How do YOU define this ranking factor?

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Jul 23, 2012
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Happy Spring to Everyone Here at the Local Search Forum! :)

I was wondering if you could help me with your take on a prominent local search ranking factor. In the annual LSRF survey, we see this as a possible factor:

GMB Primary category matches a broader category of the search category (e.g. primary category=restaurant & search=pizza)

Can you explain, in your own words, how you interpret what this factor is, and give an example (hypothetical or real-world) of how you see it impacting local pack rankings?

I ask because I've never actually discussed this factor with anyone else in the industry (which seems strange to me) and because of that, I realized I have no idea whether I interpret this the same way you might. I'd so appreciate any and all replies. Thanks, all!
 

Linda Buquet

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Hi Miriam, thanks for posting.

Good catch! I had to read it a couple times and am still not sure I understand either.

Hopefully Darren will see this and come by to clarify.

What do you guys think?
 

Eric Rohrback

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Oct 3, 2012
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I was kind of viewing the factor from this point of view:

thai near me.png

I never said "thai restaurant" but Google interpreted the context to find a restaurant. So the broader category of "restaurant" matches the search for "thai restaurant."

If you search "Thai Pittsburgh" there are businesses that appear with the category of "thai restaurant" but there are also some that show up within the top 10 that have the primary category set to "restaurant"

If you search "restaurant pittsburgh" there are many businesses with specific types (mexican, italian, thai, cocktail bar, etc...) of restaurants as the primary category ranking, as well as businesses with "restaurant" as the primary category.

quick glance that's what i'm thinking.

 
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Thank you so much, Eric, for giving your take on this.

Darren was kind enough to answer an email I had sent him about this. Basically, as I understand this from his explanation:

1) If I search for 'pizza' the thinking is that there is an advantage if a business has 'restaurant' set as their primary category. Similarly, if I search 'criminal lawyer' it can be an advantage to a business if they have 'lawyer' set as their primary category.
2) A business that has chosen just 'pizza' or just 'criminal lawyer' as their category is at a disadvantage compared to one that has chosen two categories, as in primary: restaurant, secondary: pizza, or, primary: lawyer, secondary: criminal lawyer.

I think this definition is really worthy of further industry discussion. We all know how the local packs frequently show the category variety Eric has depicted in his screenshot of his search for 'thai near me', with entries showing both 'restaurant' and 'thai' as the primary category, but it seems to me very challenging to pin down what effect broad vs. narrow category choice would be having on a given pack. If anyone has done any studies of this, I'd love to see your work, or even if you just have examples of SERPs you feel are being affected by choice of a broad category for a narrow-term search, that would be neat to see, too.

Thanks guys!
 
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Hey Dan!
I remember both your excellent article, and Mike Blumenthal's definition in the comments. At the time, Mike wrote:

When Google says: Google is explicitly telling you that using the fewest number of categories to describe your business will get you the “best results”. what they mean is that you shouldn’t repeat a general category and a specific category NOT that you should have all relevant categories.

IE you should not put both “New Car Dealer” and “Toyota Dealer”

Or in the case of a restaurant use both “Restaurant” and “French Restaurant.

Of you are a laywer, and you specialize in divorces and criminal then you should use “Divorce lawyer” and “criminal lawyer” but not lawyer.

But if you are a “French Restaurant” that is also a bakery then you should be all means add “Bakery”
So, if we apply Mike's interpretation of Google's guidelines to Eric's screenshot, these eateries should only choose either 'restaurant' or 'Thai restaurant' as categories - they should not choose both, or it would be deemed repetitive.

So where does this leave us in terms of the fact that choosing the broad category as primary is being seen as a ranking advantage by some Local SEOs? It seems more like horse sense to use the narrowed category, instead, but if it's, indeed, an advantage to go broad instead, then that's kind of a surprise. What do you guys think?
 

Linda Buquet

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That's exactly what I've been thinking about this. Google says use the least and most specific categories possible. Of course, what Google tells us to do, is not always best for ranking. :(
 

DanLeibson

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May 17, 2013
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Miriam,

Good questions all around, and I wish I had better answers ;)

I was actually talking to a couple of people about this specifically yesterday and today at SMX. I think this is where we really have to start thinking about the algo differently. To me it seems unlikey that it is a "ranking factor" in the classical sense. More likely it is a core part of the relevance component of the algorithm. Let's just assume that is true, so I don't have to be even more long winded, then that is going to be incredibly difficult to suss out the relationship as it's not going to move you up or down a few positions. Rather it's going to effect whether you are even going to be relevant enough to be considered for the query...

Will have to noodle on how this can be better exposed via a test, so we can talk about how it effecting rankings and visiblity.
 
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That's true, Linda, and definitely what Dan was illustrating in his article last year.

Linda - question for you: is there ANY way these days to see from the local finder multiple categories that have been chosen? I seem to remember when using the edit function would show you all the categories the business had selected, but that must have been years ago by now. Any secret tips ;) for seeing that data in 2017? Applicable to this conversation, because from the SERPs, we can't see whether a given business has chosen just one category or multiple categories.
 
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Really appreciate the noodling, Dan, especially as this factor does seem to have an elusive quality to it. Very hard to research and prove out influence. Please, let me know if your noodling turns up something neat!
 

DanLeibson

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May 17, 2013
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Really appreciate the noodling, Dan, especially as this factor does seem to have an elusive quality to it. Very hard to research and prove out influence. Please, let me know if your noodling turns up something neat!
Sounds good! Would be fun to work together on something!
 

Linda Buquet

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Linda - question for you: is there ANY way these days to see from the local finder multiple categories that have been chosen? I seem to remember when using the edit function would show you all the categories the business had selected, but that must have been years ago by now. Any secret tips ;) for seeing that data in 2017? Applicable to this conversation, because from the SERPs, we can't see whether a given business has chosen just one category or multiple categories.
Not in the Finder, that I can see. Only in MM which is going away at end of month.
Plus MM does not show hidden address SABs so that's another wrinkle.

We had a Hangout with Google Maps re our concerns about switching to map edits after MM is gone. We gave them lots of suggestions and some MUST HAVE requests, but ability to see all categories is something I don't think anyone brought up. :eek:
 
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Thanks so much for the reply, Linda. I figured if anyone knew a trick for surfacing this data, it would be you, and looks like there just isn't a known way to access a list of categories a random business has chosen. :( Too bad!

That must have been an exciting meeting! I always had a gut feeling that Map Maker would go away one day, but unlike many Google products which have been sunsetted, this one will be keenly felt by the industry.

I so hope you are doing well, my friend, and thank you for continuing to run a forum where important Local discussion can take place. :D
 

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