Categories are one of the few Google My Business ranking factors directly under our control, so it warrants spending some time making the right choice.
GMB experts like Joy Hawkins and Colan Nielsen have run all kinds of experiments to see what does and does not effect ranking, and GMB categories are one of only four factors that have an impact. No, stuffing keywords into your description or product posts doesn't have the slightest impact!
Choosing the right categories
When there are thousands of GMB categories out there, how do you choose the right ones? Picking a primary category, such as "Lawyer" or "Dentist", might be an easy choice. But what about the secondary categories?
Inspecting the competition is one of the best ways to figure out what categories might make sense for your business. Google makes it pretty hard to do this, however, so some free tools have sprung up to make it easier.
The GMB Category Explorer allows you to see how often categories are used, both as a primary and as a secondary category. Drilling down into a primary category gives you a view of how often secondary categories are used together.
The category usage data comes from thousands of GMB listings, so it's a pretty good indicator of how they're used in the wild.
The GMBSpy Chrome extension from George Nenni is another popular solution for inspecting categories. The extension allows you to see all of the categories that a business is using when you view the listing on Google Maps.
Can you have too many categories?
Having too many unrelated categories is more of a problem than the sheer number of categories. Four or five well chosen and relevant categories is a good strategy. It's important that your website content backs up those category choices.
Choosing categories that are a stretch, when compared with your website content, can be harmful to your rankings.
Here's what can happen when you add totally unrelated categories to your GMB listing.