In a move that’s certain to prick up the ears of anyone working with a Service Area Business, Google has rebranded its ‘Google Home Services’ advertising and verification for local service providers to ‘Local Services by Google’. Along with the name change comes an expansion beyond the Bay area to 17 US cities (and with plans to expand to 30 cities by the end of the year) and even a new, dedicated Local Services app through which campaigns would be managed, rather than AdWords Express.
As ‘pay-to-play’ moves beyond the Bay, we reached out to some of the brightest and most experienced minds in local search to find out what they thought this new name and service expansion might mean for the future of local businesses on Google.
Is Google trying to avoid brand confusion?
“With Google Home being featured as a device, I suspect Google wants to create a distinction between services delivered to your home and their device line, especially as these local services get featured through the Google assistant via a device like Home. Also, local services demonstrates a future look at some of the Ad units Google might ultimately sell.
“Take a look at Aero, a local services app by Google, now live in India. It brings food delivery and all home services together by featuring other apps that bring products to your door. It would be a very “Googley” feature to bring all the world’s goods and services to your door.
“The re-branding may signal a willingness not just to fix local search in verticals that tend to have bad actors, but it may also highlight ambitions go beyond the product set today while reducing confusion over their new Home device line.”
Is this the first sign of something bigger?
“The rebrand may be a signal of a larger move by Google. Home Service Ads was a fairly restrictive service name and could cause confusion if they were to roll it out to other service-based businesses that were not just about home services (i.e. plumbers, HVAC, electricians).
“The name change to Local Services by Google allows them to offer a wider variety of businesses like moving companies, roadside assistance, auto glass repair, etc., which are already appearing in some California markets. (Think any business type that could be spammy, scammy or lead gen in nature.)
“One could even predict that this product could roll out to other Service Area Businesses, like marketing firms, video production or even lawyers who set up executive offices.”
“My assumption/opinion is that they changed the name because they plan on expanding this to verticals and other industries that are not home services, such as towing or moving.”
Is the ‘Google Guaranteed’ mark slowing down expansion?
BrightLocal CEO, Myles Anderson suggests that the slow pace of expansion might reveal the seriousness with which Google is treating Local Services:
“This development doesn’t come as a surprise. We know that Google likes to operate at scale and was always going to expand the cities it offers Local Service Ads (née Home Service Ads) in. This geo roll-out tells us that Google is achieving success with some or all of its goals with Local Service Ads (i.e. reduce spam in specific industries and get more SMBs to spend with Google).
“Actually, the pace of the roll-out is slower than many anticipated. This points to the depth of research that Google is doing in each market to understand the costs of different services before it sets the price-per-lead. It may also be a symptom of the detailed vetting process that businesses go through to earn the ‘Google Guaranteed’ mark.
“The name change from ‘Home Services’ to ‘Local Services’ is the most revealing part of the announcement. Google intends to expand the services it covers beyond classic home service jobs. Exactly which industries are in their sights?! I anticipate everything from hair and beauty treatments to fitness to moving services to auto services. Essentially all consideration/appointment-based industries could be targeted. So business owners, beware! you may need to pay-to-play to get a good volume of leads from Google in the near future.”
Are ‘spammy’ industries being targeted by ‘pay-to-play’?
Mike Blumenthal, Google My Business Top Contributor and Chief Review Officer at GetFiveStars considers the wider implications of the expansion, and, importantly, whether the use of pay-to-play in LSAs is a veiled attempt to bring spammy industries into line:
“Google took a long time moving this program, with its various aspects, from the beta in the Bay Area to what appears to be a national roll-out. Over the past few weeks we have seen its expansion into many more cities, and its development into two distinct programs.
“One of those is the Local Service Ads. It is clearly a winner for Google and its rebranding indicates a much broader ambition for the types of categories that will be included. It portends, for me, an expansion beyond the limited group of in-home services (plumbers, hvac, locksmiths) to the broader reach of categories like moving, car window replacement and other service area businesses not initially included in the HSA testing.
“But don’t forget that part and parcel of the initial roll-out of Home Service Ads was a more rigorous verification. There are now two verification processes: the one associated with LSA (aka HSA) where Google investigates not just the company, but each of the employees, and the somewhat less rigorous Advanced Verification.
“The Advanced Verification process has taken on a life of its own for heavily spammed industries. In this process, Google is looking at a company-level vetting to be sure that the company has the appropriate state and local licenses and really exists in the local market. My understanding is that Locksmiths and Garage Door companies across the state of California have been funneled into this new verification process.
“What are the implications? Google is attempting to clean up spam with both more rigorous vetting and a pay-to-pay model. At a broader level, Google is looking to leverage those efforts to go head-to-head with the likes of Houzz, Thumbtack and others like Amazon, into services business arenas.”
What’s your take on Local Services by Google?
Have you or your clients made use of Home Service Ads in the past? Do you think this change is indicative of Google’s future plans for pay-to-play in local search? Are you dreading or excitedly anticipating LSAs coming to your area? Let us know in the comments below.