Have you tried Google Local Services Ads?
If you haven’t and you run a local service, you might want to give these ads serious consideration.
In this post, I’ll give you the rundown on what Local Services Ads are and how they can benefit your local business.
What You’ll Learn:
- What Google Local Services ads are and how they appear in the SERPs
- Why Local Services ads matter to brands (and why they should be using them)
- How to get into Google local service listings
- How to create a Local Services ad profile
- How Local Services ads are ranked
- How they work with Google Home
- How ad strategy and leads work with Local Services ads
- How they impact local SEO
Google Local Service ads launched back in 2015, but the program has largely flown under the radar until recently. For one, the service was only available in California until mid-2017.
Today, Local Service Ads have access to some of Google’s most visible spots—edging out both paid and organic search. They also allow searchers to call or message a business directly from Google and now, can advertise through Google Assistant.
Naturally, Local Services are a can’t-miss opportunity. But, there are some things you should know about the program—including eligibility requirements, the sign-up process, and that Pinkerton-issued background check.
What are Google Local Services Ads?
Local Service ads cater exclusively to local service businesses, allowing them to better connect with searchers and collect leads.
What’s cool about these is that they’re shown at the very top of the SERPs, but in card form rather than as a traditional text ad.
Say, for example, you type in a search for Plumbers Near Me.
On a typical results page, you’ll see some text ads, followed by the map and some general HTML listings inside of Google (the Local Pack).
Below that will be articles and websites, and at the bottom of the page will include links to related searches and queries.
So, where are the Local Services ads?
On a search for a local service, these appear right at the top, above even the usual text ads.
The cards stand out primarily due to the green “Google Guaranteed” check mark inside the ad. More on those in a minute.
Under the cards, you’ll see an arrow and a link to “More plumbers in [local area].” When clicked on, you’ll be taken to a page with a full list of local providers.
While the card displayed in the SERPs will include limited information (phone number, hours, how many times it’s been booked), when clicked on the ad will display the information most relevant to potential customers.
That includes your:
- Business name
- Phone number – this comes with a tracking number that allows you to see how many calls have been made from your ad
- Reviews – these reviews are pulled from your Google My Business page as well as directly from reviews collected through the ad
- Business hours
- Google Guarantee
- Photos – you can upload these directly to your local services ad
- Highlights – any important aspects of your business, such as locally-owned, offers free estimates, etc.
Why Local Services Matter to Brands (And Why They Should be Using Them)
In most of the US—at least the major metropolitan areas, Google no longer uses its traditional SERP results to deliver local service provider results to searchers looking for help from a plumber, handyman, or locksmith.
Instead, local service businesses are part of their own SERP subset, a locally focused selection of certified pros. Local Services providers have the distinct advantage of having access to ads read through the Google Assistant or Google Home devices.
The companies that stand to gain the most significant ROI are those who can maintain both a steady stream of positive reviews and high visibility in their local market.
It’s also important to note that if you want to keep receiving notifications, you’ll need to respond ASAP. Part of the ranking algorithm is timeliness, so businesses are encouraged to respond even if they aren’t available for a particular service.
So, why should businesses use Google Local Services ads?
Better question: if you operate a local service, why shouldn’t you?
There are a lot of benefits to using this new(er) kind of ad, and Google does a good job of highlighting them:
- First, these are put at the very top of the Google results – even above the regular text ads. That translates to more exposure for your business.
- It’s a great way to connect with those most likely to actually book your services. People looking for local services generally turn to Google when they need something done soon, and dropping your name at the top of their search results is a great way to lead them to your door.
- You only pay for leads related to your specific business and the services offered
These ads appear across mobile, desktop, and tablet searches.
Even better? These local service ads will be pulled by Google Assitant in relevant voice searches.
And here’s another thing: while traditional ads operate on a pay-per-click basis, Local Service ads run on a pay-per-lead basis.
That means you’re only charged for the leads you receive through your Local Service ad.
And, compared to regular search ads, Local Service ads have a pretty simple setup. No keywords, research, or creative to manage. All ad information is automatically pulled and displayed from your business profile.
Last but not least, it comes with the Google Guaranteed seal of approval.
How to Get Into Local Service Listings
If you head over to the official Local Services website, you’ll see that Google offers both a sign-up for and phone support for those interested in the program. To start the signup process, check your availability and complete the registration form.
Who Can Participate in Local Services Ads?
As it stands, Local Services Ads are only available to service providers in the US, the UK, and Canada. In the US, the program is available throughout the country, listing major metropolitan areas and surrounding suburbs. If you do business in a rural area, it may be worth checking in with Google to see if you’re eligible to participate.
