*** This is a guest post by Tom Waddington. It has been adapted for contractors based on his previous post at BrightLocal
Want to show up on Google listings above AdWords and map results? Then maybe Google Local Services is right for your contracting business.
There are so many ways to advertise your services. But there’s no doubt that Google is a first stop for most customers. With their Local Services platform, your listing gets top billing in the search results. And if you qualify, you can even get a badge that says “Google Guaranteed” on your listing.
This is a little different from just having a business listing since it’s a paid product. But the visibility and Google endorsement can be a great way to get more leads. In this guide, learn more about what Google Local Services is and whether or not it’s the missing piece in helping you get more business.
Originally called “Home Services ads,” this product began as a beta test in the San Francisco area in 2015. For a business to appear in these Home Services ads, Google required them to complete a screening process. This was to make sure relevant insurance and licensing requirements were met. Google also required criminal background checks for employees as part of their screening process.
When looking for a contractor through Home Service ads, consumers could either call a business directly or select up to three businesses from the list to request individual quotes for comparison. The look and process has changed since then: a consumer no longer has options to request an online quote from a single business or select multiple businesses to request simultaneous quotes. Currently, the only way to contact businesses to compare service quotes is to call them.
Google expanded the program to markets outside of California in 2017, and rebranded: “Home Service ads” became “Local Services ads” (LSA). The look and process has continued to evolve during the expansion, but one constant has remained. In order for a business to be “Google Guaranteed” they must pass Google’s screening process. This process continues the practices of license and insurance verification, as well as employee background checks performed by Pinkerton Consulting and Investigations. All employees that serve customers at their homes must complete background checks for the business to earn the “Google Guaranteed” badge.
In addition to knowing these businesses have passed Google’s screening process, consumers that hire a “Google Guaranteed” business through a Local Services ad receive a satisfaction guarantee. Google will cover claims up to the job invoice amount (with a lifetime cap of $2,000).
Keywords relevant to Local Services ads categories will typically trigger the ads, which appear at the top of the search results (above AdWords and the map 3-pack) on both desktop and mobile. The main ad format allows companies to display only their company name, review rating, city, phone number, and hours of operation.
Companies that benefit the most from this ad format will most likely be those that are able to maintain a high relative review rating combined with strong brand awareness in their local markets.
On the initial search result, you will see three Local Services ads on desktop and two (or sometimes only one) Local Service ads on mobile. Clicking on the “More plumbers” link will take you to a separate page showing a full list of both paid and free business listings in the Local Services ad unit.
Businesses set a weekly budget, Google charges on a per lead basis. The lead cost is a set rate that varies depending on the category and market (from $5-$139 per lead). On the low end, locksmith leads in a few markets are $5 while water damage restoration leads in Tampa are $139. The average cost overall is around $24 per lead. Leads obtained by listings that aren’t “Google Guaranteed”, either because they’re advertisers that have their ad paused, or they’re free listings, will not be charged for leads.
The number of paid listings in a market and within specific categories can vary greatly. Some searches may result in only one or two listings, while others may have more than twenty. There are no limitations to the number of advertisers that may be included in a particular market or category. Obviously, the fewer of advertisers there are, the more leads those businesses are going to get. Some participating businesses may be receiving a large volume of leads while others may only be getting a few.
No. Businesses are not able to designate which keywords to target. Instead, they select categories or “job types” that indicate of the type of services and products they offer. Google decides which keywords are relevant for those job types and a business’s ad will appear based upon the service areas and job types the company selected. Google does not provide any keyword data to show which keywords are triggering ads, or which keywords are generating leads.
Pausing and ad doesn’t remove them from the search results, but the business’s “Google Guaranteed” badge and label will not be present and the paused listing will be placed below any paid listings.
It is easy for a business to pause and reactivate their ad via the Google Local Services dashboard or app, and businesses are not charged for leads while their ad is paused.
Absolutely. There’s no cost to sign up or obligation to participate. The on-boarding process can be cumbersome, but once enrolled, a company will be able to objectively determine whether it’s a good fit for their business. Considering the priority placement of the ads, the relatively low cost of the leads, and the absence of additional costs or obligations to join should make enrollment an easy decision for any business.
If a company determines that the program is not a good fit among their advertising strategies, they can pause the ad and no longer incur costs. Their listing will simply be placed in among the free listings in a section below the paid listings and its placement will likely remain more visible than non-participating companies in the area.
Google has been expanding rapidly since mid-2017 and have added several verticals since then and many new markets. And it is continuing to expand.
Businesses impacted include:
A more complete list of Local Services ads verticals and markets can be found here. It may have some holes in it as Google doesn’t announce when new ones are launching. But it’s likely the most accurate list you will find. You can also check the Local Services eligibility form to see if your vertical and market is running or onboarding.
The official Local Services website offers phone support and a sign-up form to help businesses get started.
Business owners also need to be aware that a member of the Google Local Services team may try to reach out to them directly via a phone call or email, even if the business did not fill out the form and may already working with an agency (including one that is a Google Partner).
I know many people have the mindset that Google will never call them, so any call from someone claiming to be from Google must be a scam. I am sure that numerous businesses have missed out on the opportunity to be one of the first participants in their market because they’ve refused to take a call or respond to an email from a legitimate Google Local Services representative. In such instances, business owners may want to reconsider these suspicions and feel encouraged to request additional verification before dismissing the representative.
There are some correlations with Google AdWords (now called Google Ads) and Google My Business but it’s important to note that Local Services operates independent of both. A Local Services ad and an AdWords campaign can be run at the same time but do not have to be. Their budgets are independent of one another and one can be running while the other is paused.
Local Services has its own dashboard and app, so you do not do any management of it from within AdWords. An AdWords account is required for Local Services but it’s essentially just for billing purposes and to be able to utilize Google Manager Accounts (MCC) features.
A Local Services ad is typically associated with a Google My Business listing but it doesn’t have to be. When it is, the Local Services ad will show reviews sourced from its corresponding Google My Business listing. Reviews can also be obtained through the Local Services ad platform, where Google is making an effort to improve the authenticity of reviews.
Since Google is directly capturing and directing the lead with LSA, they have more data and are better able to connect the dots on a converted lead that leaves a review. In situations where the dots do connect, a review will display an enhanced status as a “Google verified job”.
Reviews on a Local Services ad can be a mix of Google My Business and LSA sourced reviews. However, reviews sourced from the LSA platform do not currently appear on Google My Business listings.
Local Services is no longer a beta test impacting just a handful of businesses in a few markets. It has caused a significant shift in the local search landscape that contractors need to be thinking about.
Maybe most importantly, the integration of Local Services with Google Assistant and Google Home products may offer a glimpse of the future, showing how Google might utilize voice search to connect consumers with local contractors.
Tom Waddington is a co-owner of Wachae, a search marketing and analytics business. He has worked with numerous home service-related businesses over the past 10+ years. Tom is also a Google My Business Product Expert and has been closely following the evolution of Google’s Local Services ads over the past year and a half.