The Expansion of Google Home Service Ads
Local SEO has experienced many changes over the years. Google constantly adjusts things to improve its search results. Typically, these changes go relatively unnoticed by most people, but soon Google users will see a major change when they search for local home-service businesses.
Google Home Service Ads (HSA) are paid advertisements for local home service businesses like plumbers, HVAC, electricians and other businesses that provide services at customers’ homes. These ads appear at the very top of Google search results. This spot is highly coveted because it’s prominent and will likely have a high conversion rate.
Technically, these ads are still in the “testing” phase, so they are only available in select cities and industries.
San Francisco Bay Area
However, evidence shows that Google is ready to take the next step and roll this out nationwide. HSAs first appeared in the summer of 2015 in select areas of California, and for the past couple years, Google has been fairly quiet about this new service. It’s been slow to expand geographically until June 2017, when HSAs first became available in several new areas on the East Coast. Since then, the expansion has really picked up the pace.
SOME ARE SPECULATING THAT GOOGLE WILL MAKE HSAS AVAILABLE TO THE FOLLOWING CITIES THIS OCTOBER AND NOVEMBER:
Houston, TX* (TBD due to Hurricane Harvey)
Miami, FL* (TBD due to Hurricane Irma)
Riverside/San Bernardino, CA
Las Vegas, NV
Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN
Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne, FL
San Antonio, TX
St. Louis, MO
Tampa-St Petersburg (Sarasota), FL
No one knows exactly when this will roll-out nationwide, but some sources say this could be as early as the end of 2017. Here is what you need to know to be prepared:
GETTING SET UP
Home Service Ads are created and managed through Google AdWords Express. Local businesses can specify their service area and target ads by city or zip code. In order to appear in a HSA, businesses must pass a background check through a 3rd party company called Pinkerton.
All individual employees (even contractors and temporary workers) that visit customers’ homes also need to pass a background check. The check is free and allows the business to display the “Google Guaranteed” symbol. This guarantee lets customers know that a business is guaranteed trustworthy by Google.
Home Service Ads only require you to pay for each lead acquired. A lead could be a phone call or a message from a customer inquiring about your service. The price of leads vary depending on location, lead type, and job type. You can control your spending by setting an average weekly budget and a monthly max budget in AdWords Express. Businesses have the ability to dispute and get a refund for spam or invalid leads.
As mentioned above, customers can either call or send a message through the ad. When customers send a message, the business is notified through a mobile app notification and an email. It is important to note that if a company repeatedly fails to respond to messages or takes too long to respond, it can get kicked out of HSAs.
The phone number displayed in the ad is a “Google Forwarding Number” that forwards to the main business line. That way you can keep track of the volume of calls received from the HSA and gauge its success. Also, the phone number displayed from inbound customer calls is also a forwarding number. You can return calls or texts to the customer on this number, but it expires after 15 days of non-use.
AD RANKING FACTORS
Showing up in these advertisements is going to be very competitive, especially in larger cities. Since space is limited to 3 HSAs per results page, businesses should be aware of factors that influence its ability to be placed there. Of course having a larger budget will help, but there are several other factors that Google also considers.
The first factor is physical distance of the searcher from a business. The farther away a potential customer is, the less likely your business’s HSA will show up in their search results. Secondly, customer reviews are huge. The number and star rating of reviews will both have a major impact. Also, businesses who respond to leads quickly and reliably will have the upper-hand over companies who are flaky and slow to reply.
Business hours can also affect ad performance because Google prefers to show HSAs of companies that are still open at the time that someone searches. Lastly, Google will consider your customers’ opinions. If there are constant complaints submitted about your services, Google will think twice about publishing your HSA.
The recent rapid expansion of Home Service Ads is a sign that Google is ready to move this program out of beta and roll it out nation-wide. This could happen in as little as 2 months from now. Local home service businesses should start preparing now by gathering more customer reviews, looking into budget to allocate towards HSAs, and working with an experienced marketing agency, like Find8 Digital, to come up with a game plan.