How Google Home Services can Affect You – by Dave Squires

Google is obviously expanding their Home Services Ads program. It has now moved east to Philadelphia and is also covering more verticals. In addition to the original plumbers and locksmiths it is expanding to the HVAC, electricians, garage door, roadside assistance, auto glass, painting, handyman, home cleaning and even appliance repair categories.

Dave Squires, a long time local SEO, shared his article detailing Google Home Services program that he wrote specifically for those in the HVAC industry and I thought it was very much worth sharing with my broader audience.

Dave is the President of Online-Access, a subscription based company that works with HVAC & Plumbing Contractors throughout North America showing them how to utilize the web as more than an electronic refrigerator magnet. Prior to that he helped run Vincent’s Heating & Plumbing (VHP), his family HVAC business that has served the Port Huron area since 1959. He is still an owner but is not active in day to day affairs. He has over 38 years experience in the HVAC industry and over 17 years in the HVAC internet marketing space.

I rarely have guest writers but Dave knows of where he speaks and can help us all better understand some the nuances of Google’s HSA program.

Obviously these are his opinions and it may or may not apply to you but I thought it was a great summary of where the program is at so I am republishing here.

Enjoy!

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Just when you thought you had Local Search figured out—Google brings out a new game board

By: Dave Squires, July 25, 2017

Brace yourself— Google is in the process of “changing the game board” again when it comes to generating leads through local search. For almost three years in the bay area of San Francisco, Google had been experimenting testing different approaches to directly compete against HomeAdvisor and Angie’s List, and getting into the ‘lead-selling’ business. Unlike AdWords, where you are just buying ad space and the transaction is directly between you and the consumer, Google’s new Home Services division wants to be the new ‘broker’ and ‘quality police’ of the entire transaction. In other words, like HomeAdvisor and Angie’s List, they want to become the gatekeeper between you and new customers. The scary news is that they will probably be very successful in doing it—especially with how they have structured their new program.

Currently, Google is in the process of rolling out their new program in seven major cities around the country.The cities are Phoenix, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Seattle, San Diego, Baltimore, and Los Angeles.For your consideration, in this article I will go over how their new program works, what has changed that may have caused them to initiate the rollout now, and my analysis of the potential long – term repercussions.

Welcome to Google Home Services— and the‘ Google Guaranteed’ program

After watching Google over the last few years try to make its Home Services platform work (which is a good amount of time for Google to test anything), I was surprised when I learned a little over a month ago that it was breaking out of California and expanding to new cities around the country. What I wanted to know was, what had they changed in the program that made them decide their program was a winner? It may be because they want to beat the new HomeAdvisor merger with Angie’s List that will culminate in December, but I was curious as to what the final version looked like.

Finding the answer to that question has been surprisingly difficult, since Google has kept a tight lid on what they are doing. Obtaining preliminary information on their new program has taken a good amount of time and effort to say the least—but here’s how the program is being rolled out today.

To start with, notice the image to the right that shows the results for the search “AC repair San Francisco”. If you want to try this search on your computer, make sure you’re logged out of Google or you won’t see the same results (Google’s version of “move along… these aren’t the droids you’re looking for). At the top of the page, under the heading “AC repair – HVAC pros serving San Francisco” you see three boxes, with each box listing a contractor, their Google review count, and then the fact that they are “Google guaranteed”—which I also highlighted in yellow. Below this is a phone number and the hours when they will be open if they are not currently open.

It’s important to note that the phone number they show is not the contractor’s number, but a recorded tracking number assigned to them by Google. Should the number be used by a consumer, the number displayed will change in the listing, and the number the consumer used to call you will remain active for that consumer for the next 15 days. The consumer’s call will display to you as a Google-forwarded number—not the consumer’s actual number. As long as you’ve spoken to the customer in the past 15 days, you can continue to stay in touch using the Google-forwarded number. The unspoken part here is, should you ask the customer for their direct number to try to circumvent Google recording your communication, you may find yourself out of their program… oh, and did I already mention that Google wants to be the gatekeeper of the transaction?

The good news (if you want to see it as that) is that Google only keeps total control of the customer’s contact information for 15 days from the last contact.

