What Are Google Local Services Ads and Why Should You Care?

What Are Google Local Services Ads and Why Should You Care?

If you’re working with Service Area Businesses (SABs), you’ve no doubt been asked about Google’s Local Services Ads (LSAs). In this ultimate guide to LSAs, contributor Tom Waddington breaks down where these new ads came from, where they’re headed next, and how to get the most from them.

Google Local Services is a pay-per-lead advertising platform that Google began expanding to several new verticals and markets outside of California in mid-2017.

A Brief History of Local Services Ads

The product was initially called “Home Services ads” and began as a beta test in the San Francisco area in 2015. Businesses that appeared in these Home Services ads were required to complete a screening process to make sure relevant insurance and licensing requirements were met. Criminal background checks for employees were also required as part of Google’s screening process.

When looking for a contractor through Home Service ads, consumers could either call a business directly or select up to three businesses from the list to request individual quotes for comparison. The look and process has changed since then: a consumer no longer has options to request an online quote from a single business or select multiple businesses to request simultaneous quotes. Currently, the only way to contact businesses to compare service quotes is to call them.

Google expanded the program to markets outside of California in 2017, and rebranded: “Home Service ads” became “Local Services ads” (LSA). The look and process has continued to evolve during the expansion, but one constant has remained. In order for a business to be “Google Guaranteed” they must pass Google’s screening process. This process continues the practices of license and insurance verification, as well as employee background checks performed by Pinkerton Consulting and Investigations. All employees that serve customers at their homes must complete background checks for the business to earn the “Google Guaranteed” badge.

In addition to knowing these businesses have passed Google’s screening process, consumers that hire a “Google Guaranteed” business through a Local Services ad receive a satisfaction guarantee backed by Google. If they are not satisfied with work quality, Google will cover claims up to the job invoice amount (with a lifetime cap of $2,000).

When and where in the search results do Local Services ads appear?

Keywords relevant to Local Services ads categories will typically trigger the ads, which appear at the top of the search results (above AdWords and the map 3-pack) on both desktop and mobile. The main ad format allows companies to display only their company name, review rating, city, phone number, and hours of operation.

Companies that benefit the most from this ad format will most likely be those that are able to maintain a high relative review rating combined with strong brand awareness in their local markets.

Local Services Ads Appearance on Desktop


Local Services Ads Appearance on Mobile


On the initial search result, you will see three Local Services ads on desktop and two Local Service ads on mobile. Clicking on the “More plumbers” link will take you to a separate page showing a full list of both paid and free business listings in the Local Services ad unit.

How much do Local Services Ads leads cost?

Businesses set a weekly budget and are charged on a per lead basis. The lead cost is a set rate that varies depending on the category and market (from $5-$139 per lead). On the low end, locksmith leads in a few markets are $5, but at the high end water damage restoration leads in Tampa are $139. The average cost overall is around $24 per lead.

Leads obtained by listings that aren’t “Google Guaranteed”, either because they’re advertisers that have their ad paused, or they’re free listings, will not be charged for leads.

The number of paid listings in a market and within specific categories can vary greatly. Some searches may result in only one or two listings, while others may have more than twenty. There are no limitations to the number of advertisers that may be included in a particular market or category. Obviously, the fewer of advertisers there are, the more leads those businesses are going to get. Some participating businesses may be receiving a large volume of leads while others may only be getting a few.

Can a business choose which keywords to target with Local Services ads?

No. Businesses are not able to designate which keywords to target. Instead, they select categories or “job types” that indicate of the type of services and products they offer. Google decides which keywords are relevant for those job types and a business’s ad will appear based upon the service areas and job types the company selected. Google does not provide any keyword data to show which keywords are triggering ads, or which keywords are generating leads.

What happens when a company pauses their Local Services ad?

When a participating business has their ad paused, it doesn’t remove their ad from the search results, but the business’s “Google Guaranteed” badge and label will not be present and the paused listing will be placed below any paid listings.

It is easy for a business to pause and reactivate their ad via the Google Local Services dashboard or app, and businesses are not charged for leads while their ad is paused.

