Selecting the right categories in the local maps is a bit of an art. I’ve got spreadsheets and case studies I can’t share on this website that identify patterns of category-based local maps optimization. Think back to your high school days and class registration. You thought about which courses you wanted to take based on your own criteria (friends, teacher, difficulty, etc). Later you find out that you might have done better had you been told which courses would give you the best results or had you known what last year’s valedictorian had signed up for.

Welcome back to high school registration and to your official guide on choosing the right course. Put yourself 365 days from now. You have the chance to completely change the number of leads and/or sales you’ll receive and it can be as significant as 1,000+ from selecting the selecting the right categories.

The Category-Finding Technique

Step One: Identify Your Top Competitors

Using Google’s Keyword Tool, identify 10-20 of the most searched for keywords or phrases that describe your product or service. Then jump into Google.com and start searching for those terms. Make a note on a sheet of paper or spreadsheet of which competitors are appearing under each keyword and what their current rank in the maps section is currently.

Image of a Google Maps List

Now tally up the competitors who show up the most frequently for the greatest number of important keywords. If you’re using a spreadsheet, I’d recommend creating a column for each competitor (I’ll explain why in another tutorial). Choose your top 10 competitors and move on to the next step.

Step Two: Identify Their Categories

Google won’t display all the custom categories your competitor may have in their Places Page. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get to them. Here’s the trick when the listing is NOT claimed:

  1. Click on the competitor’s pin on the map.
  2. Click on Edit under the More link on their map callout
  3. Bam! See image below

Screenshot of Edit Button in Google Maps

Screenshot of Hidden Categories in a Google Maps Listing

Log the information from the last step into your spreadsheet, making sure the categories are in order as displayed in the competitor’s Places Page.

Step Three: Find the Pattern of Categories

Using your spreadsheet, highlight common categories under each competitor column. Finally, do some simple math to figure out which category appears 1st more often, 2nd more often, 3rd more often, 4th more often and 5th more often.

That’s it! Take your Top Local Maps Categories and add them to your Google Local Business Center profile in the exact order you identified in Step Three. Repeat in Yahoo!

Screenshot of Yahoo! Categories

Your Feedback is Needed – Got Any?

I bow to those who have a tool to make the above easier and spreadsheet-free. The process works but as you can see, is very time consuming. Let me know your thoughts, ideas, feedback and insights below.