Change has a funny way of sneaking up on you. Especially when you work in an industry with as many moving parts as digital media marketing.
When it comes to digital, change is more than just inevitable — it’s a way of life. The key to longevity is this industry is finding ways to embrace that change. At the end of the day, the name of the game is ensuring that your small business clients are at the head of the pack with every industry shift. Which is especially hard to do when Google Home Service ads seem poised to change everything about how small businesses receive traffic.
Google Home Service ads is a program that will ultimately improve customer acquisition for small businesses. As this program rolls out, the small businesses (or more specifically, home-service providers) that know how to make the most of Google’s advertising capabilities are the ones that will dominate.
Introduction to the Google’s Home Service Ads Program
To better understand Home Service ads, let’s split digital media marketing strategy into two simple components. The first component being the tools you can use and the second being how effectively you use them. If small businesses want to be ready for this inevitable Google update, they’ll need to understand what Home Service ads are and how to most effectively use them.
Over the last few years, Google has been quietly beta testing the Home Service ads Program. Despite its seemingly small sample size (available in only a few cities like Los Angeles and Sacramento), Google has been hard at work, slowly shaping the future of paid search ads and the way small businesses will receive traffic. To be clear: Google has made no major announcements about their plans for a nationwide rollout, although they’ve already started to expand into the greater LA metro market.
Google’s Home Services is a program designed to connect users with home-service providers (plumbers, gardeners, electricians, etc.). What makes this program more appealing to users is that the home-service providers promoted by Google’s home service ads are more than just paying for their way onto the page.
In order to be promoted on Home Service ads, each service provider needs approval by Google. To further reassure users, each business will have a “Google guaranteed” shield next to its name and review score. The idea here is to connect businesses with customers via micro-moments.
The first issue that needs to be addressed is why Google feels the need to change their system. From a purely financial perspective, it’s important to understand that this setup will make Google more money. Whether the business converts their traffic or not, Google still charges for the click. Keep in mind that Google also charges for leads, according to their own website:
Google will offer several businesses leads simultaneously, but obviously only one of the businesses will actually convert. With this new system in place, Google can charge for all 3 clicks, thus earning more money for arguably the same experience.
But that’s hardly the only reason Google would implement this system. We’ll get more into this subject in our “What Small Businesses Should Do Right Now” section, but it’s important to keep in mind that Google’s decision to implement this program stems from a desire to improve the user experience.
Whether users click on one of the three service providers listed or click on ‘more plumbers’, they’ll be redirected to a page that encourages them to request quotes from 3 different service providers. This program is essentially Google’s answer to sites like Angie’s List, creating an environment where users have access to a variety of pre-qualified service providers, free of charge.
Let’s be honest: paid search ads on Google aren’t a traffic machine for most industries. In an effort to revitalize a program that hasn’t been performing well, Google decided to put a search service within search ads, allowing users to request quotes directly through them. By presenting a more interactive, utility-driven experience, Home Service ads are more likely to appeal to the modern consumer.
Which brings up an interesting question: how soon before this type of ad program starts popping up in other industries? When you consider how much better of an experience this ad program is for the consumer, it’s only a matter of time before everything from hotels to insurance companies (and everything in between) end up using this.
How does it Work?
Once the user has selected their three potential service providers, they’ll be taken to a page to help simplify the quote process. Users will answer questions like “What needs to get done?” and “Which phase are you in?”
But the differences between traditional paid ads and Home Service ads don’t end with that convenient search service. One of the most important aspects to keep in mind when dealing with Home Service ads is the much larger role that reputation is going to play in paid search. Traditionally, paid search was the ‘pay-to-play’ sector. While being an online authority was a nice perk, small businesses hoping to take advantage of the Home Service ads program will need to take their ranking into account.
The order that Google chooses to show each service provider within Home Service ads is less auction-based than the traditional paid search ads we’re used to. And for good reason, when you consider Google’s Green Shield Guarantee. With an insurance policy of up to $2000, it’s no wonder that Google is ensuring that any business that can be reached through Home Services is top-notch. Google is even going as far as performing background checks on businesses before considering them for the program.