Is setting up Local Services ads worth it?

Absolutely. There’s no cost to sign up or obligation to participate. The on-boarding process can be cumbersome, but once enrolled, a company will be able to objectively determine whether it’s a good fit for their business. Considering the priority placement of the ads, the relatively low cost of the leads, and the absence of additional costs or obligations to join should make enrollment an easy decision for any business.

If a company determines that the program is not a good fit among their advertising strategies, they can pause the ad and no longer incur costs. Their listing will simply be placed in among the free listings in a section below the paid listings and its placement will likely remain more visible than non-participating companies in the area.

Which cities and categories currently have Local Services ads running?

Most lists you will find online are outdated, including Google’s. I try to keep the Data Studio report below up to date, but it may have some holes in it as Google doesn’t announce when new ones are launching.

If you’re having trouble viewing this tool, try it in Fullscreen mode (click the ‘fullscreen’ icon in the bottom-right corner of the report) on desktop.

How can I join Local Services ads?

The official Local Services website offers phone support and a sign-up form to help businesses get started.

Business owners also need to be aware that a member of the Google Local Services team may try to reach out to them directly via a phone call or email, even if the business did not fill out the form and may already working with an agency (including one that is a Google Partner).

I know many people have the mindset that Google will never call them, so any call from someone claiming to be from Google must be a scam. I am sure that numerous businesses have missed out on the opportunity to be one of the first participants in their market because they’ve refused to take a call or respond to an email from a legitimate Google Local Services representative. In such instances, business owners may want to reconsider these suspicions and feel encouraged to request additional verification before dismissing the representative.

Local Services is its own product

There are some correlations with Google AdWords and Google My Business but it’s important to note that Local Services operates independent of both. A Local Services ad and an AdWords campaign can be run at the same time but do not have to be. Their budgets are independent of one another and one can be running while the other is paused.

Local Services has its own dashboard and app, so you do not do any management of it from within AdWords. An AdWords account is required for Local Services but it’s essentially just for billing purposes and to be able to utilize Google Manager Accounts (MCC) features.

A Local Services ad is typically associated with a Google My Business listing but it doesn’t have to be. When it is, the Local Services ad will show reviews sourced from its corresponding Google My Business listing. Reviews can also be obtained through the Local Services ad platform, where Google is making an effort to improve the authenticity of reviews.

Since Google is directly capturing and directing the lead with LSA, they have more data and are better able to connect the dots on a converted lead that leaves a review. In situations where the dots do connect, a review will display an enhanced status as a “Google verified job”:

Reviews on a Local Services ad can be a mix of Google My Business and LSA sourced reviews. However, reviews sourced from the LSA platform do not currently appear on Google My Business listings.

“I am not a contractor, or my agency doesn’t have clients that are contractors, so Local Services ads won’t impact me.”

Don’t be so sure. Google has already expanded LSA to verticals outside the realm of home services (such as auto repair, event planning, pet boarding, pet grooming, and photography).

Local Services is no longer a beta test impacting just a handful of businesses in a few markets. It has caused a significant shift in the local search landscape that businesses and search marketing agencies need to be thinking about.

Maybe most importantly, the integration of Local Services with Google Assistant and Google Home products may offer a glimpse of the future, showing how Google might utilize voice search to connect consumers with local businesses.

Tom Waddington is a co-owner of Wachae, a search marketing and analytics business. He has been involved in local search for over 10 years and has worked with numerous home service-related businesses. Tom is also a Google My Business Top Contributor and has been closely monitoring the evolution of Google’s Local Services ads over the past year.

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25 thoughts on “What Are Google Local Services Ads and Why Should You Care?”

  1. Excellent article Tom. Very helpful.

    This looks like a great opportunity for local businesses, but like all advertising programs, both online and offline, it may not work for everyone.

    Every business needs to determine its own acceptable cost per lead. And that goes for LSA as well. In many ways, LSA has made it easier with its fixed cost per lead. Take your lead cost, track your conversion rate (of leads to sales) and do the math.

