Google Ads, LocalHow Google’s New Local Service Ads Can Benefit Your Business by David Hardnett August 10, 2020 Updated: August 10, 2020 Recently, Google has announced a range of new advertising features that local companies or independent professionals providing services can take advantage of to boost their business and get ahead of the competition. At the head of these announcements is the national rollout of Local Service Ads (LSAs). After undergoing a trial run in San Diego and Houston that began last August – and experiencing much success – the service now is being extended to encompass the rest of the US. While LSAs were originally created for home service providers, Google is now implementing a national rollout for these ads based on the overwhelming trial success. These ads are available to service professionals in over 50 business categories, including lawyers, real estate agents, and architects, to name just a few. What are Local Service Ads? Historically, when a user would type a search query into Google, such as “local electricians,” the end user would typically see standard search result text ads, followed by organic results. Displayed above the usual pay-per-click ads, these new local service ads take prime position on the search results page, making it the first thing that people see when they search for a specific service near them – this is a major update to Google’s online search advertising mechanism. The ads display as boxes that can include: Links to Google reviewsService areasPhone numbersBusiness hours More than ever, these ads can deliver leads directly to the advertisers via calls, messages and even direct bookings, which can be made via the ad (to enable direct booking, the business would have to first partner with one of Google’s partners, such as Housecall Pro or Service Titan). As a feature of the Local Service Ad, the service professional will be stamped with the ‘Google Guarantee’ or ‘Google Screened’ tag – a stamp accompanied by a green check awarded by Google. For service providers looking to stand out amongst the competition, a stamp from Google can instill trust with leads, potentially leading to higher customer conversions. Moreover, the Local Service Ads feature headshots – a first for Google Ads – which will be displayed next to the service information and next to the option to call, message or book an appointment, adding a human touch to the ads. The trial showed that ads with headshots improved the CTR (click through rate) of the ad and led to a higher conversion of leads – a benefit that can’t be obtained from the standard pay-per-click ads displayed at the top and side of the search engine results page. Not just anyone can take advantage of these ads to promote their local service At the moment, the types of professionals and companies that can participate in this new program are limited but are continuing to expand as Google extends its reach throughout the country and through various fields of business. Moreover, professionals can only apply to obtain a Local Service Ad if they/their company has a review score of 3-stars or higher on Google. You must be Google Guaranteed or Google Screened before you’re allowed to take part in this exclusive advertising program – both of which involve background, insurance and license checks. Google Guaranteed allows users to safely make decisions based on the search engine results page. This ensures that Google can recommend your service in good conscience to its users before branding a service with the trusty green check and ‘Google Screened’ or ‘Google Guaranteed’ label. Luckily, for businesses who want to participate in the LSA program, and get ‘Google Screened,’ this can be done for free. So, if you/your company doesn’t pass the screening, and fails on its journey to become an LSA partner, it won’t have cost you a dime to apply. Local Service Ads can help professionals and local companies get ahead Since LSAs will take the place of pay-per-click ads at the top of the search engine results page, company sites which rank highly on the page based on organic traffic – without being promoted – will be pushed further down the page, underneath a horde of promoted companies and service professionals. Taking this into account, it’s highly likely that, in the future, if local professionals/companies don’t make use of the Google Ad features, they may be left behind in the sea of other sites who’ve promoted their service to the top of the results page. On the other hand, if local service professionals take this new opportunity to implement LSAs before they become part of the digital marketing canon, they could reap the benefits that late players to the game could miss out on. While Google hasn’t shared the detailed results of the Houston/San Diego trial of the Local Service Ads, we can assume testing was proven to be successful, since Google is going nationwide with the program. There are a number of incredible perks when using LSAs compared to pay-per-click ads While some of these perks might not be on offer forever, as the program begins to gather more steam and popularity, right now there are a host of benefits to be gained from joining the LSA program: Professionals who’ve paid for Local Service Ads will only be charged based on the number of conversions made – i.e. you won’t be charged for clicks, only for calls or bookings, based on a flat cost-per-call rate.Google guarantees those in the LSA program, ensuring that – if something were to go wrong with a service – customers won’t suffer the damages, by an amount of up to $2000. This is beneficial to service professionals, as hiring individuals from LSA Ads will appear low-risk to customers on the fence, which will drive more traffic to your service, compared to those promoted in pay-per-click ads, as they aren’t guaranteed or financially protected in the same way.Being a part of the LSA program allows businesses and professional individuals to gather reviews from customers only – people who have used your service, verified by their association with you through the Local Service Advertisement. This means: no spam reviews from competitors, or online trolls.Customers can reach out directly via the ad in the form of a message, call, or booking, meanwhile you’ll receive an email notification from the Local Services app whenever a customer tries to reach out to you through the Local Service Ad.The Local Services app allows professionals in the LSA program to easily communicate with customers – and potential customers – as well as allowing businesses and local service professionals to track bookings and manage leads. How do you apply for Google’s Local Service Ads? Apply here. Ensure you get approved by Google’s Screening Process by: Verifying your business’ locationAllowing Google to browse previous customers’ reviews of your businessAllowing Google to carry out a background check on you and any employees you may haveSending copies of your business license and insurance documentation to GoogleSending a list of your services to Google Then, all you have to do is wait, to see whether you’re approved by the LSA program. More changes to Google’s advertising schemes For hotels, Google has announced a ‘pay-to-stay’ price scheme, whereby Google only takes a commission from hotels’ advertising when the person arrives for their stay. Secondly, as briefly mentioned earlier, Local Service Ads will allow customers to directly make bookings through the Ad – rather than simply allowing calls to be made through the Ad. Lastly, Google is testing a ‘curb-side pickup’ badge as a feature of Local Inventory Ads – implemented in May, 2020 – to show whether companies offer curb-side delivery or pick-up, since social distancing has become necessary. What’s certain is that Google’s advertising program is always adapting and evolving, and we can’t predict what direction Google Ads will take in the future, but for now, using Local Service Ads to grow is an opportunity that service professionals and local companies should incorporate into their digital marketing strategy. In 2020 – specifically since the outbreak of the pandemic – customer spending habits have changed immeasurably, and the number of searches for local services has increased by 50%. As such, now is a great time for local professionals and companies to harness this opportunity to grow their businesses, rake in new customers, and increase profit. So, if you have a professional service business, and you’re considering becoming a part of the LSA program, contact Pilot Digital to take advantage of this incredible opportunity.