Author: Krystal Taing
As a local business, there’s no question that Google Maps and Search generate the largest volume of traffic and potential new customers compared to other search engines. Managing and optimizing a Google Business Profile (GBP) is one way to ensure you are present and discoverable by searchers looking for products and services like yours.
However, it’s not enough to just add your business to Google—it’s important to understand how to best represent your business and offerings to searchers. For local businesses that are just getting started or looking to reevaluate their presence, this guide will help you focus on just a single, but largely impactful element of your Google Business Profile: your business category.
Table of contents:
Quick steps to get started with your business category on Google
The basics of selecting your primary GBP category
When completing your Google Business Profile, the first field you are asked to complete is your business name. The second field is your category. It’s no mistake that Google includes this at such early stages of optimizing your profile. It’s a required field and you cannot move on to finish setting up your business until it has been designated.
What Google does not inform you of at this stage is how your category can affect your business’ visibility and how searchers engage with you. Let’s begin with an introduction to the basics of categories on GBP.
Your Google category should best represent and describe what your business is as a whole. Your category displays prominently on search and maps as a helpful indicator to customers.
On an expanded business profile, the category is displayed right beneath the name and reviews (as shown below).
Choosing a category that ranks
While selecting a category may seem fairly mundane, Google has nearly 4,000 category options (which may vary by region) to choose from. It also adds and removes categories monthly.
The category you choose can impact your business in a number of ways, including rankings, availability of fields and features, as well as other requirements for verification. So, what should you consider when choosing your category?
It’s important to know that your category on Google does affect how you rank for searches. This means that Google uses the category you designate to better understand your business and to help it determine how and when it should return your listing as a relevant result for certain searches.
You can improve how and when Google displays your profile by being intentional when selecting your category.
The positive news is that you don’t get just one category—businesses can select one primary category and up to nine additional categories. If you find that there is more than one category that describes your overall business, you should add the most specific category as the primary category and any others as additional categories. While not as influential as the primary category, additional categories can still impact your rank and visibility in the search results.
In most cases, Google will display your primary category to searchers. However, if Google determines that displaying one of your additional categories is relevant, it may dynamically display this instead. The general assumption here is that displaying a category that is more specific and relevant to the query tells the user why Google is showing them the result.
An example can be seen in the search result below. When searching Day Spa San Diego, the first result shows the category “Day Spa.”
However, upon clicking into the listing on Maps or looking at the business profile, the primary category is “Massage Therapist.”
This means that Google has dynamically displayed one of the additional categories to better serve the search query. While the primary category does hold the most influence from a ranking perspective, Google still uses the additional categories to better understand your business.
Are more categories better?
For businesses that are uncertain about which category may be the most relevant, you can choose the one that you and your customers would likely describe your business as most often. For example, if you are a local gym that offers a pool, sauna, and tanning bed, you should choose the category that most represents the main features of your business.
Your business category can set customer expectations
Choosing the wrong category could be detrimental for a number of reasons. In this scenario, if the gym decided to set its main category to “Sauna,” users searching for a Sauna that see this listing as a result and decide to check it out could be disappointed as the gym requires a membership. The best category would be “Gym,” and the business should utilize attributes to describe the features and services that the gym offers. The business is not a pool or a sauna—rather, it is a gym that also has a pool and a sauna.
Seasonality may influence your primary business category
If your business changes primary services or focuses throughout the year, you can change your primary category to reflect this. These types of changes are typically core business services that are impacted by seasonality, such as air conditioning servicing in the summer and heating servicing in the winter. Because the primary category has more impact on your visibility, it can be strategic to align this with the main parts of your business if those vary by season.
Your business segments may influence your categories
There are scenarios where the additional categories can describe the overall business when the business is broken out into large segments that serve different needs. In the example of a department store, adding categories such as “Furniture Store,” “Baby Store,” etc. helps explain the types of products and services available. As long as the categories are relevant to your overall business, you can’t choose too few or too many.
How your business category influences GBP functionality
Google determines which functionalities and attributes your business gets access to based on your primary category.
For example, a business that categorizes itself as a “Mortgage lender” would get access to the attribute that allows it to publish an “appointment URL.” Alternatively, a business that has the primary category of “Clothing store” would get access to the attribute that allows it to publish an “online inventory search URL.”
Hotels have an entire separate section to complete their property attributes and room amenities.
Other variables dictated by your primary category that you should keep in mind include:
Food menus, which can be published on profiles within the restaurant vertical
Service menus, which are available to service-based businesses such as plumbers and healthcare providers. (Note: Each service can be tied to a separate category.)
Booking features for reservations and appointments, which are available to restaurants and service industry businesses.
“General Update” or “Event” post types, which are only available to hotels.
Limited visibility for reviews and star ratings, which applies to businesses with educational categories. These only display on the bottom of the profile.
Stricter verification requirements, which can affect businesses that share categories where spam is more prevalent. This includes businesses such as garage door repair and locksmiths, which are also known to trigger reverification for very small data edits.
The inability to hide your business’s physical address. There are some categories that Google does not allow this for, so if attempting to do this results in an error or you are missing this feature, it could be tied to your category.
Mandatory business hours. Some businesses, such as property leasing companies, are required to publish primary hours on their listing in order to have their profiles published on Google.
Quick steps to get started with your business category on Google
Once you understand all of the impacts of your category on your Google Business Profile, how can you get started? You can begin your process by building a potential list of category options.
01. Create a list of category considerations. You can leverage this tool to search all available Google Business Profile categories in your region. If you can’t find an ideal category, you can always send feedback to Google support with the background of your business, which it could potentially add later on.
02. Review which categories your competitors have set on Google to see whether they might also be appropriate for your business.
03. Add categories that may not be reflected in your business name but are core to your products or services. This will give you a better chance of showing up for related queries, especially if your competitors have keywords in their legal business name.
04. Use keyword tools, such as Google Search Trends or Semrush, to measure search volume for your potential categories.
05. Don’t forget to monitor for new and changing categories every few months—Google may just add more relevant categories for your business.
Krystal Taing - Global Director of Pre-sales Solutions, Uberall Krystal Taing is the Global Director of Pre-sales Solutions at Uberall. She is a Google Business Profile Platinum Product Expert and faculty member at LocalU. She helps brands at managing hybrid customer experiences.