If you haven’t spoken to that customer in the past 15 days, the consumer’s forwarding number will be deactivated, and their real number will display in your Home Service app dashboard. This way, you’ll be able to retain their real contact information beyond the initial call.

When the consumer clicks on one of the contractors in the Google Home Service results, the next screen that appears (shown at right) provides additional information on their chosen contractor, as well as a list of all the other participating contractors in the program. It also presents the customer with a “SEND REQUEST” button where the consumer can send a service request to their chosen contractor—as well as other contractors on the list, all at the same time. Just like HomeAdvisor and Angie’s List, Google realized that, unlike its AdWords program, the only thing better than selling a lead once, was getting to sell the same lead multiple times to different contractors.

Currently, in the market I am familiar with, the cost of a lead is based on a flat fee of about $25 dollars per lead. Before you get too excited about that price, be aware that you will be potentially competing with other contractors for the same lead. If a customer chooses three of you, and you all have an equal success rate, the cost per sold lead is now $75. However, I suspect that the current rate is more of an

introductory rate, since Google was built on maximizing revenue with all their products. Once the program is established and demand for the program increases, I fully expect it to evolve into a bid system similar to AdWords.

As I mentioned earlier, Google Home Services had been operating for almost three years in the San Francisco bay area and then, just recently, in Los Angeles. During this time, they have changed how the program was presented quite a bit in order to test different approaches to making the program work. With all the changes being made, the assumption was that the program wasn’t performing like they wanted. However, about 3-4 months ago, they came out with a new program called ‘Google Guarantee’. Maybe it’s just coincidental, but within two months of releasing this new program, Google’s Home Services program expanded to major cities all over the country.

So, what is the ‘Google Guarantee’?
At the top of the list of contractors that clicking on a Google Home Service ad brings up, you find the following sentence.
“Google guaranteed – Pros are pre-screened and insured. You’re guaranteed to get the job done right or your money back. Learn more

When the consumer clicks on “Learn more”, Google explains their guarantee this way; “If you’re not satisfied with the work quality, we’ll cover claims up to the job invoice amount, with a lifetime cap of $2,000. Your job must be booked through Home Services. Add-on or future projects, damages to property, dissatisfaction with price or provider responsiveness, and cancellations aren’t covered.” So, if you don’t already have a money-back quality guarantee on the quality of your service—you will have one through Google if you participate in their program.

To cash-in on the Google guarantee, customers have 30 days after the job is done to file a claim if they are unsatisfied with the quality of the work performed. As far as exclusions to the guarantee, Google states, “add-on or future projects; damages to property; dissatisfaction with price or provider responsiveness; and cancellations are not covered.”

Getting Involved with Google Home Services

Like AdWords, you pay only for leads from customers who click on your listing, and your listing will only show up when you have money left in your weekly budget. Unlike AdWords, which is strictly a ‘pay-to-play’ marketing transaction that anyone can participate with, Google now has some exposure in the actual work performed due to their guarantee. Because of this, participation in the program is by invitation only and is based on your online reputation (reviews) and passing a background check. Since Google likes to stay internal for its data as much as possible (they definitely have real trust issues), the assumption is that your reputation is being measured heavily by your actual Google reviews.

However, a Google representative revealed to us something that is important to note: once in the program, the reviews and star rankings that they will show clients are specific to Google Home Services, and different from your regular Google reviews. They are generated within their app/platform and stay with the platform, meaning you lose them should you leave the program.

Below is how Google now screens the contractors they are choosing:

Getting Involved with Google Home Services

Background checks

All guaranteed pros undergo background checks by Pinkerton Consulting and Investigations, Inc., a third-party risk management and security company.

Background checks include inquiries about the validity of each pro’s Social Security number and criminal history (including cross-checks against national sex offender, terrorist, and sanctions registries). In addition, each pro‘s company is checked for applicable trade licenses, Insurance, and civil litigation history (including judgments & liens from federal and state courts).

You can read more about the requirements here.

License checks

Each contractor’s business is checked for the following licenses:

  • Plumbers, handyman, electricians, and HVAC pros need a contractor’s license to perform services costing more than $500. Plumbers, handymen, electricians, and HVAC pros without a contractor’s license may still be feature in Home Services, but are prohibited from performing services that cost more than $500.

