Most successful contractors know that expanding the services offered is the number one thing you can do to build a client list and the bottom line. The contracting status quo is to start out offering just plumbing or just HVAC etc. but it doesn’t take long to realize too many calls are passed on or referred to other companies because they just don’t offer certain services; that hurts. Add quality service and a trained, professional staff and you’ve got the pieces needed to grow.
Back in March of this year I wrote about the expansion of Amazon into the lead generation business; a marketplace already crowded by the likes of Yelp, Home Advisor, Angie’s List and others. When placed out of context it would seem almost crazy that Amazon would expand into this arena but, when looking at it from a business growth standpoint it makes perfect sense. Well, another online giant is testing the waters in a similar way and the impact, although not yet fully realized, has the potential to be huge.
Google Home Service Ads
Google’s home services ads promote pre-qualified home service professionals and enable users to submit requests to the providers straight from the search ads. BuzzFeed first reported the home services solution was in the works back in April. As recent as last week San Francisco became the first test market for the new online lead generation beta program. Earlier this month, Recode reported that Google hired a team of former Homejoy engineers to build the search matching technology for the service.
So how does it work?
Three listings for professional service providers appear in the Home Services Ads block when Google thinks a user is trying to find a service professional based on the search query.
The ads include a photo of the professional, their location and phone number, along with any ratings and what look like callout ad extensions that detail qualifications and service qualities and offers such as 24/7 services and free estimates. Users can click the profiles for more details.
How Is Google Qualifying Providers?
User trust that these providers are safe and reliable is going to be a pivotal factor in whether this beta takes off. Clicking the drop-down icon on the Home Services ad box brings up an explaination stating that to be eligible for inclusion in the listing ads, the professionals must pass a background check, be licensed and insured and have a strong track record.
I’m not sure how they qualify a “strong track record”.
The “Learn more” link in that drop-down goes to a support page detailing how businesses qualify for business services ads. Google says it conducts a “reputation assessment” on all providers, including reviews from users who’ve found and used them through the ads and mystery shoppers:
“We collect ratings and reviews from people who hired home service professionals through our home service ads, and use mystery shoppers — customers who communicate and hire professionals on our behalf without mentioning any affiliation with Google — to help us learn more about the customer experience.”
The background checks also include cross-checks against national sex offender, terrorist and sanctions registries.
So what changes now?
The Home service Ads will soon take place of the traditional Ad Words and SEO placement rankings. Local marketers are going to have to continue to get creative in working within and around these systems to hit their objectives. Hiring a professional outside of Google’s offices becomes more of a risk in the short term and as the service gains in popularity working directly with Google may be the direction a lot of service advertisers steer.
Let’s face the facts; we are and have long been a society that wants instant gratification. This is what Google is banking on. Mr. of Mrs. Jones will see your smiling face; have quick access to your online customer reviews and the ability to instantly summon you to take care of their plumbing/heating emergency at no cost to them. I wonder how Angie feels about this?
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