Google is currently running a pay-per-lead beta test in Google Adwords Express, called Google Home Service Ads. Currently only available in parts of California, from San Francisco down to San Jose and as of yesterday, the East Bay, the new Home Service Ads differ from traditional PPC ads in the following ways:
- They allow you to contact up to 3 qualified home service professionals directly from the search results page. Traditional ads point to websites, but when your sink is clogged or you are locked out of your car, you might not have time to jump from page to page to book a service.
- You get detailed information about the professionals—a bio, services offered, areas served, hours of operation, and more—right from their profiles.
- All professionals who appear in home service ads go through a screening process, and they can’t pay to be ranked higher in the ad units.
Although currently in test mode, you can expect this new pay-per-lead model to expand to new areas soon. With new service categories being added regularly, it seems as though the new format is working and expanding.
Ads Display Top Three Home Service Professionals
Google “Locksmith San Jose,” or another similar Google search in their test area and you’ll probably see something like this:
Three listings will appear from local service companies, with attached reviews (from Google+, Yelp, Home Advisor, and more), phone numbers, and call-out extensions, similar to what you’d see in a PPC ad. As you can see, the PPC ads that normally display above the fold are gone, and so are Google Maps results. What you are left with is sponsored Home Service Ads at the top of the SERP and your regular PPC listings on the right sidebar.
When you click on “More locksmiths,” you will get directed to a new page with a full list of participating home service companies:
According to Google, the top three that appear at the top of the Google search results, supplanting both top PPC ads and Google maps, are randomized – everyone pays a fixed fee and the top three are cycled, however, this may change. We predict that the top three spots will have a much higher bid than simply participating in the new pay-per-lead service.
With the Home Service Ads taking up the space previously filled by PPC ads and Google map results, this completely changes the game for both PPC and SEO strategies for home service companies. And earlier this month, we saw a Google maps update which reduced the local results from 7 to 3, raising the competition for the top three Google map spots.
From the full list of participating home service providers, you can select up to three professionals to send a request to. When you click on any of the listed businesses, a business profile pops up with hours of operation, list of services, qualifications, website, and more:
*Google recently added “house cleaner” and “handyman” to their service categories list, and are looking for additional services to add using their “Other” category.
How to Manage Service Request Bids
When a customer selects 1-3 service professionals to send a service request to, the request is forwarded to your Adwords Express account. You can keep all of your leads organized in your desktop version or mobile app (using the Adwords Express mobile app).
Your Adwords Express account is where new requests from customers will pop up, including correspondence and appointment notifications.
When you receive a new request from a customer, you can respond immediately via the Adwords Express app or by telephone.
When the job is completed, the customer is prompted to leave a rating and a review.
This new play into the home service market by Google highlights the ever-increasing need to generate great online reviews.
Sending Home Service Requests
After a customer searches for and selects 1-3 home service professional, he or she has the choice to send a request through a contact form or by phone. Email addresses are not shared, however, name, location, job details, and phone number are. All correspondence is done through an anonymous email alias created by Google.
Basically, all Google does is connect a customer with a local home service professional. Google sets no guarantees about the job, pricing, or anything else. The customer pays the provider directly.
For more information about how home service requests work, read this Google Support article.
Only home service providers who are qualified by Google and its vendors will appear in a Google home service ad. You must remain in good standing with Google and its third-party online sources. If you get too many negative reviews or fail to comply with their background and screening process, your ad ranking could be decreased or your account barred from the listing.
- Abide by local laws and regulations, including “all relevant licensing or other regulatory requirements.”
- Proof of licensure, insurance, bonding, and related requirements.
- All companies and any employees who provide services to a customer must undergo background checks and screening by Google’s third-party security firm. You are responsible for all costs associated with said background checks, “unless Google works out an alternative arrangement with you.”
- The background checks are conducted by Pinkerton Consulting & Investigations, Inc. and include verification of your Social Security number, criminal history, and professional license and insurance information. You may be required to recertify “to keep information accurate and up-to-date.” The background check process needs to be renewed every year. Google does not see or hold records of individual’s results.