Insurance checks

Each pro’s business must carry insurance coverage for work performed.

Reputation assessment

We want to connect consumers with high-quality, recommended, and trusted pros. That is why we also do research on the online reputations of each Home Service pro.

We collect ratings and reviews from people who hired Home Service pros. As described in our Policy Center, serious or repeatedly negative customer feedback may result in lower rankings (including not showing at all).

Google 2017

To answer the obvious question I know you’re dying to ask, so far, Google is covering the entire costs of all the initial background checks. To stay in the program, you will be required to recertify your approval every three months to keep the information accurate. Recertification will require you to attest that:

  • You haven’t hired any new workers during the last reporting period who will perform services in customer’s homes or workplaces referred through Google’s Home Service ad platform.
  • Every worker you are sending to customers’ homes and workplaces are the same workers who were originally background-checked and approved.
  • There are no circumstances (of your company or your workers) that could change the outcome of the previous background check approval.
How Google Home Services can affect you

No matter what you think of all the third-party services out there that want to broker leads, Google is different. Personally, I think their decision to offer the Google guarantee is brilliant and a potential game-changer. My biggest question is who the real winner of their new game will be, because I’m not very sure it will be the contractor. From a marketing standpoint, many companies like mine already offer money-back guarantees that are better and stronger than what Google is offering—but what we don’t have is the appearance of a benevolent third-party arbitrator that Google’s program will appear to the customer to be. As a consumer, if you’re unhappy with a company, do you want to try to collect from the company you’re angry at, or would you rather just deal with a seemingly neutral third party and let them deal with it? That fact alone makes their guarantee more powerful than anything you or I can offer independently.

The beauty of Google’s program is that the risk they really carry is little to none. Even though Google says that the contractor is not liable for any claim submitted for reimbursement through the Google guarantee program—the operational reality will be quite different. You see, although you aren’t liable to refund the cost of the job, Google states in its guidelines on How pros qualify for Home Service ads that:

“…serious or repeatedly negative customer feedback may result in lower rankings ?(including not showing at all).”

I’m sure it’s not very hard to “read between the lines” of the above statement, but I’ll spell it out anyway. I expect paying out $2,000 on a contractor’s behalf probably qualifies under the ‘serious negative customer feedback’ category. So, if the program is successful, and you are getting profitable leads… do you give the customer their money back… or do you let Google do it and risk getting kicked out of the program? My guess is that you will be the one entirely underwriting the Google guarantee, and Google will end up just being the big gorilla looking over your shoulder. Personally, I don’t really see this part of the program as a major negative since most good companies already have money-back guarantees that they honor.

In the short-term, getting involved in Google Home Services is probably a good business choice if you get invited to do so. Unlike HomeAdvisor, YELP, and Angie’s List… they are all playing in Google’s Sandbox—Google is not playing in theirs. Adding their Home Services to the top of a local search results page not only gives them the prime spot, it also pushes down the ads and organic results that all the other referral sites depend on for traffic. Unfortunately, the parts being pushed down further are also where you currently get your leads from search as well.

My concern with Google’s Home Service program is not in the short term, but in the long game. If you do get involved in it, I have little doubt it will be successful and you will make money—at least initially. In fact, it is good companies getting involved in it that will make it succeed and become fully adopted by the general public. However, be aware that once it is fully accepted by the public, you better have a “Plan B” for generating service calls that takes into consideration the potential monster we all helped to create when the laws of economics finally kick in.

The problem Google’s Home Services money-back quality guarantee creates for contractors is that it totally removes any consequences from a consumer’s choice. In economics, potential consequences that affect decisions are referred to as economic friction. Economic friction is anything that influences a consumer’s decision other than price—and there’s the rub. You see, if Google says everyone on the page is great… has all appropriate licenses… has great employees that have passed background checks… gets great reviews from everyone… and Google will give you money back if they screw up… what do you think the deciding factor for who gets the job will be? Have no doubt, the decision will be determined by price. Oh… and did I mention that Google allows you to put pricing in their Home Service Ads so comparison shopping will probably become even easier?

