Are Categories The Heroes They Are Made Out to Be? #BluMihmShaw

Are Categories The Heroes They Are Made Out to Be? #BluMihmShaw

It should come as no surprise that your category choices in your local listing say a lot of about who you are. More importantly, as a top local ranking factor, they tell Google where they should place you. With that said, where are they hiding? Why is it that when I look at any given listing, many that I am sure are taking full advantage of the 5+ categories, Google only displays 1, or sometimes 2? Does this mean that those other categories you so carefully chose are not contributing to your businesses story? Or does it matter less what appears on the front end (what everyone sees) vs. what is found on the back end (in Google Places dashboard)? I tend to believe the latter. If you believe the former, have you tried contacting Google, and asking them to properly display your category choices? Did it help?

Though I have yet to attract the attention of two of our titled local SEO busy bees, Phil Rozek of Local Visibility System expressed some interest in BluMihmShaw Day, and has given us this month’s topic. You guessed it, categories. Even though I always recognized that proper category choice will make or break your local campaign, never once did I think to hold a microscope to this meat and potato ranking factor. Shame! And so I have, and am. Starting with a couple interesting observations that I haven’t yet sorted out:

listing front 1

Here we have your typical listing, not merged, and showing two cats. Pretty standard stuff right?

listing back 1

Not. I pull up the source, search “category” (no avail) and then “categories” and find three cats. Where did the third run off to? Why doesn’t it appear like the other two? Could it be that there just wasn’t enough room? Hm….

listing back 2

Next up, this is a client listing source code, one of which I know uses 5 categories, and 1 shows up. Not even one I chose for that matter. Though, not a mystery, this may have been scraped off a directory or some such thing. What did strike me as strange though, is if you compare the two source code examples, you will notice differences in the coding. Both unmerged, neither appearing to be any different than the other, aesthetically at least. If I had to guess, I would say one uses the new dashboard, and the other the old. Maybe.

So what do these categories, those that show up on the visible part of a listing tell us? Do how many show up make any difference rankings wise? Could you believe that in some of our preliminary scraping results we saw as many as 5 or 6 appearing? We are going to dredge on and see if we can’t get these categories to tell us something. My thinking is that first we scrape 100k+ pages worth of categories, take a long hard look at the results, and see if any interesting patterns can be found. Next, I am curious if page 1 listings have more cats showing that those of page 3. Sure, this may just suggest that those on page 1 are promoting themselves more heavily, and as a result of such, more cats show up. But it also might suggest, if you can find a way to get more cats to show up, then maybe you will rank better? Stretch maybe. Finally, I want to compare the cats we dig up to those that Google gives us stock and see what percentage of those that show Google’s. How many are custom? Or perhaps scraped from other properties?

What do you think? Will I find anything valuable? Or is this just another flimsy look into something that can’t possibly explained. Let Phil and I know below.

[UPDATE] Protip from Thor, aka Darren Shaw, “The G+ page doesn’t show you all the categories BUT click the report a problem link and it will shoot you over to Map Maker where the full glory of their categories will be revealed.” A tip he picked up from Iron Man, aka the professor, aka Mike Blumenthal. HUGE! And will prove valuable in how we go about scraping the data. I imagine now we will add another column to the research, and will look at Map Maker as well. Thank you both!

[UPDATE] 9/19/13 Per Phil’s recent recommendation, we have decided to spend a bit more time, and have a look at third party categories being scraped by Google. Phil says, and I agree “It would be cool to see whether the higher-ranking listings tend to have more categories that Google scraped.”

About Adam Steele

A SEO & Local SEO by trade, Adam spends the majority of his time creating new efficiencies through smart processes and the leveraging of technology. He is ruthlessly passionate about building smart, lean businesses, and exploring new, lean, internet marketing techniques. Find him on Twitter @AdamGSteele.

  • Linda Buquet

    I started using edit details to see all the cats, back when Google 1st starting hiding them. It’s a life saver for me when doing troubleshooting consulting or competitive analysis.

    It does not work with service area businesses with address hidden though because those listings are banished from map maker, so edit details does not work.

    There is a stealth work around to see that data, but i don’t post it publicly for fear that yet another handy loophole I discover and talk about will get plugged by the big G. ;-)

    • Adam Steele

      Thanks for the insight Linda.

      What do you think of the Map Maker work around? It seems to work on my end, but I have only tried it a couple times.

      Do you see any value in digging around in this category data? Anything you might be looking for?

  • Brian Valentin

    I know I’m late to this, but I’m curious if you continued your research into this? I have a client that I cannot for the life of me get their G+ page into the packs. They are a real estate agency – which I have that as the primary, and yet their page lists “rental agency” as the category…yet their top comps that show up in the packs almost entirely only list one category.

    I’m thinking for some verticals, less is more. Too many categories muddies the water on what you really do. Any feedback/insight into that, would be greatly appreciated!

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