Google Home Service Ads: The San Francisco Experiment
This Summer Google announced a new Beta they were testing for home services in San Francisco. Over the last few months there have been several changes to local search but this one definitely appears to be the most drastic. The new ad format is listed below with a screenshot from a SERP. Check out what appears where we usually see the map pack:
These are called home service ads. Google notes: “Connect with trusted and experienced professionals in your area.” The simple idea here is that Google is trying to connect service providers with local residents searching for help. This ad format was originally available to plumbers and locksmiths, but Google has recently expanded to handymen and house cleaners as well.
Most I’m sure are wondering if these are paid or organic listings… As you see the “sponsored” mark in the upper right hand corner, Google is definitely monetizing this new format to local search. The handyman or plumber can get started in AdWords Express by filling out a form with their information (ie: contact info, service area, site URL). This does have to go through a screening process and Google uses a third party to conduct background checks. This includes license checks, insurance checks and a reputation assessment. Upon approval the business receives a shiny new listing in the search results. This new listing does come with a circular profile photo icon, area of service, rating, and what seem to be a couple of options of ad extensions (ie: free estimates, 24/7 emergency services, X Years experience or guaranteed repairs). We are unclear of all the bidding involved but appears on the surface to be a simple Google Auction with some factors like star ratings being factored much like a quality score.
When you click on these home service ads you are directed to a page very similar to the Google Local Business Page. From here the call-to-action is to fill out a form right then and there. So need to go through the website hunting down a phone number or a contact us section. The form fill looks like this:
One can easily deduce that Google’s Home Services market share has slowly been eaten over the years by sources like Yelp or Angie’s List. Those listings have been dominating the organic section and this looks like some real estate that Google is itching to take back. Recently Amazon announced their own home service program and Google is certainly being proactive at keeping their customers. For those thinking that they should throw their local SEO program out the window, keep reading. It does appear that Google is also testing out running both these sponsored ad units along with the “snack pack” maps results. See below:
It is becoming more obvious that these business types will not only be able to rely on a strong local SEO strategy but will need to incorporate strong pay-per-click focus in the coming months with this “pay to play” model. It appears Google is going to continue scaling these out as they have a seminar in Mountain View today titled “Ignite Home Services.” It will be interesting to follow as this develops and how Google looks to incorporate the power of search with the credibility of a Yelp or Angie’s List. I don’t see this expanding from home services (for now), but just a glimpse at the ever-evolving state of local search.
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