Simple economics tells you that, all things being equal, price will always decide. You don’t have to look hard to realize that Google’s new program is designed to create the illusion that all contractors are equal in their program. So, unfortunately, it can’t help but be a race to the bottom price with the winner being the one who has the most efficient operation and is able to profitably deliver quality at the lowest price. Unfortunately, this may not even be a great strategy since our industry has a track record of people who are good, conscientious tradesman who blissfully sell below their true costs—until they finally go bankrupt and two more step in to fill their spot.

For now, my advice to my clients is that, unless something else comes up that changes things, do what it takes to get invited to play. I have little doubt that the initial ROI will be great for the contractors who get invited. However, be aware that, overall, the economics of the model suggest that it will probably gravitate to favor smaller, price-driven companies that take pride in their work, but either ignore or personally absorb their full overhead costs. The fact that the dashboard is heavily slanted to mobile use, which is perfect for the smaller contractor or the technician striking out on his own, makes me suspect that Google sees it going this way as well. However, in the long run, be aware that when it no longer becomes economically viable to stay with the program, it will still be taking a lot of potential customers out of the repair market that you will have to find a way to replace.

If you think I’m being overly pessimistic on the program, I hope you’re right. However, my goal is to try to provide a long-term perspective and potential ‘trajectory’ of Google’s new Home Services program, to help my clients plan accordingly. In this case, the “If I don’t, my competitor will!” rationale to get involved is probably very sound reasoning until other options become available. However, there are always unintended consequences that come with every decision. From an economic perspective it’s potentially a short window of opportunity to make money until it gets fully established and price becomes the sole focus.

In closing, my biggest concern is that at no other time in our industry’s history has such a dominant market force made it their goal to insert themselves between us and our customer. I can’t help but think of the story about the ‘Bedouin and the Camel’. In the story, it’s the last sentence that concerns me the most. “…when the Bedouin woke up the next morning, he was outside in the cold and the camel had the tent to himself.”

—Dave Squires

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
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27 thoughts on “How Google Home Services can Affect You – by Dave Squires”

  1. All facetiousness aside with the comment above thanks Dave and Mike for publishing this to a wider audience.
    I know nothing abt the Home focused HVAC industry. As a business person I have some general questions as starting points:

    What will this do to your margins?

    As a customer, evaluating plumbers how do those google checks on background etc weigh better than hearing from my trusted neighbor that Vincent’s Plumbers did a great job for a reasonable price, without knowing anything abt the backgrounds of new employees? And then from a business perspective how does this level of info change the marketing game for hvac operators going forward

    Will being in this program vs not being in it have a major impact on total business volume and if so can you estimate by how much?

    How costly is this vs existing marketing costs? I guess the real question should be how much more costly will it be?

    I’m out of questions for the time being.

    I did appreciate how you described this as putting google between you and your customers

    I’m quite sick of google. Every change they make is good for them and not good or more costly for our operating businesses and their adwords folks don’t help us sell for sh**. But we keep paying more and at some point we have to charge customers more

    This program smells like google’s elevating and partnerships w/ internet travel agents and the independent hotellers I know hate that tandem with a passion.

  2. @dave squires

    Great article and again thanks for letting me share it.

    I agree with almost all of your article. Particularly the part about having alternative lead sources.

    From where I sit, that should be your existing customer base. Which you have stayed in contact with and periodically reach out to and make them aware of issues/education/opportunities for them to deal with you. And like Google controls the top of the funnel, you shouldn’t have to pay Facebook to reach your own customers on the post sale, engagement side of the funnel.

    To me, email addresses and possibly mobile phone #s are the best (and also dark) social networking. Building good lists is critical for the present and more importantly the future you describe.

    The one small disagreement is with this statement: “Simple economics tells you that, all things being equal, price will always decide.”

    Economics is based at a foundational level on the idea that consumers are “rational” and will make the decision as you describe.

    A more nuanced understanding is growing (that classical economists understood) that consumers are more often lead by their more base, irrational natures. That is why emotion and good storytelling are so powerful in marketing.

