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99 Problems But Category Dilution Ain’t One

This article is part 2 of 9 from our LocalU presentation from March 2020.  If you missed the event, the videos are available for purchase here

Darren Shaw has done some insightful research showing that category confusion is a real thing. Darren Shaw did a test in January 2019 to see if adding completely different (un-related) categories to the listing for Whitespark would make a difference in ranking for the keywords related to internet marketing.  Adding completely odd categories like hot dog stand, hair removal service, gazebo builder etc did result in a sizable drop in ranking. Rankings were restored once he removed the categories.

This is useful to know because there are times when you might be tempted to add a GMB category that might make sense to you but is not relevant to the business in Google’s eyes. As Darren proved, this can cause a ranking drop.

But what about category dilution?

Does having too many related categories have a negative impact on ranking?  In our findings and testing – no.

There are a couple ways to access the impact:

  1. Add additional GMB categories to see if rankings decrease
  2. Remove additional GMB categories to see if rankings increase

We have tested whether or not adding or removing additional categories that are relevant negatively impacts ranking and in each test we found that there was no negative impact.

*Note: Changing the primary GMB category DOES have major impact on ranking. In these tests we are only editing “Additional” categories, never the primary category.

Example 1

Removing “Additional” Categories from a Law Firm

One of the tests we did was removing additional categories from a law firm. The idea was to test if they were already under some sort of category dilution.

The law firm that we tested this on was a personal injury and criminal law firm in a suburb of Chicago. We wondered if removing all of their categories except for the “Criminal defense attorney” and “Personal injury attorney” would help increase his rankings for criminal and personal injury related keywords. We removed the following categories:

  • Law Firm
  • Trial Attorney
  • Lawyer

Rankings did not increase as a result of removing categories. So the conclusion was that category dilution was not a factor.

Example 2

Removing “Additional” Categories from a Law Firm

Another similar test we ran was on a criminal attorney law firm in a major US city. Again we wondered if removing “additional” GMB categories would increase their rankings for their main criminal attorney keywords. We removed the following categories:

  • Legal Services
  • General Practice Attorney
  • Trial Attorney

My conclusion is that removing the categories didn’t hurt or help their rankings. I looked at the keyword tracker across all keywords from the day I made the change and there was never more than a tiny bump up or down.

Example 3

Adding “Additional” Categories to a Dentist in NYC

A third example we tested was a Dentist in NYC. The Dental vertical is an interesting one because there are over twelve categories that apply to dentists. In this case we wanted to see if adding additional categories to a NYC dentist had a negative impact on their core keywords.

The primary category for this dentist is “Dentist”. Over time we added the following GMB categories:

  • Emergency Dental Service
  • Dental Implants Periodontist
  • Teeth Whitening Service
  • Orthodontist

The rankings for the core keywords such as “Dentist” and “Dentist Near Me” never suffered at any point after adding additional categories. On the other hand, we saw ranking increases for keywords related to the additional categories.

Key Takeaway

Adding additional GMB categories won’t hurt the rankings for your main category/keywords as long as they are relevant to your business. In fact, the opposite seems to be true and it can be beneficial to your overall visibility. Here’s a final example of how adding an additional GMB category can increase rankings for keywords related to that category. In this example we added the category “Employment Attorney” and this was the impact on ranking for employment attorney keywords.

Check out part two where we go over some tips on local SEO for dentists and part three on SEO for car dealerships.

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Colan Nielsen

Colan started in the local SEO world back in 2010 and is also deemed a product expert by Google as a Top Contributor on the Google My Business Forum. He is a contributor to Moz’s famous Local Search Ranking Factors survey and is a former Google MapMaker Regional Lead. Read Colan's full bio here.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Very good insights, even if the case studies have been performed few years ago from the date of my comment. It’s interesting to see that some SEOs would try to “spice” up the categories with unrelated stuff, it’s so 90’s 🙂

    We did notice as well that, once we started adding related categories (and audit the client’s main competitors to research for the better options), rankings have indeed improved.

    Thank you for taking the time to provide these insights.

    1. They can have an indirect impact on ranking. Negative reviews can lead to less activity/clicks to your business profile, which can impact ranking.

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