Understanding Google My Business & Local Search
Google Advanced Verification & Home Services Ads – An Update
The top contributors met with Google and we were educated as to the changes that are taking place in both the Advanced Verification programs and the Home Service Ads program.
Both are evolving from the model rolled out in San Diego which required all local listings to be advanced verified.
One big change is that only businesses that will advertise will be required to go through the advanced verification process that involves independent background checks.
The other is that service area business listings in markets where the test is now arriving, will be pulled from any 3-Pack display and only shown in the new HSA finder.
Here are notes of the meeting:
- The Advanced Verification pilot in San Diego and Los Angeles is changing for Google My Business service area merchants and expanding to new geos and categories for AdWords and AdWords Express customers.
- The Home Services pilot in San Diego and Los Angeles that includes both paying and non-paying service professionals is expanding to new categories and cities.
From Google’s point of view:
- Advanced verification helps reduce fraudulent listings on Google and ensures that local listings and local ads are relevant and legitimate.
- Home Services – tailored for service area businesses – makes it easy for consumers to discover, connect and hire local service professionals directly from Google, and connects local professionals with new customers when they need them the most.
Key takeaways from Tests of both programs:
- Independent verifications has been successful at identifying bad actors.
- Deeply managing advertising and targeting corresponding GMB listings is effective and scalable.
- Highest impact in locksmith and overhead doors, plumbing vertical has less risk (ATM). Actively testing auto glass repair and towing to determine its value.
- Google expects things may change over the coming months. As bad actors shift their behaviors, so will Google.
Here is the where and what of the City and category expansion tests:
- Locksmith and Plumber merchants signing up for Google My Business in San Diego and Los Angeles no longer need to complete Advanced Verification to be listed on Google.
- Based on their pilot results, Google can effectively address Map spam with less impact on merchants.
- Instead, Google is leveraging a behind the scenes approach to combat fraudulent businesses in these categories.
- AdWords and AdWords Express customers promoting auto glass repair, overhead door repair and towing services in the San Francisco Bay Area now need to pass advanced verification.
- In addition, all AdWords and AdWords Express customers promoting locksmith services across the whole of California need to pass advanced verification. It is expected this expansion will continue outside of California in the coming months.
Home Services expansion updates per city and category:
- New categories have been added to San Diego and Los Angeles:
- Los Angeles: HVAC, electricians, overhead door
- San Diego: HVAC, electricians, overhead door, towing, autoglass
- The pilot experience that includes both paying and non-paying service professionals is being extended to the San Francisco Bay Area, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Phoenix, and Seattle:
- San Francisco Bay Area: Iocksmiths, plumbers, house cleaners, handyman, general contractors, electricians, HVAC, painters, overhead door, auto glass repair, towing
- Philadelphia: plumbers, HVAC, electricians, Iocksmiths
- Atlanta, Phoenix, Seattle: plumbers, HVAC, electricians, Iocksmiths, overhead door
- Pure service area businesses are been moved from the local search results (“B-pack”) to the Home Services unit in those cities.
Other recent articles that you should take a look at for a complete understanding of these changes:
Is Google Going to Remove the 3-Packs? What You Need to Know about Home Service Ads (HSAs) by Joy Hawkins at Whitespark
Home Service Ads Alert – Read this Post
How Google Home Services can Affect You – by Dave Squires
© Copyright 2023 - MIKE BLUMENTHAL, ALL RIGHT RESERVED.
Thanks for keeping us up to date on these significant changes. One thing I have not seen is what the pricing is like for Home Services Ads. What is the structure like and the cost? I assume ppc similar to AdWords? I would also assume it costs more than AdWords? Is that accurate? Thanks!
I have heard that in HVAC space, it is a fixed cost of $25 per quote. Google, however, encourages the searcher to ask for 3 quotes so that the effective cost per lead is $75 (assuming all other things being equal and you get 1 of 3).
