Since April 2009 Google has been serving local listings in its search engine results pages. Although the layout has changed a bit and the number of business listings it provides has varied, what has remained consistent is a local Google map and listing of local businesses that are relevant to the keywords entered by the individual searching on Google.For local small businesses this has been a tremendous boost when it comes to competing with large national franchises since it gives precedent to the small business in local markets. And the price is right, too! Google provides a business listing to small businesses for absolutely no charge. However it is important that the small business know a few key points so that it leverages its business listing to the fullest.Choosing the right categories for your Google business listingOne of the most important factors to a successful business listing is choosing the right categories for which your business appears in the local search results. To date, Google allows businesses to choose five (5) categories. One of the categories must be a current Google category, and the other four (4) can be categories that you choose for your listing.The categories typically correspond to keyword phrases that an individual searching for your type of business would enter as a search term. For instance, if you are a plumber, typical keywords that someone searching for your business might use would be “plumber” or “plumbing.” To determine the existing Google category all you need to do is start typing the keyword in the Category section of the Google Business Listing (called Google Places) and Google will automatically suggest keyword terms that are relevant to your business. Just pick the one that suits your business best. That satisfies their requirement for using one of their existing categories. Now the other four (4) are up to you…and it’s important that you get this right as it can mean the difference between receiving multiple leads for your small business…or none at all.Choose Popular Keywords as CategoriesAs mentioned before, you want to use keywords and keyword phrases as your categories, but which ones do you choose? You’ll want to choose the ones that people search for the most, of course. Those most popular keywords will put your business in front of the most prospective customers and give your business the most visibility. And, guess what? Good ‘ol Google helps you with that, too. Just go to the Google AdWords Keyword Tool, enter a keyword in the “Word or phrase” box that describes your business, enter the letters displayed by the “captcha” security code and hit the “Search” button to get the list of keywords Google suggests. Pick the keywords with the most monthly searches that are also relevant to your business.But don’t stop there…Unfortunately for many (but fortunate for you), many businesses pick the four most popular keywords that are relevant to their business from the Google Keyword Tool, use those as their remaining categories and stop there…but that’s where they make a critical mistake because not all of those keywords result in a local search.Now this is a very important point so let’s be very clear. The key to identifying optimum categories is to make sure that the keywords that you pick are popular plus they must also produce a local search, too. Let’s look at an example -Let’s say you are a piano teacher, and you use the Google Keyword Tool to find the most popular keywords associated with your business. Google suggests the following keywords as popular keywords – “piano lessons”, “play piano,” “lessons piano,” and “how to play piano.” That sounds reasonable enough, but it isn’t until you check Google Search that you find some very important information. Only two of the keyword phrases produce a local search – “lessons piano” and “piano lessons.” The other two keyword phrases do not. Interesting!Keyword Lessons LearnedSo the lesson to be learned to get the most visibility for your local business is to choose popular keywords that are relevant to your business but also make sure that those keywords deliver local search results. If they don’t, you are wasting opportunities for your business listing to be shown and not fully utilizing the the visibility that Google wants to give you and your local business.