Update: Google is Reviewing Your Reviews

When the COVID-19 situation first started to impact businesses, Google announced that there would be temporary delays and limitations related to Google My Business (GMB) listings.

Recently, Google announced they have begun to loosen these restrictions and delays. Here’s what you can expect:

Reviews

Review replies are now available.

Any reviews or user photos submitted for your business during the past several weeks have been retained by Google. They are now in the process of reviewing recently submitted reviews. This process is being completed by business category and will take a few weeks to complete. Approved reviews will be published on a gradual basis as they work through the backlog.

Photos for Google Maps

The same process is being followed for any photos submitted to update your Google Maps listing. Businesses can expect to see new photos appearing over the next several weeks.

Business Information Edits

Critical edits are being prioritized at this time. Other types of pending edits may be delayed.

Newly Created Listings, Claims and Verifications

Additional delays may be experienced as Google continues to struggle with limited capacity to approve and publish new listings, claims, and verifications for some types of businesses.

More Information Regarding Google Ads Credits Released

In March, Google announced it would be supporting small and medium-sized businesses with more than $300 million in ad credits. This week, they announced additional information regarding eligibility and other common questions around the program.

Some of the questions answered include:

  • Who can qualify for the ad credit?
    Any small and medium-sized business with ad spend through Google in 10 out of the past 12 months AND in January and/or February of 2020 will be eligible.
  • How can I use the ad credit?
    Ad credits can be applied to future Google Ads spend in 2020. Ad credits cannot be applied to billed or past invoices, nor can it be applied to current spend. Ad credits can be used on any Google Ads platform including Search, Display, and YouTube.
  • When can I expect to see my ad credit?
    Ad credits will be rolled out in phases beginning in late May of 2020. Ad credits will be applied directly to the Google Ad account at which time eligible customers will be notified. 
  • How much credit can I expect?
    The amount of ad credit will vary by customer based on past Google Ads spend, the country of origin, and the currency where the business is established.
  • How long do I have to use my credit?
    Ad credits will expire on December 31, 2020. Any unused credits will be removed from the Google Ads account at that time.

You can find additional information on the Google Ad Credits here.

Google To Support SMB with Ad Credits

On Friday, Google announced it will pledge $340 million to support small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with Google Ads credits. This represents just a portion of an overall $800+ million plus effort to support SMBs, health organizations and governments, healthcare workers, academia, and other organizations worldwide during this difficult time.

Google is committed to helping SMBs weather this difficult time. Providing support in the form of Google Ads credits allows many businesses to continue advertising even as they may be seeing a need to cut back on expenses. 

Continuing with a digital advertising program helps businesses to ensure their funnel of potential sales does not dry up during this difficult time, thereby putting them in a positive position for the future. Ongoing advertising also helps to ensure there is little to no “ramp up” period on the other side of this crisis.

Google will be communicating with advertisers who have had active accounts over the past year via their Google Ads account. Credit notifications will appear there and can be used throughout 2020 on any Google advertising platform.

More information on the ad credits for SMBs can be found here.

Google’s full commitment is made up of the following additional components:

  • Support for Health-Related Organizations. Google will support a wide variety of healthcare organizations including the WHO, NGS, community financial institutions, and government agencies through $270 million in ad grants.
  • Providing Access to Capital. An additional $200 million investment is being made to fund NGOs and other financial institutions that will provide support for small businesses around the world by providing access to capital.
  • Support for Academia and Research. A $20 million pool has been set aside to provide Google Cloud credits for researches and academic institutions pursuing potential therapies, vaccines, and other research related to COVID-19.

Funding for PPEs and Medical Devices. Google will be offering “financial support and expertise to help increase the production capacity for personal protective equipment (PPE) and life saving medical devices.”

Best Practices for Optimizing Your Website for Search Engines

Search engine optimization can be a tricky field for marketers. On one hand, SEO is never easy, it takes a lot of time to get right, and it doesn’t usually lead to immediate results. On the other hand, many marketers believe that, when successful, SEO delivers the strongest returns of any digital marketing channel.

That explains why one recent study found more demand for SEO services than any other type of digital marketing!

Whether you’re hiring an SEO service or optimizing in-house, your site will need to follow the same basic set of best practices. At their core, those best practices will depend on the design of your site, how you target keywords, your meta information (including things like title tags), and the overall quality of your content.

How to Optimize Your Website for Search Engines

Mobile-Friendly, User-Centric Design

Today, roughly twice as many Google searches occur on mobile devices as on desktops. That’s why Google recently switched to a mobile-first search index.

So when Google scans your site to calculate its search rankings, it doesn’t look at your desktop website. Instead, it bases its rankings on your site’s mobile version. And if Google determines that your site doesn’t work well on mobile devices, you’ll plummet in search rankings.

The lesson here is simple. If you want to rank well on Google, you need a mobile-friendly website. That means designing your site from a mobile-first perspective. And it means keeping your site as fast and lean as possible.

You also want to make your site easy for users to navigate. Your most important pages should be easy for users to find. Your menu should be simple and well-organized. And your pages should have key features in intuitive locations.

Also, make sure that you’ve got a complete and accurate sitemap! This will make it easier for Google to crawl your website, and it will give your site a small-but-appreciated bump in search results.

The Right Keywords in the Right Places

Keywords have always played a crucial role in SEO. In recent years, that role has changed significantly thanks to RankBrain and other search advancements.

But if anyone tells you that keywords no longer matter, they’re kidding themselves. While Google no longer requires exact match keywords to appear on your page, that doesn’t mean they aren’t looking for keywords in your content.

Instead, Google’s algorithm is doing something much more complicated. When a user types a query into Google, the algorithm parses the intention behind the user’s query. Then, Google maps out the language on your page to see if your website satisfies that query.