In typical Google fashion, we only have a general idea of what the ranking criteria are, although at least one of them has become clear: availability and response rate are critical factors if a business wants to stay on the Home Services program. If contractors are constantly ignoring/refusing jobs, Google will likely stop showcasing them.
Why Does It Matter?
There are probably plenty of small business owners that would look at all this and say “what exactly does all this mean for me?” It’s a legitimate question, and one that can be answered in three parts.
If a small business owner had been using the traditional model of paid search ads up until now, they’d need to start making the necessary adjustments before the Home Services program was initiated nationwide. What kind of adjustments? Well, things like:
What’s the status of your online reputation?
How many online reviews do you have?
What systems do you have in place to respond to customer quotes rapidly?
With Google clearly putting a premium on the clickability of your ads, every small business owner needs to focus on preparing their business for the Home Services program.
For the small business owners that only focus on organic traffic, Home Service Ads might be a rude awakening.
When users look up ‘plumbers in Anytown, USA’, they’re greeted with a series of ads, followed by organic search results, like so:
But when users look up home-service providers in cities with Home Service ads, they’re presented with an entirely different picture:
That Google guarantee and those five-star reviews are going to be pretty tempting to the average consumer. Google is ensuring that the businesses posted here are the top of the food chain for a reason. No one is saying that organic traffic is dead or dying, but one thing’s for sure: being one of those top three service providers definitely doesn’t hurt your chances of converting.
The Mobile Experience
Ignoring mobile and its role in the future of digital media marketing would be a major mistake, when it comes to paid search or otherwise. But nowhere is that more apparent than with the Home Service ads experience on mobile. Just like desktop, the mobile search ads dominate the top of the results page. Google My Business and organic listings are pushed down the page and require scrolling to even see.
Beyond that, the ads have the ‘click-to-call’ feature built in, which are significantly more frictionless than opening a website, finding their phone number, copying it and calling it.
What Small Business Home Service Providers Should Do Right Now?
At this point, the final question is obvious: what can small business owners do right now to keep themselves in the game? Well, in anticipation of this update, here are a few steps that small businesses can take today to stay visible and competitive in this ever-changing digital media environment:
Make sure Google My Business is Claimed
This might seem like a no-brainer to some, but we can’t stress enough how important this is. Aside from the obvious benefits of Google knowing exactly where your business is, keep in mind how much of the page is taken up by ads.
If you’re not ready for Home Service ads yet, being visible and discoverable on Maps can make a huge difference in how much traffic your business gets. If you are, then you’ll have the undeniable benefit of being in both Home Service section and Maps. Win-win.
Prepare for Scrutiny
When it comes to Home Service ads, Google’s goal is to provide users with service providers so undeniably top-notch that users can’t help but have positive experiences. The last thing Google wants to deal with is an unreliable company being at the top of their ads list. That’s why Google is doing things like performing background checks on companies before they’re approved.
But that’s not all. If a business doesn’t have fast enough response time (meaning users are frequently left without a response to their requests), they could be removed. If the user’s experience doesn’t mean the standards and requirements that Google guarantees, they’ll be removed as well.
As a service provider, being a part of Home Service ads seems like it’ll be more of a privilege than a right.
Invest in Building Your Brand Now
In a discussion about paid search, it might seem a bit strange to bring up the topic of branding. But remember: Home Service ads are far from your typical paid search. With online reputation being taken into account when it comes to Home Service rankings, the stronger your brand is, the better.
Prioritize Reputation Management
Some of our more perceptive readers may have noticed that each of the Home Service ads top three had impressively high review scores. Any small business owners that want to dominate this new program when it’s released needs to retrain the way they think about paid ads. It’s not just about paying for the spotlight anymore. It’s about proving through unbiased support from Google’s vetting system and word-of-mouth from customers that your business deserves to be at the top.
Tell Google You’re Interested Today!
That’s right, you can actually go out right now and tell Google you’d like to be a part of the pilot once it’s released in your city.
It may seem premature to some, but being at the tip of the spear once this program launches nationwide would be a massive perk for most small business owners.
When it comes to digital media marketing, there’s no getting around the fact that the industry is going to change in some unpredictable (and inconvenient) ways. What’s important is that small businesses use every tool in their arsenal to be ready for anything.