    The other is that most of the consumers trust their friend MORE than they trust an ad. So WOM is critically important to growing your business. If done right your existing customers will send you new ones.

    Mike

    1. @Mike,
      Thanks Mike for the kind words and sharing space in your blog. I completely agree with the comment that there is a difference between the rational and irrational mind on how decisions are made. In fact, at a very basic level most SEO, in the industries I play in, is totally focused on people who will be making irrational decisions due to the fact their AC is broke, they don’t know who to call, and they want it fixed now. Add to this the fact that they have all heard horror stories of ‘unscrupulous’ contractors taking advantage of poor home owners, you pretty much have the perfect storm for a consumer to make an irrational decision out of fear and time constraints.
      The only good news contractors have, is that this is only about 15-18% of the population that use search because they don’t have a clue who to call. However, the ‘clueless’ ones who don’t have a referral, and don’t know who to call are the reason we all try to get our clients on the first page. So at least in my industry, SEO is pretty much targeted to people who are about to make a quick irrational decision with the fear they could be picking the wrong guy.
      Unfortunately, it is also these people that the idea of having Google screen the choice, and guarantee that they don’t pick the wrong company, that the Home Services program will appeal to. So at least in the home service industry it will have an impact.
      I agree completely that WOM is the best way to get clients, but that’s more in the ground game the company plays, in the classic definition of an SEO, I get to deal with the ‘clueless’ ones who don’t know whom to call.
      I do believe the SEO game is changing. As a programming house, we have committed a lot of our resources to shifting our client’s websites to encourage more community involvement before they have a breakdown. The goal is to become the name that everyone knows in the community. I absolutely agree with you that, Google, Yelp, Home Advisor don’t even enter the equation when the consumer types in your company name instead of a service and a location. Thanks again for the opportunity to share. –dave

  3. @Mike
    I realized in my previous reply that I did not clarify my reasoning on whyn price will be the deciding issue. I probably should narrow my assertion by saying that it will be an issue to those using the Google Home Services Program, since by definition, the fact that they are there means they don’t have a referral or a name they were looking for. Since Google is saying all the companies they show are equal, it is for these people where the decision will eventually be determined by price. –dave

  4. @Dave
    Thanks for the clarification….(and again thanks for sharing your piece).

    While WOM is often thought of as a ground game, I think that it too is ripe for automation and integration with a full on email gathering, customer satisfaction monitoring, feedback, review management and reputation building….

    It’s why I started GetFiveStars and where I think there is opportunity for every business to integrate their ground and online game. 🙂

    1. @ Dave
      Hi Dave, unfortunately to answer your question I would be only guessing or giving an opinion since the program is being released as we speak. I will have more details as my clients start going live but all I could give you now is the same logic I put together in my article. As an aside, I don’t think this will surprise you, but Google is not the best at execution when it comes to communication in the non-digital world and the program may initially stumble out the gate. I have a client who is already very frustrated because he was supposed to go live last week in one of the new markets their rolling the program out in, but they never pulled the trigger, and won’t return emails to get back to him. So not sure how their launch will go when they choose companies based on their understanding of great customer service—yet don’t know how to do it themselves. -dave

      1. Thanks, Dave.

        I was intrigued by the statement that Google is getting between the home contractors and their customers. Very well said; big difference between an advertising medium and being an active participant in guiding or pushing a potential customer to one or another vender wherein Google gets paid. Very large difference.

        Virtually no entity has that opportunity, or an opportunity to be both the vast monopoly share of search results AND the opportunity to push the customer toward a few of many vendors, significantly because they are paying google a premium.

        As to one of Mike’s comments above. As stated above I don’t know the home HVAC industry at all; how you operate, costs, revenue streams, interactions with customers, etc etc.

        I’d think though if I were a buyer and lets just say Vincent’s fixed my home HVAC and sent me a lot of interesting helpful emails and newsletters that would be nice and keep them in my mind. OTOH: If Vincents did work, the things broke, I call Vincents again, they fix it and two months later the things break. Boy oh boy. I couldn’t give a hoot about their emails. I need a new HVAC contractor.

        Somewhere there must be a “balance” between servicing existing customers but clearly finding new customers and email to existing customers isn’t the best way to necessarily attract new customers.

