Google’s Local Services ads (aka LSA, Google Guaranteed ads, Local Services by Google, Google Local Services) is a pay per lead advertising platform that has expanded across the United States, and in Canada (excluding Quebec) but limited to 4 business categories.
Below is a list of the eligible business categories Google has set for Local Services ads.
- Appliance Repair
- Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning
- Electrician (available in Canada)
- Garage Door
- House Cleaning
- HVAC (available in Canada)
- Junk Removal
- Lawn Care
- Locksmith (available in Canada)
- Pest Control
- Plumber (available in Canada)
- Tree Service
- Water Damage Services
- Window Cleaning
- Window Repair
- Auto Glass
- Car Repair
- Estate Lawyer
- Event Planners
- Financial Planners
- Immigration Law
- Pet Boarding
- Pet Grooming
- Real Estate Agents
While Local Services has primarily been applicable to home service related businesses, there are a few US markets that have LSA for photographers, event planners, pet groomers and pet boarders. There is also a newer type of Local Services format called “Google Screened”, which is essentially the same but without the guarantee. So far, “Google Screened” has been tested in just a few verticals in a few markets: financial planners, estate lawyers, immigration lawyers and real estate agents. The current markets I know of for these are San Diego, Houston, Austin and Atlanta.
What does Google Guaranteed mean and how does it differ from Google Screened?
Business listings in the Local Services ad unit with the Google Guaranteed badge have been through a screening process and are backed by Google, meaning that if a customer isn’t satisfied with the quality of work, Google will refund the customer for the service up to a maximum of $2,000 (which is the lifetime coverage cap for any quality claim against a Google Guaranteed service provider). A Google Screened business has also been through a screening process by Google but their service is not backed by the Google Guarantee. Currently, Google Screened is only applicable for the lawyer, financial planning and real estate categories. You will not see a combination of Google Guaranteed and Google Screened badges for businesses in the same ad unit since they apply to different business types.
The recent addition of Google Screened Local Services ads really opens up the possibility for potential business category expansion. In addition to home service related business categories, LSA has mainly been specific to service area businesses. But there are now a few categories that are more storefront type businesses than service area businesses in LSA and the physical address of the business is present on their LSA profile (pet grooming, pet boarding, car repair).
How Local Services ads fit with Google Ads
Can a business be in Google Ads and Google Local Services ads at the same time?
Yes. A business does not have to pick one or the other and both ad formats will typically be present in the search results at the same time (assuming the search is relevant to an LSA business type in a market where LSA is present).
Can I control which keywords I target in LSA?
No. There are job types that Google has determined for each business category. You simply select the various job types and specify your service area (you are not limited to how many areas you can choose to serve). Google determines which keywords are relevant for those job types and your ad will appear based upon the service areas and job types selected. You cannot pick keywords you want your ad to show for and you cannot add negative keywords to prevent your ad for showing for keywords you do not want to target.
Do I still need to be in Google Ads once I’m in Google Local Services ads?
Yes. This will vary of course depending on several factors including competition, budget and the amount of leads you want. From my experience in a few verticals and several markets, LSA is absolutely not a replacement for Google Ads in terms of lead quantity. Even when prioritizing the budget to LSA first over Ads (which is what I recommend), I have seen some businesses only get a tiny fraction of leads compared to what they can get in Google Ads. In some cases I have seen LSA make up only 2% of overall non-branded paid search spend (Google Ads, LSA, Bing Ads combined).
Why is that? Again, this can vary quite a bit depending on business category and market, but some have dozens of listings, making it difficult to get much visibility. Some businesses even have multiple listings with overlapping service areas (which supposedly is not allowed but I see often). Scrolling through the list of providers you may see the same business name over and over, making it difficult for the businesses that aren’t trying to game the system.
Can’t I just stick with Google Ads only?
Yes, but there are several reasons why a business should be in LSA if it’s available to them:
- The ad unit is at the top of the results.
- The cost per lead is good (in verticals I’m familiar with).
- It doesn’t cost anything to join. You only pay for the leads.
- All calls from your LSA’s are recorded and you can listen to them in the Local Services dashboard. If you’re a business owner that hasn’t ever listened to how your staff is handling calls, this is a good opportunity to find out.
- You can dispute invalid leads, and potentially get credited for the charge incurred for that lead.
- You can pause your ad at any time. When your ad is paused, the “Google Guarantee” badge is no longer present on your listing and you will not be charged for leads. Your placement in the Local Services ad unit will drop below any paid listings but depending on the amount of competition in your area and vertical you may still generate some leads from your listing for free.
How do Google My Business listings impact Local Services ads?
In most cases, a Local Services ad will have a corresponding Google My Business listing. The way they are connected is simply by reviews. The reviews on the Google My Business listing for a business will impact the rating and review count on their LSA. Review count and rating are listed as factors that can affect your ranking in the Local Services ad unit. So having a good rating and a lot of reviews on GMB can potentially have a positive impact on your placement in LSA.
It is possible for a user to leave a review directly on the Local Services ad listing for a business. These LSA-sourced reviews, however, do not appear on or impact the review count or rating on GMB. Because of this, the Local Services ad for a business will typically have a higher review count (and potentially a different overall rating) than their GMB listing.
Here’s an example of a case where a business has more reviews on their LSA listing than on their GMB listing.
It’s not a requirement to have a GMB listing to participate in Local Services ads. So in some cases you may not be able to find a GMB listing for a business that you see in LSA. You may also notice Local Services ads that are sourced from partner affiliates. At the moment these partners are HomeAdvisor and Thumbtack. When that is the case there will be a tag on the Local Services ad indicating its source.
Similarities between Google My Business and Local Services ads
While the only connection between Google My Business and LSA right now is that reviews from GMB are factored in to the overall review count and rating for LSA, there are other signs of a possible stronger connection in the future:
#1. For a while during the middle of 2019, Google displayed the Google Guaranteed badge and explanation directly on the Google My Business listing of businesses participating in LSA. What also made this odd is that the guarantee only applies to consumers that book service directly through LSA. So for anyone that called or booked service from GMB, or went through to the business website and called or booked service, the guarantee would not apply for them:
#2. The recent change to the “Services” section in the Google My Business dashboard that has you select pre-determined services based on your business category will look familiar to anyone in LSA:
Google My Business “Services” for the plumber category:
These are exactly the same as the plumber “Job types” in LSA:
While this new feature is specific to GMB, Google is indicating which businesses are Google Guaranteed once you begin the process of selecting businesses to receive quotes from. This could be a sign that this could eventually become a pay-per-lead area (other indications that pay-to-play in local search may be increasing).
#5. The recent addition of the “Areas served” section on GMB listings (mobile only) is somewhat similar to how the service area is displayed in LSA:
An “Areas Served” section in GMB on mobile:
The service area on an LSA listing:
One significant difference, however, is that GMB now allows you to select a maximum of 20 locations for your service area. LSA does not have this limit, as you can see in this LSA profile for a “local” cleaning company:
Unfortunately spam exists in LSA (spam in Google maps is rampant), and there are shadier things going on in LSA that are worse than this obvious example.
Reach More Customers With Local Services Ads
As the local search landscape continues to evolve, it’s important for businesses to be aware of the opportunities they can utilize to reach more customers. From ongoing changes and feature additions in Google My Business, to paid channels of Google Local Services and Google Ads, businesses need to be where their consumers eyes are.
Results in Google Local Services will vary from one business to another but the ability to listen to calls, dispute invalid leads, and easily pause the ad when needed should make it easy enough for a business to determine if the platform is providing an adequate return on their investment.