    If the math doesn’t work for you, move on.

  2. I am having an issue in Denver market as well. I own an electrical business 5 star been around for 5 years have spent literally hundreds of thousand of dollars with google over the past 5 years. Advertising and building an online reputation. Someone I know started a business in my same field, less than 1 month ago filled it with fake reviews, (no one gets 50, 5 star reviews in 3 weeks considering he is a one man operation) Now he is somehow locked at the top of google, I have checked this and watched it since the first day he was online. I am somehow LOCKED at 8th place, searching from my business I am #1 on maps and organic but 8th on this. It just doesnt make sense and there is no where or no one that has any answers to help with ranking, except the obvious. Clearly that is not he case. I wish there was someone or something that could provide answers to this, because it is Killing small business.

    1. I would suggest everyone who deals with LSA
      Instead of calling google and wasting your time to mail them about the issues that you have
      This platform was suppose to work for small local businesses the best and before joining it i had completely different impression
      Since it was saying that every service provider has to be registered and background checked
      Which would really make the platform reliable and trustworthy but there is no guarantee for it
      I spoke several times with representatives and left over 100 feedback about how they can control that area simply asking to companies to post providers pictures on their listings so customers will know who is actually going to their homes but it doesn’t work for them
      Another good tip would be to make mandatory to get feedback for any job completed so provider couldn’t cheat by asking reviews only from customers that they provide good service to.
      And another great tip would be (if google really cares about safety of customers)make every service provider to have sined in into google maps so they can check who is really going to job site
      If Uber can do it why google can’t handle such a thing ?
      Another funny thing about LSA is that they post price range for services
      In NY City for locksmith service
      Vehicle lockout 200$-345$
      But to make vehicle keys 120$-260$
      Which makes no sense
      If i can make keys for cheaper than to open the door ill make keys and will open the door with a key?)))
      But with that scary price range ill reject LSA platform and will scroll down the page and hallelujah il find the AdWords where professional answering service will quote me 40$ to open the car plus 25-30$ for service call fee and I will wait for locksmith who will easily charge me 4-5 times more what i was quoted telling me the story how difficult task is to open my car just simply because that he already spent that 70$ on the gas time and the click i caused them but that’s not the only problem main problem is I can’t even review that business simply because that you cant find that business on the google where you can leave the feedback
      All i can suggest to anyone is in case of that type of experience you ask everyone you know to find that business and simply click on their ad so maybe you cant get your money back but they will get charged numerous times and single scammy activity will cost them more than they make so eventually they will quit !!!
      When you are calling professional company they should be able to give you exact quote over the phone unless they are playing bait and switch on you

    2. Fake reviews are a big problem and Google is doing a poor job of addressing it. Businesses with fake positive reviews reap even more benefits from their abuse when they join Local Services Ads as a “Google guaranteed” business. Review count and rating are listed as a ranking factor for Local Services. Google My Business reviews are factored in as part (and usually the majority) of the count and rating a business has.

      That being said, the way they rank businesses in Local Services is flawed and I think they’re starting to realize it. Whether or not they will do anything remains to be seen but I doubt it’s something they consider to be a priority at this point.

  3. Hello, we got our account suspended due to suspicious behavior in our payment activity. We checked with the bank and everything was alright. By the time we got our account suspended we didn’t even reach our payment threshold, and last payment was 2 days before that. We called the LSA team and they transfer our call to Google Adwords, to get no answer whatsoever because our account was suspended. Do you happen to know if it’s there a way for us to get our account back? Or if we can create another account with LS? We submitted an appeal but that didn’t work either. Thanks for the article, very good information.

  4. There is no real big difference between adwords and home services they are still letting fake companies/scammers advertise on there platform. Its happening in my area things were going so well and then everything just stopped found others making fake account and paying someone off to publish fake listing. I complained, called, emailed, screen shots proof of the scam and they still let them advertise so if you have deep pockets this is the program for you.

    1. Hi George, thanks for your comment. The best thing to do in this case is to post any concerns and evidence on the Google Ads forum.