  5. This article is absolutely excellent. Mike, thank you for sharing it, and, Dave, thank you for writing such a thoughtful entry on this topic. I was really happy to find this today. I tried to get an interview with one of the earliest HSA adopters when it first rolled out, but he had to decline because Google wouldn’t grant permission to him to talk about it. What you’ve done here, Dave, is to give an eagle’s eye view, cautionary perspective and clear facts about the program. Definitely going to share this one!

  6. To clarify, the “Dave” I’m referring to in the comment, above, is David the author, not my old pal “Dave” 😉

    BTW, David’s comment about people with broken air conditioners making irrational decisions made me laugh. A micro-moment fraught with angst!

  7. Great perspective and insight. But you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

    I know a locksmith in Oceanside CA that has been in the program since last fall. I knew he had had some bad experiences so after reading this post I gave him a call for an update.

    He had issues initially regarding out of service area calls and ads showing for services he does not want. His rep at Google set up a conference call with him and several “big wigs” to discuss his experience and frustrations.

    He explained that while “typical” locksmith services like car lockouts and re-keying houses are fine, he is trying to attract more commercial customers needing security systems, panic bars, access control, etc. Bigger jobs, bigger money.

    He claims that he was told during this call by “the big wigs” that Google is working on a commercial version of HSA. They did not provide a time frame to him but it is definitely in development.

    This should be interesting.

    1. @ Jim Froling. We have an older small commercial building. Have an emergency leak today. Small multi tenant building. Looks like a leak on the second floor from pipes between the floors is the cause of the leak on the first floor. A very long term contractor came in and is dealing with the issue today. Their response time was very fast.

      Over the years I’ve evaluated/hired some contractors for commercial properties. Some was long ago, yrs before the interwebs.

      A contractor wanting to expand from residential to commercial is going to have to do a helluva lot of direct approach to targeted commercial accts to land business. Doing so and winning the business often/usually requires a lot of confirmation from existing accts as to the quality, price effectiveness and responsiveness of the contractor.

      I have a hard time seeing how google can effectively insert themselves into that process and whether a substantive volume of buyers would care about google’s words.

      Anyway, good luck to that locksmith. I think its a lot of work (sales work, presentations, meetings, proposals, etc etc) to get the work.
      If they get it and keep it –great payoff.

      Cheers,

      Dave

  8. What do clicks usually cost for HVAC? I’ve had locksmiths as clients before (never again) and the clicks were crazy expensive, not to mention the evil stuff they do to their competitors.

  9. Thanks so much for the heads up on this. We are going to need to look into this when it comes to our area. We’re in a major city (NYC) so we may be near the top of their list.

  10. @Dave Squires: Only 15-18% of customers/revenues? attached to search?

    That is good news. I wonder what the % of hotel customers are that use Online Travel Agents is? Anyone have figures?

    1. @Dave -The 15-18% figure I quoted, is based on a national survey we run every 2 years with over a 1,000 people that have had an HVAC contractor in their home within the past year. Doing a new one this August, but in 2013 and 2015 the figure hardly moved at all. The 2015 results are posted on our site under the links section if you wanted to know the full breakdown in the HVAC service industry.

      1. @Dave S: Read the survey, went thru parts of the site. Interesting results, impressive site. Tx

        I’m reading up on hotel bookings via Online Travel Agents. It appears the hotels take far larger hits on revenues than your industry might via’s googles push into the middle man position—-currently

  11. FANTASTIC article – thanks, Mike and Dave Squires 🙂
    *also thanks, Jim Froling for your reply re possibility of a ‘commercial’ type choice.
    Andy 🙂

  12. @Jim Frolling:

    Back in the day I had something to do with hiring some vendors for some commercial RE applications; things like locksmiths.

    Last thing I would do or want to do is to take some completely non connected entity such as google as an element for making choices. Nor would anyone else I knew.

