air Conditioning Repair Service, Furnace Store, Furnace Parts Supplier, Furnace Repair Service, Heating Contractor, Mechanical Contractor and Air Duct Cleaning Service.

The first category field you fill out is what will be considered your primary category – the one that best describes your business overall. For the business above that would be HVAC Contractor. You must choose from Google’s preset categories for this field. Make certain it is the most applicable one for your company.

Also be aware that Google Places has different preset categories for different countries. For example in the UK, you’ll find a that Holiday Apartment Rental is a category that does not exist in Places for the US or Canada and that Vacation Home Rental is not an option in the UK.

LocalU’s own Mike Blumenthal offers a free Google Places Category Tool that you may find helpful in choosing the right categories for your business.

The categories in which your business is placed in at the major data providers and on other trusted websites most likely has some influence in Google’s local ranking algorithms, as well. So be sure to check your categories for accuracy in Infogroup, Acxiom, Superpages, CitySearch and similar places.

Update: There are still some Places accounts in which you can add custom categories. However Joy Hawkins, a Top Contributor to the Places help forum checked with a contact at Google today and learned that they are NOT available in the new dashboard and that any we see are likely a bug. Thanks, Joy!


  • Colan says:

    Hi Mary,

    Great Article!!

    I’m confused on your reference to custom categories. I understand that they are not available with the new Google Places Dashboard or through the G+ interface.

  • Joy Hawkins says:

    I just asked Google and they said they’re not available in the new dashboard. Maybe it’s a bug?

  • Mary Bowling says:

    Hi Colan, I, too, though custom categories were gone forever, but apparently, they’re back. Maybe they aren’t available in all accounts, but they are in the ones I have access to. Check yours to see your options and let us know what you find, please.

  • Mary Bowling says:

    Thanks for checking with Google, Joy. I’ll get this post updated ASAP

    • david watson says:

      Hi Mary

      This is a really useful article, thanks.

      We are a small online agency in the UK and we have successfully got page #1 google places for a couple of clients. We think we night offer this as a service to new clients. However, often I cannot find relevant category listings for their business. “Timeshares” is one, “scrap metal dealers” is another. Both are big business here in the UK and the US. Also, I am sure that google knows we are in the UK, so why does the closest reference for scap metal dealer “recycling center” which is a) not very relevant and b) an obvious US spelling of “centre” which no one in the UK would ever search. All seems to fly in the face of google’s mantra that it is all about relevancy. Anyway, my question is : Is there a definitive list of all the category listings for the UK? Rather than randomly trying to think of one and try typing it in. Many thanks. David

      • Mike Blumenthal says:

        Here is a Google category tool that can give you a better insight to the categories that are available.

        Google just upgraded and added new categories to the dashboard so it might be a week before the tool catches up.

  • Marcus says:

    Hey Mary

    What do you recommend for businesses where there is no clear category? We have come across a few situations where it seems no category really suits. Would love to know how you suggest handling this in lieu of custom categories.

    Many thanks

    • Mary Bowling says:

      Marcus, The best you can do is to choose the category closest to what the business does, even if that doesn’t exactly describe it. You might also contact Google support and ask their advice.

    • Gene says:

      In this case, search for whatever services you do provide then look to see what your competitors are categorized as. Its a quick way to cheat on category selection 🙂

      Repeat a search for all services and possible keyword variations for your service to get the best idea on how your competitors have categorized themselves.

  • Phil Rozek says:

    Fantastic post (as always), Mary.


    I’d also add that it’s worth scrutinizing your categories on your other listings (e.g. Yelp, Angie’s List, InsiderPages, etc.). Few of them (if any) have “custom” category fields, but some of them do have lists that are more robust than or at least a little different from Google’s. You’ll want to see if they let you pick categories that Google doesn’t have.

    You’ll also want to pay attention to what’s in any “additional information” fields on your citation sources – like “services,” “keywords,” “specialties,” and the like. Google often pulls info from those places and – lo and behold – populates the MapMaker record of your Google listing with, essentially, custom categories.

  • Jim Froling says:

    Oh, how i miss custom categories! At first Google’s “choices” were a joke. Very limiting unless you were a restaurant. Mike’s work on compiling a comprehensive list is a huge help.

    Do you (or anyone) know how fast the cat list is expanding? Rate of expansion?

    Not all plumbers want to clean drains. And not all are qualified to repair slab leaks. Alas, no differentiation presently.

  • Mary Bowling says:

    Phil, thanks for your insight, Much appreciated

    Jim, I suspect that the no more custom category issue is somehow related to AdWords Express because those campaigns totally key off of the categories selected in Places. I have no clue how much or how fast the category list might be expanding, but if you’re really interested in knowing, Mike Blumenthal’s category tool might be useful.

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