Google’s anticipated program to promote local service providers in search ads is coming out of the woodwork. The company has confirmed a beta test for the program just launched in the San Francisco market.
Buzzfeed first reported the home services solution was in the works in April. Taking on the likes of Yelp, Angie’s List and Amazon Home Services, Google’s home services ads promote pre-qualified home service professionals and enable users to submit requests to the providers straight from the search ads.
Pete Meyers of Moz tweeted a screenshot of the test on Wednesday.
New paid local entity in testing on Google last night (search for "plumbers") – potential game-changer, IMO — pic.twitter.com/ehlLfs9MOw
— Dr. Pete Meyers (@dr_pete) July 29, 2015
I am seeing the ads on some searches for “San Francisco plumber” and “San Francisco locksmith,” the two services included in the beta.
For comparison, below is a typical desktop search results page for “San Francisco plumber.” Local Google My Business listings, which are free for businesses, are located at the bottom of the screenshot in this case, and a Google Maps link to the business locations is in the upper right. Text ads appear at the top of the page and along the right column. Notice the organic results are dominated by Yelp.
A Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land, “We’re testing a new experience for local searches in the San Francisco Bay Area. We regularly test different options to deliver better results in search.”
Here’s a look at the beta Home Services Ads experience for users.
Ads Feature Three Home Service Professionals
Three listings for professional service providers appear in the Home Services Ads block when Google thinks a user is trying to find a service professional based on the search query.
The ads include a photo of the professional, their location and phone number, along with any ratings and what look like callout ad extensions that detail qualifications and service qualities and offers such as 24/7 services and free estimates. Users can click the profiles for more details — more on that below. Earlier this month, Recode reported that Google hired a team of former Homejoy engineers to build the search matching technology for the service.
How Is Google Qualifying Providers?
User trust that these providers are safe and reliable is going to be a pivotal factor in whether this beta takes off. Clicking the drop-down icon on the Home Services ad box brings up an explainer stating that to be eligible for inclusion in the listing ads, the professionals must pass a background check, be licensed and insured and have a strong track record.
What constitutes a “strong track record?”
The “Learn more” link in that drop-down goes to a support page detailing how businesses qualify for business services ads. Google says it conducts a “reputation assessment” on all providers, including reviews from users who’ve found and used them through the ads and mystery shoppers:
“We collect 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.”
The background checks also include cross-checks against national sex offender, terrorist and sanctions registries.
Select Up To Three Professionals For Responses
If you’re comfortable with that vetting process, the next step is to find a provider — or three — that might suit your needs.
Here are two ways to do it:
1. Click to view an individual profile featured in the ad block like the one below and contact them directly, or click the Send request button.
2. Click the “More [locksmiths or plumbers] to view or contact” link at the bottom of the ad.
This is where the real power of this new service lies for users looking to get multiple quotes. From here, you can view a slew of profiles to learn more about each service provider listed. Then you can narrow down your choices to up to three providers to request a follow-up after entering your contact info and details about the job you’re looking to have done.
Once you submit the request, Google sends it to each professional, and Google’s role in the referral process ends until a job is completed. Unless:
- Your request is declined because the provider is too busy or can’t do the job requested: Google will email you and include any notes from the professional about why they declined it.
- If a provider doesn’t follow up within one business day: You can either move on and find another provider or contact Google. There is a consumer contact page for Home Services Ad Support that includes phone and email contact information.
- If a provider cancels and the appointment and can’t reschedule: Google invites you to contact it to find another professional.
- If you’re not satisfied with the work done, and can’t resolve it with the provider first: Contact Google for help finding someone else to do the work.
Once a job is finished, Google will email you a ratings and review request. (It’s not clear if the professionals submit a job completion notice to Google.) Professionals that get repeat negative reviews could get suspended or kicked out of the program entirely.
At this time, we don’t know much about how the process works for advertisers in terms of the ad auction, managing the ads, and so on. Google is aiming to have more details on the program to share later this summer.
Google’s entry into this market could have big implications for home services professionals and the other companies vying for their attention online. Locksmiths and plumbers are just the beginning. Yelp appears to stand to lose the most, just in terms of lost organic visibility on Google.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.