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Google Places - Picking Your Business Category

A lawyer who handles his own case has a fool for a client.  Most small local business owners who try and do their own listings on Google Places fall into the same category.  It is only rarely that I see a new client who has listed themselves on Google Places, and where they have optimized their category. 

Google makes it clear that you are well served to choose one of their categories for the first of the five that you may list.  If Google Maps is important to getting your phone to ring, this may be the most critical decision you make.  Deciding the main category that your client will use to find you is the starting point of this decision. 

The easy way to complete this exercise is to type in possible keywords in the space provided for the first category.  As you type the word insurance, for instance, Google will offer some suggestions:  Insurance Agency, Insurance Attorney, etc.  If none of these suit your best idea of how folks will search for you, change the word.  So if you sell health insurance, start over and type in health.  Again Google will give you choices like Health Consultant, Health Food Store, etc.  Here you find the one you want, Health Insurance Agency. 

Once you have selected your first category from the Google Places offerings, you are now free to select up to four more categories, and you can make these up.  Is it a good idea to make up categories? 

A.  If you can find five categories from Google's choices that are appropriate for your business, this is probably the best plan.  If you can only find one or two that work for you, then you may want to get creative. 

B.  The next best categories would be those that Google already recognizes, but which they have not bothered to put into their listing prompts.  In the previous example, there is no prompt for Health Insurance, but if you search for health insurance Oakland, you are going to find a Places Map with listings.  So this may be a good choice.

C.  You might get lucky with a good category that Google Places is not yet recognizing.  You have five categories, so if you have a special niche, why not use one category for an experiment.  Children's Health Insurance does not currently seem to be a category that Google Places recognizes.  But Senior Health Insurance comes up. 

Use all five categories if you can.  There doesn't seem to be any penalty for that.  You can decide the order that they are listed.  No idea if the order you choose effects how Google Places chooses to give you better or worse placement on the map listings.  Knowing how Google typically does things, they usually assume that what you say is most important is what they should consider to be most important.  Therefore if Children's Health Insurance is the 5th category you put up, and they have 10 other's with that category chosen in your city, but they all have it listed 2nd, you are, in my opinion, unlikely to be in the 7-pack.