Categories are the forgotten child of local SEO.
Though they don’t get much attention, categories do get respect: “Proper Category Associations” is the #1 “Foundational Ranking Factor” listed on 2013’s Local Search Ranking Factors study. (I was one of the people who ranked them up there, and I’m glad other local-searchers agree.)
Picking as many relevant categories as you can is probably the easiest way to make progress on your Google+ Local, Bing Places, Apple Maps, Yelp, and other rankings.
Choosing the right ones is sometimes easier said than done. Google no longer allows “custom” categories. That’s nice in a couple of ways: You can choose up to 10 categories, and it’s nice that it’s much harder now to get penalized by accidentally specifying a custom category that Google doesn’t consider kosher.
Still, the categories you want to pick are either on Google’s list or they aren’t. Which may leave you feeling hamstrung if your business is specialized or “niche.”
Fortunately for us, the categories you can pick on other sites seem to help Google determine what type of business yours is – and what terms you should rank for.
They’re also a huge factor in your rankings on pretty much every other site worth being listed on.
The name of the game is to know your options for categories, on as many sites as possible. Most of them don’t make it easy to browse all your options. That’s why I’ve rounded up a bunch of category lists, so you can find the relevant ones easily.
Check out these lists and see if you’ve listed your business under the best categories possible:
Google – Browse Mike Blumenthal’s Google Places Category Tool
Bing Places – See my list of Bing business categories (new)
Apple Maps – Dig through this monstrous list put together by Andrew Shotland
ExpressUpdate – Pick from OSHA’s Standard Industrial Categories
LocalEze – See my post on LocalEze categories
InsiderPages – See this
AngiesList – Here you go
Those are just the category lists I’ve found so far or put together myself. I’m sure you or I could easily find full lists of categories for rinky-dink sites that nobody’s ever heard of. But there are a few category lists I’d still like to have.
The sites on my wish-list at the moment are CitySearch, YellowPages, Local.Yahoo.com, and Acxiom (MyBusinessListingManager.com). Please let me know if you find or make a list of all the categories allowed on those sites!