What Google Local Services Means For Your Water Damage Business

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Over the last several weeks, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in questions about Google Local Services, formerly Google Home Services. Many of our lead generation partners have asked how the service will impact their water damage restoration businesses.

If you aren’t familiar with Local Services yet, customers searching for a home service provider will now get a list of Google verified contractors. At the root of Google Local Services is advertising.

Want to get more leads for your business? Just pay for it. Seems straightforward, right? That’s certainly how Google is selling it, but let’s take a deeper look at what this service means for you.

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A Little Background on Google

Their name is ubiquitous with search, so it should come as no surprise that Google considers users searching for information their primary customer. From search results to detailed maps and directions to Google My Business listings, Google is constantly improving their platform to better serve their customer.

The bulk of Google’s revenue comes from advertisers looking to get in front of those customers. Google has built trust with their customers by keeping their ads unobtrusive. Advertisers are willing to pay for those ads because the pay-per-click model has shown results.

Until recently, the weakest point in Google’s search strategy was providing trusted local search results, especially within home service verticals. With Local Services, Google is going head to head with the local search competitors that dominate the marketplace, including Yelp and Angie’s List.

How Google Local Services Works

Unlike the pay-to-play model of Google AdWords, Google Local Services has an application process. Not only are there a list of criteria, but they also evaluate your current reviews and run a background check on every employee in the company. If one employee fails, so does your whole company.

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Currently, Google is only accepting applications from plumbers, electricians, HVAC, garage door installers, and locksmiths in major cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. They are expected to expand into new areas and verticals in the future, especially in the wake of Home Advisor’s purchase of Angie’s List.

Once you’ve made it into the Local Services network, you set up a weekly budget for running your ads. If you are running paid search campaigns with Google already, know that these Local Services ads are separate and require their own budget.

Your ads are displayed to customers searching for services you offer based on proximity and your average reviews. Customers can book appointments directly through Local Services, with Google acting as a gatekeeper through the entire process.

Putting Their Customer First

Since Google’s customer is the searcher, it makes sense that Local Services is designed to simplify the process of hiring a home service contractor for them. Customers can enter their zip code or select a specific service to refine the search results, then place a call directly to a contractor.

Businesses included in Local Services include the Google guarantee. Designed to build trust with customers, Google pre-screens companies and ensures they have insurance. Most importantly, Google offers a money back guarantee up to $2000.

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The biggest benefit for your business is that you’ll appear in the Local Services module at the very top of the search results page, even above the AdWords ad units. Your profile focuses heavily on reviews, which may allow your local business to compete with national chains and franchises.

Advertiser Beware

The biggest downside to Local Services is the complicated cost structure; the cost of each job varies based on search keywords. Customers can request bids from multiple contractors, with the winning bidder footing the bill for requested bid. This may force you to sacrifice profit to get jobs or result in competitors undercutting you to push you out of the marketplace.

While your company appears in the Local Services list, there is no link to your website or social media accounts. This makes it difficult for you to showcase your work and for customers to research contractors. Price, not the quality of service, appears to be the most important factor.

When you do land the job, you don’t own the relationship with your customer. Google makes you contact them through their call system and holds their information hostage for 30 days. They can even terminate your account just for asking a customer for their direct contact information.

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Local Services relies heavily on verified reviews within the Google system. A negative review could upset your rank, forcing you lower on the list. It’s unclear if there is a process for dealing with negative reviews, but consistent negative reviews may get you removed from the program.

The money back guarantee may be a great benefit for customers, but you will likely need to cover those costs out of pocket. It’s also probable that you will get dismissed from Google Local Services if a customer uses that service.

What This Means For Your Water Damage Business

Google Local Services doesn’t currently service the water damage vertical, so it won’t cause a significant impact to your business today. Plus, there is no guarantee Local Services will be successful. Google has made missteps before – we’re looking at you Google Buzz and Google+.

Even as Google expands into new service areas or even verticals, the approval process is still going to take time. Given the focus on price over quality, it’s likely some customers will continue to do their own research instead of relying solely on Google.

More than likely, the most effective strategy will be to continue using a variety of different marketing channels. While Local Services could be effective for some businesses, just because this is Google doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to make you money. As with all marketing, you should measure the results and evolve your business strategy based on what is most successful for you.

Update: This article has been updated to reflect Google’s rebranding of Home Services as Local Services.

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