Google’s shaking things up for small businesses . . . again. What’s new though, right? That monster really likes to tinker. Now it’s quietly pushing and testing its Google Guarantee (GG), which is basically the more strict screening mechanism for businesses using Home Service Ads (HSA)—a lead generation service by Google that service-oriented businesses can pay for in order to rank high on a Google search.
Businesses using HSAs are backed by the Google Guarantee. Search for a plumber in Los Angeles and at the very top, you’ll find a three pack (three listed businesses) stamped with a little green shield notifying potential customers that their services are guaranteed by Google. See the picture below:
Then, if a customer wants to see more options, they can click the link below the three pack to see all the service providers with a Google Guarantee.
Traditionally, a search would bring up a few businesses using AdWords at the top, then a local or organic three pack of businesses around a Google Map. Get into the nitty gritty of that in our previous post here.
What does it mean to be a Google Guaranteed business? Well, you’ll be sorry you asked! Google stringently vets the businesses it works with through this program.
Google conducts background checks on GG applicants with third-party risk management and securities firm Pinkerton Consulting and Investigations Inc. They check the validity of each provider’s social security number and criminal history. The firm also looks into any applicable state, city, or county trade licenses a provider may need, insurance necessary for their work, and their civil litigation history.
All locksmith, garage door, towing, and auto glass repair businesses undergo advanced screening and verification. However, they are subject to this even if they aren’t looking to be a GG business, but are using HSA’s—which can still be done. The GG just takes their validity up a notch.
Google also takes into account a business’s online reputation. Serious or repeated negative customer feedback will result in lower rankings and possibly not being ranked at all. For Google’s full policy regarding online reputation and Home Service Ads, see here. (And for more details on the screening process, that’s here.)
However, HSA, and therefore GG, isn’t being offered everywhere. According to a Whitespark article, only select service-oriented businesses in Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay, San Diego, Sacramento, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Phoenix, Seattle and Stockton can be Google Guaranteed. Plumbers, locksmiths, HVAC, electricians, towing, auto glass, cleaning services, handyman, garage door, general contractors and painting businesses can apply for the certification, but only in specific cities.
For example, Auto Glass Repair businesses in San Francisco can get the green shield, but not in Philadelphia.
According to our research, businesses pay about $25 for a qualified lead, a huge jump from AdWords, which charged businesses every time someone clicked on their link or ad. Granted, these businesses are vetted and the leads are promising.
Further, Google will reimburse unsatisfied customers for the amount of the invoice up to a lifetime cap of $2,000.
Hear it straight from the horse’s mouth (Google) here.
We’re going to keep our eye on this. We like to see Google giving businesses more opportunities to rank high, but at what cost? Smaller businesses may not have the marketing budget to sink into this kind of thing—they’ll solely be relying on their online reputation, reviews, customer feedback, etc. while these guys are paying to top the charts.
On the plus side, it’s not everywhere yet, however, the question is, when will it be. . . .?