Thanks for the insights Mike. I’ll be keeping an eye on your blog to see how this program develops and expands into new markets.
@Michael and Mike
Overhead door space is $20 in Atlanta. Google quoted $23 for Phoenix and NY metro area.
Majority of leads (about 90%) are coming in via phone call, rather than the online form where Google suggests you choose 3 providers. Hope this helps!
Thanks Mike and Ashley. That does help. To me it really sounds like Google is tired of companies like HomeAdvisor and Porch making so much money in the home services space by reselling customer leads they generate through Google searches. I do not like the business model of HomeAdvisor or Porch from the perspective I have as owning a small home services business. I think this (Google SAB) could be a win for companies like mine if done well by Google but not sure how they feel about sending fewer clicks to the ads placed by companies like HomeAdvisor. Interesting to see how it plays out. Thanks again.
Thanks for the article, this is helpful, but implementation methods need to be addressed.
We’re extremely concerned about the methods Google is using for the “advanced verification” process. We are a web design and SEO company and we have a customer with an entirely legitimate auto glass business in the San Francisco Bay Area who has never spammed Google Maps, GMB or Google search in any way. Nevertheless, after going through the advanced verification process twice he was denied both times with no explanation and his Adwords account has been repeatedly disabled, apparently for 2-3 days at a time, which is also a mystery.
Google’s Adwords support people have no idea why this customer was turned down and Pinkerton (who apparently is running this process for Google) does not answer their phone, nor do they reply to emails sent to them. This customer continues to try to find out why their application was denied, but after many weeks of trying to contact Pinkerton and every possible contact he can find within Google, he has never received any explanation.
In our opinion it appears that Google is being extremely unfair to small businesses with the way this process is being handled and we have to wonder if the tactics being used by Pinkerton are even legal. This particular customer has been depending on Google Adwords for virtually 100% of their business for the past 3 years and is now at risk of having to close their doors due to the way Google is handling this process, which would result in approximately 10 people losing their jobs.
Do you have any more insights about the ” behind the scenes approach to combat fraudulent businesses in these categories.”
Do they have a name for this?
Are they contracting it out to a 3rd party?
My father already joined a class action lawsuit against Google and they have more than like 100 Locksmith companies in it that had the same issue with the new Google advance verification program..
I have done an audit of a situation recently where it appears that Advanced Verification catalyzes detailed scrutiny of Adwords accounts owned by the same business.
This med-sized locksmith company AW account I recently reviewed was set up poorly, but not maliciously. I could not find any TOS violations yet it was suspended for “misleading.” No details, no dialogue, no appeal. This was a bricks and mortar, 7-8 van, 2-location, long-term locksmith company with valid licenses.
I was unable to help them – other than to make a few NAP recommendations, get running on other platforms and watch what happens with HSAs.
My company faild the passed the advance verification process back in October 2017. In February 2018. We got an email. Saying we are in violation of the advance verification and if we believe it was an error we can file an appeal. We did so and the appeal was denied as well and the advance verification team stoped responding to my emails. We experienced Bad customer service from them. We had to close our business and let all our employees go. Just like that
We were a nation wide company advertising on Google AdWords since 2008. We helped about 400,000. Customers a year. Time 10 years. You can do the math. I beived the failed is based on a few bad reviews we had. A total of 29. Out of this huge numbers of customers we had every year we believe it’s a very good ratio. Google won’t respond or communicate with us. After millions of dollars that’s we spent on google AdWords all this years. Just bad customer service. They could handled it differently. As beyond every company there is also a lot of employees that loosing there jobs.
40,000 not 400000
@Mike – Locksmith? And if so, are you a nationwide company similar to Pop-a-Lock, or are you a nationwide lead generation company that sells leads to independent locksmiths?
Yes. We are a lead generation company
We had all the disclaimers on our website unlike other clean generation companies that act like the are the local locksmith. We always made it clear on our website and to the customers who call us. That we are a service that connect them with local locksmith in there area
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