Custom VS Default Categories

Colan Nielsen

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Hope all my American friends are having a great Thanksgiving! Pretty quiet up here in Toronto....except for all of the buzz that is the 100th Grey Cup this Sunday in Toronto :)

I wanted to get some feedback on what type of categories people are using. I have always used a mix of custom and default categories.

I have noticed a few things through observation and a little testing that seems to indicate that Google has a greater affinity to default categories.

What are your observations?

How do you handle categories as far as choosing default VS custom?
 

Linda Buquet

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Yes. thanks for starting this thread Colan! I'm curious what folks are doing these days too. (Although not sure how many will weigh in today, since it's a Holiday.)

I know you and I have discussed the new category issues a lot Colan, but for anyone that maybe isn't aware of our previous discussions...

Even though Google is no longer showing many categories and mainly the only that show are the default cats, if it were me - I would use whatever defaults were a good fit, but continue to supplement the rest with custom. Because the custom cats still rank. (For now anyway, but I fear they may go away.)

Here are a couple previous related threads.

Google+ Local - Category Bug Bites Listings
You, Nyag and I get into custom/vs default a little in this one.

Google Business Forum VIDEO Wrapup - October 5, 2012
Jade said: "Fewer categories displaying because uncommon categories no longer appearing"

But I'm glad you started a thread specifically about the question of "Custom VS Default Categories" Colan.

What do ya'll say???
 

Gio Greenard

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Hi All,

Thanks for bringing this up I have been quite curious myself about categories. I find the default categories I select tend to be the keywords I rank for, although I have not tested this theory enough to shout about it.

Usually I rank for around 3-4 keywords together with the city as a rule when rolling out a Google Plus Local campaign e.g Funeral service Perth, Crematorium Perth ect...

I am often asked how many keywords I can rank for in each case. I normally say 2 together with the geo locator (city) and gear all the onsite and Plus Local data around these.

Going back to the discussion, do the categories have a major influence on which keywords my client will rank for? Using the above example if I didn't select crematorium would I not rank?

Have a great weekend everyone!!!! In South east Asia it's about to start ;)
 

Colan Nielsen

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Going back to the discussion, do the categories have a major influence on which keywords my client will rank for? Using the above example if I didn't select crematorium would I not rank?
The categories do have a major influence on what your client will rank for. Proper Category Associations is the #2 local search ranking factor according to

Local Search Ranking Factors | Local SEO Best Practices for Ranking in Google +Local

If you didn't select crematorium there is a chance that you would stop ranking for that, but no guarantee. There are other ways that Google can associate your business with keywords besides what is in your places dashboard.

I recently tested removing a customized brand category from the dashboard and the listing didn't drop for brand + city searches. But it probably should be noted that the brand was part of the websites URL as well. And Product / Service Keyword in Website URL is a top 20 ranking factor as well.
 

mborgelt

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If I want to rank for very specific keywords that are not part of Googles list then putting those in the categories allow you to rank for those terms.
 

Colan Nielsen

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I've made an interesting observation I wanted to share with everyone.

I took a handful of clients that weren't ranking for various secondary keywords. I noticed that these keywords were either customized or non-existent on MM.

I edited them to default categories or added them as default categories if they weren't there already. In 90% of the cases, the ranking for the keyword jumped up into the top 7.

Another interesting observation was that the secondary keyword would now appear as one of the live categories on the G+ Local page.

Has anybody else tried similar testing?

Let me know what outcomes you experience if you try this or something similar!
 
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May be a stupid question, but you're referring to editing the categories within the old Google Places dashboard correct?
 

Colan Nielsen

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Hi Andrew,

I'm referring to editing the categories in Map Maker. I didn't touch anything in the places dashboard.
 
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Hey Colan,

Well I logged into map maker just to check what Google indicates as Adster Creatives main service and it listed us as 'Establishment or Point of Interest' however in our Google Local page it lists us a 'Internet Marketing Services'

When I edited our categories and corrected some information in Map Maker I get this error message:

"Related features changed while you were modifying the feature. Please reapply the change. Cannot apply the change to the approved state."

anyone on here have any suggestions?
 

Colan Nielsen

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I've also received that message before but I haven't been able to pinpoint why exactly.

Just to note, in these particular tests, I didn't change the "Primary Category" which is often set to 'Establishment or Point of Interest' as a default.

I edited the "Other" categories.
 

Linda Buquet

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I took a handful of clients that weren't ranking for various secondary keywords. I noticed that these keywords were either customized or non-existent on MM.

I edited them to default categories or added them as default categories if they weren't there already. In 90% of the cases, the ranking for the keyword jumped up into the top 7.

Another interesting observation was that the secondary keyword would now appear as one of the live categories on the G+ Local page.
Hmmm, I assumed you were saying you edited cats in the dashboard. You did it in MM? Why not just do it in dash? Or were they already correct in dash, just not showing in MM?
 

Colan Nielsen

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Apologies, just looking over my post and it wasn't clear. Edits were made in Map Maker.

I didn't do the edits in Map Maker as opposed to the dash for any other reason than for testing. To see what effect it would have on the listing.

I have done similar testing with categories in the dash and didn't see the same high rate of positive ranking results. I also haven't seen a category become one of the live one's on the G+ Local page simply by editing a category from custom to default in the dashboard. Which I did experience with the Map Maker edits.
 
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Hmm, so how can we change the 'main category' in Google Map Maker? Whenever I go to make edits I get an error message.

Also, for making map edits on our clients Map Maker listing, should we be logged in as them or logged in with our main account?
 

