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Google Maps Now Allows Custom Categories For Businesses

Search Engine Roundtable notes that the Google Local Business Center is allowing businesses to enter their own, custom categories. While this new functionality has been around for a few weeks now, it is an important one and addresses a major need that both Mike Blumenthal and I have highlighted previously — I recently spoke about this issue again at the SMX West session on Local Search & Blended Results. Previously, businesses could only select business categories from an unusually short list of categories. Exacerbating the issue, some businesses achieved other category associations outside of Google’s sharply limited taxonomy when their listings found in other yellow pages providers such as Superpages were absorbed into Google Maps, including the more comprehensive categories found in those other content sources.

Under the new functionality, businesses may type in custom business categories, and the interface also provides helpful potential term using the Google Suggestion Tool:

Choosing Categories in Google Local Business Center
(click to enlarge)

Free-form categories is a slightly unique way to address the need of businesses. Yellow pages companies have traditionally offered businesses the option of categorization under many thousands of unique categories — on the order of twelve thousand to fifteen thousand categories in some cases. However, YP companies have also carefully considered and turned down requests for additions of completely new categories in some cases, mainly due to how yellow pages are constructed — if there are too few businesses in a category it won’t make monetary sense to add it into a directory. And, if the category name is too esoteric, consumers won’t search for it anyway.

With Google’s local search operating more closely as a straight keyword search tool, businesses could associate categories with themselves that are as specific as they desire without affecting usability or cost.

In other, related news, Google has announced that YouTube videos are now integrated with Google Maps, allowing businesses to add video info to their listings.

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