Local SEO – New Rules Businesses and Home Services Need to Know

In 2015, Google started beta testing their Google Home Services Ads program. This program works by making it easier for local businesses and home service providers in select parts of the country to attract new customers. Fast forward to present, Google’s Home Services Beta Test is now beyond its initial test phase. The pilot program was a huge success, and now the search engine giant renamed the program to Local Services. As of this writing, the Local Services is being implemented in 17 major cities, with at least 13 more to be added by the end of 2018. Those who are in the business of HVAC, plumbing, and electrical work may find the program their new best friend.

What is Google Local Services?

While Local Services ads are similar to Google’s search ads when it comes to placement, its other defining elements make it a game-changer for those in the home service industry. If you live in any of the 17 cities where Local Services has been rolled out, you may notice a segment at the top of your search engine resultspages (SERPs) where businesses are labeled “Google Guaranteed”. This label makes it easy to identify businesses that use the new lead generating service. It also indicates that the users will get their money back if they’re unsatisfied with the service they received. As Local Services ads go above organic results, it’s easier for users to find, examine, and contact businesses from both their mobile and desktop devices. The ads detail the provider’s hours, service area, phone number, address, and even ratings and reviews. They may also contain information about the businesses’ other important offerings such as free estimates, guarantees, or extended business hours. The interface for desktop and mobile vary. Desktop users may see the top three businesses at the beginning of the page. Local Services ads for mobile, meanwhile, are displayed in a carousel, so users can simply swipe through to find a provider that’s a good match. As the user types in keywords like “locked out San Diego” or “plumber New York,” the recommendations appear and users may select up to three providersif they’re using a desktop computer. They can then detail the service they requireand request a quote right through Google. A notification and email will then be sent to the selected providers through the Local Services app, where the customer and provider may talk further or set an appointment.

Is Your Business Eligible?

As mentioned earlier, Google Local Services ads are available only for specific locations or industries. Here are the states and cities where the program has been rolled out: Arizona: Phoenix California: Los Angeles, Riverside, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose Florida: Miami Georgia: Atlanta Illinois: Chicago Massachusetts: Boston Michigan: Detroit New York: New York Pennsylvania: Philadelphia Texas: Dallas Washington: Seattle Washington, D.C. By far, only HVAC service providers, garage door service providers, locksmiths, plumbers, and electricians in these areas may take advantage of the offering. However, in the app, there is an “other” tab where businesses may enter the category they belong in. Other verticals that the app may accept include general contractors, painters, cleaning services, and auto glass services. Changes are predicted to eligibility and scope. For example, while roofers aren’t eligible for the ads, chances are high that it will change in the near future.

Eligibility Requirements

Unlike other ad types, money doesn’t suffice to secure a spot in Local Services. As the Google Guarantee covers the services provided by the businesses that participate in the program, it’s quite particular about who may be eligible for the ads, and only the cream of the crop can make the cut. Every potential service provider needs to go through a background check—as do all of its employees, contractors, and subcontractors. It also involves a pretty complex eligibility and verification process, to make sure that no sub-par provider will slip through the cracks. Here are the eligibility requirements set by Google: Pre-screening – Google will require some of the provider’s business information to get the ball rolling. Some of the information you may need to provide includes the business address, web address, phone number, hours of operation, service areas, and more. Licensing – Potential providers will need to provide a valid license number for the business as well as for every contractor they employ, if applicable. Reputation Assessment – Here, Google will look into the provider’s online reputation. It will go through recent online reviews and ratings, and will even use mystery shoppers to test out providers unknowingly. Background Checks – A third-party security firm will conduct a background check of potential local service providers, including their employees. Google will also cross-check providers against sanctions, as well as sex offender and terrorist registries. Insurance – Google requires that providers have liability insurance, and they need to be able to provide a proof of it. The total insurance amount may vary according to the service provided and the state the business operates in. Once a provider makes the cut, there’s no guarantee they’ll stay. To maintain their eligibility, providers are required to follow up contact requests within 24 hours, and they also need to get good reviews consistently. After the provider completes a job, Google sends customers a review form. If the provider receives too many negative reviews, Google may either suspend it or remove it from the program entirely.

Seal the Deal

Until Local Services rolls out in your city, it pays to leverage Google’s other tools to improve leads and visibility. While Local Services may lead customers to your page, efforts may be futile if they arrive to see a blank website. While waiting for the program to be available in your area, here are cost-effective strategies that small and medium businesses can use to increase their chances of ranking locally:

Claim and Optimize Google My Business

While Google+ has mostly fizzled out, Google My Business remains a cornerstone for local SEO. Filling out My Business Listing increases the likelihood of your business making the front page of a local relevant search. Optimizing your listing further improves your chances of being found.  Make sure your business name, address, and phone number (abbreviated as NAP) matches every material you use for your digital marketing campaigns. Be mindful when selecting categories, business hours, and types of payment accepted, among other important fields. It also pays to have top quality photographs of your office uploaded on your profile. If you are a digital business without a location, you have the option to hide your address to be able to claim your My Business listing.

Optimize Your Website for Mobile

A majority of local searches are intent-backed, and users do it on their mobile devices. And while it’s good practice to integrate responsive layouts, intuitive interface design, and smooth user experience, chances are high that your competitor has already done the same. Step past the basic mobile optimization techniques by using tools such as Google’s Mobile Friendly testing tool. In a nutshell, you may take advantage of Local Services when it becomes available in your area by sticking to proven local SEO techniques such as making your site mobile-friendly. C1 Partners, a digital marketing company based in Denver, can do that for your business and more. We offer everything, from web development, search engine optimization, social media management, and PPC advertising to lead nurturing and beyond. We keep abreast of the latest in the digital marketing industry; we can help your small business rise above the local competition. Call us at 303-501-1821 today or fill out our form and we’ll reach out to you the soonest time possible.