Colan Nielsen

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Hmm, so how can we change the 'main category' in Google Map Maker? Whenever I go to make edits I get an error message.

Also, for making map edits on our clients Map Maker listing, should we be logged in as them or logged in with our main account?
Changing the Main Category should be as simple as changing any of the other ones. Not sure why you are getting that message. Are you getting that message with several different listing edits, or one in particular?


Your second question is a good one. Most recommendations that I have come across suggest having one account make all your Map Maker edits so you can build up trust.

Andrew and Gregg have lots of goodies on that topic.
 
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Again, thx for your help - it's greatly appreciated.

I tried it for a different client (editing the main category) and it seemed to work fine. The change has been accepted and is pending a review. How long does the review of the change typically take? You had mentioned that you changed the primary, and secondary categories for your clients and saw improved results - what was the time-span like?

To answer your other question, for our own company, our listing has some highlighted yellow areas and is pending review (has been for quite some time) so this may be why our edits for categories were rejected and we're getting the error message.

Thoughts?
 

Jim Froling

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We also employ a mix of default and custom categories. Of course the first category must be a default which is usually too broad (and competitive) for most clients. We've had good success with the custom categories using keywords relevant to a client's core competency or high profit segment of their biz.

Lord, Linda, if Google eliminates these custom categories it will be a SAD day for local search. This is the best thing about G+ Local (Places) compared to Bing, Yahoo, etc.
 

Linda Buquet

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Lord, Linda, if Google eliminates these custom categories it will be a SAD day for local search. This is the best thing about G+ Local (Places) compared to Bing, Yahoo, etc.
Well they are already heading toward eliminating the custom cats, BUT that does not mean the cats will be gone - moreso just out of our control. My 'feeling' (and it's only a feeling) is that they could be heading toward, not eliminating cats but removing OUR ability to pick the cats we want. Then the algo in it's infinite wisdom would pick cats you should rank for, sort of like Adwords Express gives you no keyword control and selects keywords for you based on your main cat. And sorta like they select the descriptive snippets to show on your page and you have no control over that either. :eek:

So in other words if your client's web site and lots of their citations talk about them doing Sedation Dentistry, they could rank for that, even if Sedation Dentist was not allowed as a cat and even if primary cat is just Dentist.
 

Colan Nielsen

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How long does the review of the change typically take? You had mentioned that you changed the primary, and secondary categories for your clients and saw improved results - what was the time-span like?
Thoughts?
Reviews seem to take anywhere from a couple days up to a week or two. Of course, there are also times when an edit may go unnoticed and not get approved or denied for quite some time.

I saw secondary category rankings improve about a week to two weeks after the category edit was approved.

Remember, I'm not suggesting that what I did will get results every time. I just wanted to share it to get some good discussion and thoughts going, which seems to be the case :)
 

Jim Froling

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Oh great... like Adwords Express. Sends a shiver down my spine just thinking about that.

Fine then. If the Big G wants to eliminate custom categories can you implore them to utilize cats in some sensible way, and lots, and lots of them? In other search engines I'm always amazed when a "Business Service" lists "Spiritualist" but not "Social Media Consultant", just as an example.
 
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I've also received that message before but I haven't been able to pinpoint why exactly.

Just to note, in these particular tests, I didn't change the "Primary Category" which is often set to 'Establishment or Point of Interest' as a default.

I edited the "Other" categories.
I have seen references to people giving advice to make up custom categories, but this seems to go against the Places and MapMaker guidelines:

Google Places quality guidelines said:
Categories: Select at least one category from the list of available categories.
  • Categories should depict what your business is (e.g. Hospital), not what it does (e.g. Vaccinations) or products it sells (e.g. Sony products or printer paper). This information can be added in your description.
Attributes - MapMaker Help said:
... Categories are divided into two parts: Primary and Other.

Primary category:
There are over 2000 + Primary Categories to choose from in Map Maker.

  1. Click the Add a Place icon
  2. Type in the name of the appropriate category and Map Maker will display relevant options for you to choose from. You can also select a category by scrolling through the list of available categories.
  3. If the category that you wish to select is missing, choose the most relevant category from the list and add appropriate Other categories.
Other categories :You can select Other Categories that are relevant to the feature from the drop-down menu. Othercategories help generate high-quality search results.
To add multiple Other categories, click Add Category after each entry....

Always try to choose the appropriate category from the drop-down. If the specific category is unavailable, you can then select a generic (essentially correct) category.... Never change the category from the best possible category to a generic or less specific one.

Example: For a restaurant that serves only chinese cuisine, the category ?Chinese Restaurant? is better suited. Changing the category to a generic ?Restaurant? lessens the details.

Inappropriate Category

If you?ve added an inappropriate category for the feature, it may not be interchanged with the correct category once you?ve submitted your edit.
If your chosen category is inappropriate and:

  • Interchangeable, you can edit the feature and change the category under the My Edits tab.
  • Non-interchangeable, you can undo your edit from the My Edits tab and resubmit choosing the appropriate category.
It seems that the Places & GMM Guidelines have aligned and no longer allow for custom categories as both reference "from the list" which are the programmed categories from Google. It would seem that the error that Andrew F. got was one that either was an intermittent bug that is fixed by clearing the browser cache and restarting the browser, or is related to the "Inappropriate Category" issue referenced in the Map Maker Help Center Article. I have no idea, nor experience with this issue as it is new language. I have run into the issue before, but never known why. This language seems to point to pre-existing categories as potentially being the problem. I think the only way to fix would be to Report via MapMaker and Maps the Problem.
 

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