    I suppose that line of thinking is diluted these days. I would hope not. Last thing one needs is a bunch of google engineers with algo’s up their ying yangs suggesting who would or would not be an appropriate vendor. There are far better sources for valuable information of this sort.

    rant over 😉

  13. Wow this article was extremely informative. Thanks so much for publishing Mike and for writing it Dave.

    The amount of control this gives Google scares me. I honestly had a sick feeling after reading it because their monopoly here is really taking more control away from business owners. I hate the fact that they lose reviews if they leave. That reminds me of slimy SEO companies keeping a website when the customer cancels.

    $25 for a non-exclusive lead is seriously expensive for some of these industries. How would a locksmith be able to make any money at that rate unless they jacked their rates? Does it vary based on the industry at all?

    1. @Joy,
      I can only quote the cost for my industry, however I suspect that it would be different for others. As far the reviews, it was explained to us by the rep going over the program, that the reviews were unique to the platform and the contractor had to use the Google Home Services App to request them. Unless the rep was mistaken, he said that they were exclusive to the program.

  14. It seems as if focusing on creating or establishing a brand may be the most logical path for most businesses that “qualify” for this new Google program. It’s ironic that this Google program may provide financial salvation for radio, tv, newspapers etc as brand builders. Price will never be the only determinant. WOM is usually great, but not a great growth tool.

    I take exception to describing SEO as seeking those who are about to make an irrational decision. There may be some of that, but I don’t have a referral from a friend for every service or product that I need. That hardly makes me irrational when I’m seeking a provider of goods or service. I’ve also had what I would consider to be irrational referrals to businesses that I would never go to again.

    What you described as Google placing itself between the customer and the business is essentially Google becoming your employer. There’s not a lot of difference when you think about it. The HVAC (etc) businesses in this program are basically accountable to Google. Google essentially is making the decisions about how your business will be operated without having paid for ownership. It’s virtual ownership, I guess. I can’t imagine that’s going to go over too well in the long run.

    There is one other possibility that might not be immediate. Greed kills businesses. Sometimes it takes a lot of time, sometimes it doesn’t. If I were marketing Bing, or other search engines, offering a less commercial choice than Google would be my main goal. People don’t like ads, and Google is getting close to 100% paid results above the fold. There’s a reasonable amount of advertising and there’s too much. Once that line is crossed, it’s difficult to change the perception.

    When you are on top like Google, it’s easy to forget how fickle people are. Ask Xerox, or IBM, or even Microsoft. One day you are on top and then, suddenly, you are outside the tent. That statement may describe Google at some point.

  15. I feel the same anxiety as everyone else here reading Dave’s post but thanks for sharing it. I haven’t looked into it recently but I know Google was experimenting with the same concept for automotive sales as well.

  16. Great article Dave and thank you and Mike for sharing yet another quality article 🙂

    Does anybody have any stats regarding click spread/heatmap
    under this layout?
    I wonder how adwords ads are affected as they’re now below the google home services ads.
    I wonder how maps and organic are affected too.

  17. Dave, thank you for your article and insights I have quite a few clients in the home services arena so I will be watching this development rather closely.

    I do wonder with the reputation that HomeAdvisor and AngiesList has built up if Google will be able to completely overcome their reputations. Yes some people will do a search for those services and use Google Home Services, but I have found that HomeAdvisor people are fairly loyal to HomeAdvisor and AngiesList people are very loyal to AngiesList. So this will be fun to watch.

  18. This article misses the boat in many aspects. Hvac, Plumbers, and Electrians need to be licienced in the state they do work in. Other trades like garage doors, roofers, siders, windows, carpenters, concrete, and others are doing work without being licienced. These types of trades have ben advertising to homeowners thru AdWords for years. My biggest competition is not from brick and mortars, but from lead generators outside my state. They are typically 3 times higher than our price., with no morals to the home owner. They spend there whole budget on AdWords. They make a lot,so they advertise a lot. Google requires a lic in our industry to do home services.. going to be hard for those outsiders to get lic. Half our competitors could disapear. 2nd. It’s impossible to know our click to call rate. At $18 dollars a click, I could be clicked 5 times to receive 1 phone call $90. Or $23 a phone call that can be tracked. The losers are going to be your organic clicks, SEO providers, Yelp, Angie’s list, home advisor,YP and of course the person sitting at the kitchen counter generating leads to screw the home owner as much as they can.

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