Today, Google Local has changed the way that local businesses are classified. The new method is a free-form text field that dynamically offers recommendations as well as allowing for a custom value to be entered.
This is a big change compared to the prior way that Google local categorized businesses, which was based upon a proprietary list of about 500 categories (12 top level and 500 sub-classification). The newly recommended choices are inclusive of the legacy list, but provide greater granularity in product and services classification.
Google Local search uses categories in two ways:
1) The category will be displayed under a business listing
2) A category can be explicitly searched such as
category: Attorneys Adoption, Divorce & Family Law
It will be interesting to see how this will impact Google Local search results. One major implication is keywords could effectively be given as categories, but that could change going forward. Based upon our historical analysis, a businesses category hasn't been shown to greatly impact the ranking of search results on Google Local as it does with Yahoo Local and many other search engines.
One call to action sure: if you already had your business in Google Local, it might be worthwhile to review or update the category classification.
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