- Both you and the customer must be at least 18 years old.
- Full cooperation with Google and its vendors.
- Compliance with legal and privacy rights of your customers.
Part of Google’s track record and reputation check includes collecting “ratings and reviews from people who hired home service professionals through our home service ads, and use mystery shoppers—customers who communicate and hire professionals on our behalf without mentioning any affiliation with Google—to help us learn more about the customer experience” (read more: Google Home Service Ads Qualifications).
For information about the background check and screening process, you can get the information by contacting Pinkerton Consulting & Investigations at firstname.lastname@example.org or (410) 785-7775.
All of these requirements put a great deal of strain on the average small home service business. Not only must every team member pass a third-party background test and screening, but you “must fully cover all costs associated with background checks.”
Google is clearly trying to make up for lost ground in the over $400 billion home service industry. Taking on the likes of Yelp, Angie’s List, and Amazon Home Services, Google’s entry into the market is forcing a pay-to-play system across the board for generating leads. By pushing organic results down the page, Yelp and other sites will be edged out. Your PPC ads and map listings will become less relevant as Google expands its Home Service Ads format.
Amazon Home Services v Google Home Service Ads
Although Amazon Home Services also conducts background checks and screening for participating home service providers, there are a few important differences between them:
- Amazon sets the price of service in many cases and takes a 10-20% cut for the cost of generating leads and doing business on Amazon. Click here for Amazon Home Services Pricing.
- Amazon guarantees satisfaction for the services provided by participating service professionals with their “Happiness Guarantee.” This guarantee ensures that if a customer is dissatisfied with service, the job will be rectified or a full refund will be provided. They also offer price matching within 14 days.
For more information about how Amazon Home Services works, click here.
How Much Does It Cost to Be Featured in Home Service Ads?
Currently, Google is not disclosing exactly how their pricing model will work, however, we know a couple of things:
- Currently, Google is fronting the bill for background checks and screening. Participating home service providers are paying NOTHING during the test phase. If you are a home service company in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can sign up here (free of charge).
- Pricing in the future will be dependent on ad competition. The more participating advertisers there are, the higher the bid price will be. They will go up for every ranking position. If the top position was paying $3.00/click, it could possibly go up to $4.oo/click as the competition gets more fierce.
- Currently the top three listings are being randomly cycled and advertisers cannot pay more to be ranked higher in the ad units, but we anticipate that the top three will soon be the highest bidders. The more competitive the market, the higher the bid.
- As opposed to PPC ads, your will not be charged per click, but rather per service request (lead).
- The pricing model is still in test mode, so we know very little at this point.
- Since Google Home Service Ads are in Adwords Express, it’s a fairly safe bet to say that advertisers will be charged a fee for every profile click for more information.
Since the Home Service Ads program is still in beta mode, Google has not shared its pricing model with anyone. We still don’t know if anyone is paying for this trial run.
Important Google Home Service Ads Links:
- To get started as an advertiser, fill out this form.
- Google Home Service Ads
- Google Home Service Ads Support
For more information, visit Google’s HELP CENTER.
Review Management and Support with a Social/Local Program
Google’s expanding presence in the home services space highlights the increasing need for good reviews on Google+ and across the web.
If you need help setting up and optimizing your social media and local listings, garnering more positive reviews and managing negative ones, you may be interested in becoming a Social/Local PRO member.
Social/Local PRO membership includes:
- On-page and off-page SEO
- Local listing optimization and synchronization
- Original blog articles every week
- Reputation response and repair – generate more reviews
- Access to Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest ads
- Community engagement and monitoring
- PR and customer service
If you have any questions about how Google Home Service Ads work or would like to know more about our approach to local SEO and Reputation Repair, give VitalStorm a call at 972-961-7380.
We’ll be following the expansion of Google Home Service Ads and what our clients can do to stay at the top of SERPs. Keep in touch with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for the latest digital marketing news and information.