Google Home Services Ads Impact On Local SEO
Google announced that they would experiment with home service ads in July 2015 beginning their beta testing in the San Francisco Bay Area. It did not take long for the first batch of home service ads to appear for locksmiths, plumbers, and house cleaners.
The newly implemented HVAC home services ads are now on display. The beta test is still going on, and Google recently announced that they are expanding to the Sacramento area and now offering two new services to their test, which will now include HVAC and Electricians.
Something to take note of: We have recently learned from Google Adwords support that they are no longer accepting any new plumbers to the beta test, so the handful of plumbers we see right now are the final candidates who are being featured during this experiment. Reports about the success from those in the beta test have been reported already.
A home services provider in the Bay Area, Shafer Contracting, told CNBC he saw his business grow 30% since he was featured in the home services ads. This makes the recent expansion to the Sacramento area a prime opportunity for those who service Sacramento to invest in being a part of the home services program before they reach capacity like it has in San Francisco.
The current list of home services Google is testing on right now include
- Home Cleaners
The new home services ad is a product of Adwords and Google’s attempt to get their share of the home services market and compete against similar service providers like Home Advisor, AngiesList, and Amazon Home Services.
What We Have Seen So Far With Home Services Ads.
It has been many months since the initial rollout of home service ads in the San Francisco Bay Area. Since I live in the Bay Area and work in this industry space and I have been keeping tabs on how the new ads have been progressing over time
The current home services ads are composed of these elements for every ad:
- Name of Business
- Face of Business Owner
- Business Location
- Phone Number
- Send Request Button
As many SEOs may have noticed, Google home services ads for these specific industries have taken over Google’s local packs. The previous local packs are occupied by Google’s free my business pages which used to rank companies with its variety of ranking signals.
How pros qualify for home services ads
- Background Checks – Social Security and Criminal History
- Reputation Assessment – Reviews and Ratings
- Appropriate Licenses
- Proper Insurance
These are the following cities in the Bay Area we have found that trigger the home services ads to appear above the organic results. The ads have gotten more detailed as time passes by, Google is doing a great job in covering their bases by hitting specific services related to every industry. Popular and simple project search queries like “toilet repair” and “sink repairs” are showing home services ads like expected.
|Alameda, CA||Albany, CA||Atherton, CA|
|Belmont, CA||Belvedere, CA||Berkeley, CA|
|Brisbane, CA||Burlingame, CA||Campbell, CA|
|Castro Valley, CA||Colma, CA||Cupertino, CA|
|Daly City, CA||Dixon, CA||Foster City, CA|
|El Cerrito, CA||Emeryville, CA||Fremont, CA|
|Hayward, CA||Hercules, CA||Hillsborough, CA|
|Los Altos, CA||Los Gatos, CA||Millbrae, CA|
|Milpitas, CA||Monte Soreno, CA||Mountain View, CA|
|Newark, CA||Oakland, CA||Palo Alto, CA|
|Piedmont, CA||Redwood City, CA||Richmond, CA|
|Ross, CA||San Francisco, CA||San Leandro, CA|
|San Lorenzo, CA||San Mateo, CA||Santa Clara, CA|
|Saratoga, CA||South San Francisco, CA||Stanford, CA|
|Sunnyvale, CA||Union City, CA||Woodside, CA|
But, I noticed as time went by that the ads were doing a better job in populating for more complicated and detailed projects like “slab leak repair” and “trenchless sewer repair.” So, over time, we are noticing the evolution taking place as the tests continue. It also appears that these home services ads are only for desktop and is currently not implemented on mobile search.
Local pack is being shown in mobile search Google is also testing out layouts that include both the home services ads and the local pack as well – which could be a route for them to go in the future. But, I doubt this option to be permanent because it will be confusing for users to see two Google offerings and take up too much real estate from the organic search results.
What Could This Mean For Local SEO?
If you work with small local home service providers, this may be very alarming for you because ranking in the local pack is the most important component of any Local SEO campaign. Our agency works with many home service providers, and our portfolio contains some plumbers, electricians, home cleaners and HVAC contractors. So, what if home services ads become permanent?
If this beta test were to become permanent, it will eliminate the need for local SEO in these industries because there would be no more local packs. Taking a look at the data from a pool of our local home service providers who rank in the local pack, I can already see the struggles that await Local SEOs.
Looking at a sample size of businesses we have that currently rank in the local 3 pack for keywords like plumber + [service area] or [plumbing related service] + [service area], we noticed that the traffic coming from the local pack makes up a significant portion of the overall organic traffic going to the website’s homepage.
For the plumbing companies and HVAC companies, the local pack accounts for 30-60% of all organic traffic going to the home page of the website when ranking in the local 3 pack.
Why is Google Doing This?
We do believe that Google Home Services will leave beta testing at some point and be a mainstay in the SERPS. We can understand from a business perspective how this makes a lot of sense; they can do away with free Google Business listings in the local pack and profit from offering these ads instead. These home service ads are similar to how Google have recently expanded to other industries and offering ad programs like Google Shopping and Google Flights. With the recent expansion to Sacramento, it leads us to believe the initial round of testing in the Bay Area is going well for Google.
From my years of experience in the Local SEO space, I believe this is also an effort to fix the problem of ineffective Google Business local listings. The local packs for home services return less than valuable search results, because the current Google business pages are not being managed properly or are lacking all the information that the customer would need to make a buying decision.
The home services program will allow Google to vet qualified technicians and set up a listing for their users that are more appealing and helpful from a UX perspective. If we look at the image from a mobile search for “San Francisco Plumbers” we can see that the current local 3 packs is showing 3 businesses that have little ratings, and the top business listing has a weak 2.2/5 star rating. When this happens the users does not get what they are looking for from local 3 pack in terms of business offerings or prices, so they will look down in the organic rankings to find more relevance and quality.
When we look at organic search results for home services related queries in a local area, we can begin to understand why Google has decided to compete in the Home Services space.
So, if we dive into the organic search results for a search query like “plumber in San Francisco” we can see the motives to implement these ads. The organic search results are far from diverse, the first three results are Yelp pages, and the rest are from similar home service directories like Yellow Pages and Angie’s List.
Google introduces Home Services Ads to offer their list of vetted home service providers who have passed a rigorous background check and deliver the offerings that potential customers are looking for, without having to send searchers to another home services directory in their organic search results.
This is essentially taking out being the middleman for the middleman so that Google can be the primary beneficiaries from their searches in an effort to gain another revenue stream using Adwords. This can also be a continued effort from Google to answer searcher’s queries without them having to click an organic result at all, much like how rich answers work.
Taking all the information above, do you think Home Services Ads are permanent? What do you think this means for the future of Local SEO? Do you believe this ad program will expand to other industries in the future? Let us know what you think with a comment below.