According to Google, only the following industries can participate in the Local Services Ads program. Those industries marked with an asterisk are not available in every participating area:
* Air Duct Cleaner*
* Appliance Repair Service*
* Auto Glass Service*
* Auto Service Technician*
* Carpet Cleaner*
* Event Planner*
* Garage Door Professional
* Home Improvement Pro*
* House Cleaner*
* Junk Removal Provider*
* Lawn Care Provider*
* Pest Control Technician*
* Pet Care Provider*
* Pet Groomer*
* Roadside Assistance Service*
* Tree Service Provider*
* Upholstery Cleaner*
* Water Damage Service Provider*
* Window Cleaner*
* Window Service Provider*
Do keep in mind that a representative from the Google Local Services team might reach out either by phone or email. We mention this because it’s long been conventional wisdom that Google will not call or email out of the blue—so if someone from “Google” calls, it’s likely a phishing scam.
Google Local Services is its own service, separate from Google Ads and Google My Business and things like Gmail or Google Drive—so don’t be alarmed if someone from the company tries to get in touch. Of course, you should ask for additional verification if you’re wary of the rep.
In addition to the industry and location requirements, Google Local Service Ads require all service providers to complete and pass a background check. In the US, the checks are a self-service application processed through Pinkerton.
According to Pinkerton’s Local Services page, you’ll need to have some information on hand—think business name, address, phone, federal employment identification number, and the number of business owners and field workers.
If you employ field workers, you will need to submit a background check for each employee.
The second part of earning your “Google Guarantee” designation is entering insurance and licensing information. You’ll need to prove to Google that you have liability insurance and that you hold all current licenses required to work in your industry.
Meaning, if you are applying as an HVAC tech, you’ll need to upload your contractor license, plus any additional credentials relevant to your business. From there, Google reviews your documents to determine whether they’ll allow you to advertise. If you don’t pass, you won’t be able to advertise.
If you fail the first time, you do get a chance to re-apply within 30 days of submitting the initial application. However, if you fail to meet the requirements a second time, you won’t be able to apply again for another year.
About the Google Guarantee Badge
The Google Guarantee is a requirement for Local Services Ad participants, but Google states that the badge is a separate designation.
Any company working within a local service industry can go through the process and display the badge on their traditional paid ads, Google My Business Profile, and on their website. The major benefit of the badge is that it functions as a shorthand for customer protection, which helps companies build trust.
It works like this: If any of your customers aren’t satisfied with your work, Google might refund up to the amount paid for jobs booked through Local Services ads, with a lifetime cap for coverage.
The maximum coverage in the US is $2,000, while the max coverage in Canada is CA 2,000.
All services covered must be booked through Local Services
That means that when Google backs your business, they’re invested. That trust translates well to potential customers.
Google also recommends businesses that have been certified by Porch or HomeAdvisor. These companies have their own screening methods, but all check for criminal records and make sure that the business is a legitimate operation.
Creating a Local Services Ad Profile
Local Service ads aren’t run through your usual AdWords account, so you’ll need to set up a separate profile to go with them.
The settings you choose here will act as your targeting data, so make sure you’re as accurate as possible with all information.
That means accurately entering all areas you’re interested in collecting leads from (remember, you’ll be paying for the leads you collect through the ads).
You’ll also be able to edit:
- Your business hours
- Your service areas
- Your job types
- Your weekly budget
Because Local Services Ads are triggered when people search for services in a specific location, keywords work a bit differently than they do with your typical PPC campaign.
Keywords relevant to Local Services ads categories will trigger the ads, but those keywords are things like “Denver cleaning services” or “plumber near me.”
The good news? You don’t need to manage or bid on keywords anymore. The ads are triggered based on thousands of relevant search terms, which Google has deemed relevant based on industry and location.
The slightly less good news? That means that unfortunately, you don’t get to review which keywords are sending over the most leads.
Though these don’t operate on keywords, Local Service ads do match based on the service types you indicate.
When setting up your ad and profile, Google lets you choose from a list of services. You’ll see options like “install shower.”
Then, when people search for “install shower” in their query, your business’s Local Service Ad could appear.
In that way, your service types act as your keywords, and Google recommends you choose ones directly rated to your business.
You’ll also want to be as specific as possible when setting your service areas. You set these by choosing the cities and/or postal codes you’d like your ad to show in.
How Local Services Ads Are Ranked
These ads don’t operate like your typical search ads, and that goes for ranking as well.
Because there are no keywords to match your business to a search query, Google instead relies on other indicators.
The first is a searcher’s proximity to your business and your business hours. This one is relatively out of your control, but do be sure to include the areas you’d like to collect leads from in your business profile and accurate business hours.
Next, Google will prioritize businesses with a higher review score and number of reviews.
Remember, these will be collected from both your Google My Business and directly through your Local Services ads.