      Best of luck,


  5. Is there anything from an SEO perspective to increase the effectiveness and visibility of these ads?
    Is there a way for agencies to leverage these LSAs for clients?
    Or will this be Google’s way of encroaching on their business as well?

    1. These are independent from organic, but review count and rating are ranking factors for Local Services. Google My Business reviews are factored in toward the overall count and rating that appears on Local Services ad so there’s some correlation there.

      Some businesses will want to manage LSA themselves while others will want help or someone to deal with it entirely on their behalf, even though there’s not a lot to manage. Agencies need to get familiar with Local Services to try to determine how to best assist clients that are impacted.

  6. This is a disgusting intrusion by Google into our businesses. I spent 10 years building up SEO Ranking and reputation for my moving business in the Twin Cities. I have seen a large drop in the number of new clients who call us. Google will effectively be big brother looking over your shoulder and telling you what to do and how to run your business. You will be the one paying off the crooked client who just refused to pay you, citing some obscure reason. (Something that happens to me at least 3 times a year). It will be a race to the bottom with pricing, as other articles have pointed out. Your article missed all of the really important negative aspects of Googles new ploy to use their monopoly to gain almost complete control of our businesses..

    1. I understand the frustrations and I have some myself. The point of this article, however, was to try to help give people a basic understanding of Local Services ads and to point out they may be dealing with them soon. I have my concerns with some aspects of LSA but didn’t want to go down that path in this article. LSA may be new to your market/vertical (I didn’t even have it on my list) but it is been around for quite a while now.

      It is intrusive, particularly for locksmiths, garage door companies, and moving companies because they must pass Advanced Verification to even be eligible to participate.

      I think most people that believe it will be a race to the bottom are under the impression that a consumer enters their info and then receives quotes from multiple businesses. That is not how it works (at least currently). A consumer calls the phone number on the listing and may call several if they’d like, just as they might do while looking at map listings, organic results, paid results, etc.

    2. My feelings exactly…. This will turn out to be another Amazon Services, Home Advisor, etc. The article thinks that the lead cost is ‘relatively low’, but when our average invoice is only $300-$400, that $30 lead that you only get to quick enough about 1 out of 4 times is a joke. Then the company just paid $100 to win that $300 job. Guess who ends up paying? The end consumer who just paid that $300 will be paying $400 for the same work next time. The ‘Home-Advisor-type’ pay-by-lead generation is just horrible for consumers.

  7. Exciting. Whne will it be available in Nordics..? Any idea? Closest to this would they google business, right? Business is just indexing on maps, no ads?

    1. Hi Josefine, I would guess that it would be quite a while until these are found outside the USA. They’ve been live for a while now and there’s not been any hint of them moving outside the States, but if they’re a success over there I’m sure they will eventually.

      The nearest equivalent to LSAs is actually PPC, as it’s a form of paid advertising, whereas Google My Business is free and more directly tied to Maps.



  8. Yes big “G” is using their top of page real estate to cut into the lead generation market with fixed lead prices for these categories… I’m sure this will last especially if it generates enough revenue. I only see this expanding for all types of niches!
    Thanks for the great article Tom.

  9. I have a locksmith client who is using LSAs in Nashville and is EXTREMELY happy with it. Lots of business coming his way, and they review aspect that’s tied in with it is increasing his review count quickly and CLEANLY – which in the locksmith category is super important.

    1. Hi Carrie, thanks for your comment. Great to hear there’s a positive knock-on effect on reviews, too!


  10. It seems to run behind the scenes in AdWords Express, as when the Local Ads go online suddenly my MCC keeps telling me I have ads running (in AdWords Express) but don’t really.
    You can (and should) keep your standard Adwords running, but you will see huge drop in impressions.
    As an agency you should be careful clients don’t see this as the only tool and drop regular Adwords. This won’t last long and will be another HomeAdvisor where the lead is sold multiple times.

    1. Hi Jason, thanks for your comment.

      Yes, I agree that it’s important to continue to look at other opportunities aside from just Local Services Ads, and contrast and compare their performance.


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