The good news here: you can do something about collecting reviews, and there is plenty of software and tools available to help you better automate and streamline the process.
Not sure how to ask for reviews the right way? Give this article a read.
Another factor that can potentially increase your rankings is your responsiveness to customer inquiries and requests.
This one’s pretty straightforward: be timely in your responses. These are leads and potential customers for your business – so don’t leave them hanging.
How Do Ads Work on Google Home?
Google has begun rolling out Google Assistant ads for local services.
Now, searchers can say “Ok, Google, I need a plumber” and the Assistant will provide them with a few nearby options. You can sign up for Google Assistant ads by filling out the short Google form here.
Anyone who has passed the screening process is eligible to advertise on the Google Assistant, but all results are organic at this point. Meaning, getting Google to verbally recommend you depends on a few different factors, much like the Google featured snippet or the local three pack.
To increase your chances of “appearing” in the Assistant results, you’ll want to make sure you’re collecting reviews, provide top-tier service and respond to incoming requests FAST.
For more on Local Services ads and how they work with Google Home and digital assistants, check out my full article on the future of Google Assistant ads.
How Does Ad Strategy Work With Google Local Services Ads?
Much like Google Ads, the process still involves going into your dashboard and setting a budget.
That said, the only strategic decision you’ll need to make is how much you want to spend on your lead generation process. According to Google, you’ll set a budget based on how many leads you’d like to bring in per week.
What’s nice about Google Local Services Ads is you are only charged for the viable leads that come through the platform. This setup allows you to make more accurate forecasts about your return on ad spend, as you can review the number of leads against the percentage of leads that become customers.
Cost-per-lead varies based on your industry, but local providers are charged when they receive a text, email, or voice message from a lead or if you answer a call from a potential customer.
They also charge for missed calls that can be returned—meaning, if someone calls and you respond by text, email, or voicemail you will get charged.
Local Services Ads are designed to qualify your leads, making sure that the customer does live within your service area and that they are looking for a service that you provide.
How it works is, Google asks the searcher a few questions after the results come up before passing it along to the service provider.
According to Google, if you end up paying for a poor-fit lead, you can dispute the charge and Google will process your request within one week.
They won’t always take your side here, but it’s definitely worth submitting a claim if there’s a problem with a lead—they reportedly cost between $5 and $130 apiece, depending on the industry. Mistakes left unattended will add up fast, so Local Services Ads do need to be monitored.
What’s the Deal With Leads?
Local Services Ads operate on a pay-per-lead basis. So, they’re a little different than Google’s other ad types. Leads can get rather expensive, but companies can set a budget.
- A text message or email from the customer (US only).
- A voicemail from the customer.
- An answered call and conversation with the customer.
- A missed call (without a voicemail), latered returned with a text message, email or call where you speak with the customer or leave a voicemail.
You can check out your leads through your Google Local Services account—which is available on iOS, Android, and your web browser. The portal will allow you to receive and manage leads, meaning you can communicate with customers about their request and record notes about the job.
You can also use the portal to ask customers for reviews and track bookings.
To access, open your Local Services inbox, click the menu bar at the top and select Reports.
Inside, you can select specific time periods to view and see a full report on:
- The number of charged leads that you received in the period from those who saw your ad on Google search results pages.
- The total amount you were charged during this period
- The amount of disputed lead credits you received during this period
- The number of bookings and your booking rate (percent of leads marked as booked out of charged leads received during the period)
- A list of all leads you received
In the reports, you can also mark any qualifying leads as Booked to add a booking rate to your report.
Google recommends pausing ads if you start to get too busy to respond to new requests. Because responsiveness is a ranking factor, keeping the ad running if you can’t keep up might harm your ad performance long-term.
How Do Local Services Ads Impact Local SEO Performance?
As we mentioned, LSAs are displayed on top of paid search ads and organic listings. You’ll notice that Google’s Local Service Ads sit above the Paid Search ads and the Organic listings.
Google claims that the Local Service Ads aren’t necessarily a replacement for traditional search ads. Instead, they’re a part of a greater strategy that includes LSA, organic and search ads.
That said, Local Search Ads do have the advantage when it comes to visibility, and they could have an impact on the local competitive landscape–potentially taking clicks and conversions away from local search ads.
Google Local Services Ads: Bottom Line
Google Local Services comes with a wide range of benefits — starting with prime placement. With the easy-to-measure return on ad spend, and the new integration with Google Home and Google Assistant, LSA just makes good business sense.
As it stands, Local Services Ads–both display and Google Assistant–are available to a limited selection of vendors. But, that could change soon. It’ll be interesting to see whether Google My Business vendors from salons to restaurants will be able to advertise on the Google Assistant, too.