To do that, it doesn’t just look for terms that the user typed into Google. It also looks for related terms and phrases and examines how they relate to one another on the page.

So if you want to appear at the top of search results, you need to identify the keywords that searchers use to Google your business. But you also need to think about which other words Google expects to find in your content, where it expects to find them, and how they relate to one another on the page. 

Unique Title Tags, Meta Description & URLs

When your website’s content appears in search results, users see three things. First, they see the title of your page. Underneath, they see a preview of the page’s URL. Finally, they see its meta description — a short blurb provided by the page or generated automatically by the search engine’s algorithm.

When they’re on your website, most users will pay little attention to your page title or your URL, and they can’t see your meta description. But in Google search results, they’re the only elements that users see. So if you want people to actually click through to your site, you’ll need to make these elements as compelling as possible.

These elements also play a crucial role in optimizing pages for specific keywords and queries. Using keywords (or close synonyms) in your title tags and URLs will boost your rankings for these search terms. Also, any keywords that a user searches for that are in your meta description will be bolded by Google, making your pages more visible.

Content that Meets E-A-T Standards

One of Google’s most important ranking signals is something called E-A-T.

This tidy acronym stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness. These three qualities play a big role in how Google calculates the quality of your on-page content. And the higher Google perceives the quality of your content, the higher your pages will rank in search results.

So how can you optimize the quality of your content? Here are a few strategies from Google’s own guidelines on the subject:

  • To optimize for expertise, try to write content that satisfies search intent as fully as possible. 
  • To optimize for authority, you’ll want to generate things like backlinks, social media mentions, local listing citations, and online news coverage. (Just make sure that mentions of your brand are mostly positive!)
  • To optimize for trustworthiness, your site will need things like a secure domain, a clear privacy policy, and accurate contact information on your website. You’ll also want to boost your brand’s online reputation.

Optimize in Partnership with Experts

If you can implement the four best practices listed above, you’ll start seeing better rankings in search results. But if you want to consistently rank on page one, or if you’re targeting competitive search terms, you’ll need to go deeper. Much deeper.

That’s where the experts at Qiigo can help. Our SEO team has worked with multi-locations brands across a wide range of industries, helping our clients get more out of Google and other search engines.

We can help you implement mobile-friendly design, generate keyword-rich content, and optimize your meta information — all while packing your site with more E-A-T than Google can handle. 

Google Ads Retires Average Position: What This Means for PPC

Earlier this year, Google announced that it would retire the “average position” metric from Google Ads. The news was both surprising and unsurprising for PPC marketers. On the one hand, this metric has been used for 15+ years, and it feels like a part of Google Ads’ DNA. On the other hand, it has become steadily less reliable and useful in recent years, both as a measurement of where ads appear on page and as a tool for bidding on ad slots.

Despite average position’s shortcomings, it remained popular with brands and marketers. With Google’s announcement, many wondered how they would manage without this metric.

Thankfully, Google introduced new metrics in late 2018 that can be used in place of average position. In most cases, these metrics will offer a more accurate sense of where ads appear in search results.

Wondering how this change will affect your business? Let’s find out…

Why Is Google Getting Rid of Average Position?

In the early days of Google AdWords, average position was one of its most important metrics and tools. But over time, its accuracy and utility have steadily decreased.

Originally, average position was a reliable measure of where your ad was located on the page. Based on the average position metric, you had a strong sense of where your ads appeared in search results. But as Google made changes to ad layouts and ad formats, that started to change.

Today, a #1 position can have you at the top of the page for certain search results. On others, it will appear near the bottom. But that change in ad location isn’t reflected by the average position metric.

What’s more, there’s a much bigger gap today between top-of-page and bottom-of-page ads. When Google removed ads from the right column of search results, it eliminated valuable real estate for mid-ranked ads.

Now, the question isn’t: “What’s your ad position?”

Instead, it’s: “Does your ad appear at the top of the page?”

What’s Replacing the Average Position Metric?

Google didn’t want to get rid of average position without replacing it. So in late 2018, it introduced a set of new metrics, including:

  • Absolute Top Position Rate: The percentage of your ads that appear at the absolute top of a given page.
  • Top Position Rate: The percentage of your ads that appear within the top section of ads on a given page.
  • Absolute Top Impression Share: The number of impressions you’ve received in the absolute top position divided by the estimated number of top position impressions that you were eligible to receive.
  • Top Impression Share: The number of impressions you’ve received in top-of-page positions divided by the estimated number of absolute top position impressions that you were eligible to receive.

These metrics give you a much more accurate sense of where your ads are actually appearing in search results. So if your goal is to measure the placement of your ads or maximize the number of impressions your ads receive, these new metrics will be a welcome change from average position.

How Will Brands & Marketers Adapt?

In the vast majority of cases, the retirement of average position will have a neutral or positive effect on Google Ads campaigns. Brands and marketers will have a more accurate sense of ad placement, and it will be easier to target top-of-page positions.

The important thing is that you’re proactive. If rely on average position until it disappears, you’ll have a rocky transition to the new metrics. But if you familiarize yourself with the new metrics ahead of time, you’ll make the switch much more easily.

Google My Business Adds Short Names & Custom URLs

Want to make it easier for customers to find your Google My Business profile? That’s a lot easier now that Google My Business has added short names and custom URLs.

Sharing the URL to your Google My Business listing can encourage reviews and help customers find info about your business. But before this change, finding the URL was unintuitive, and the URLs themselves were overly complicated.

With the rollout of Google My Business short names, that’s all changed. By claiming a short name, you’ll create a URL for your listing that’s easy to use and easy to remember.

Here’s what it looks like: g.page/[yourshortname]/

Google suggests including this URL on your business card and other non-digital promotional materials, so that users have an easy way to find your Google My Business listing. When mobile users visit the URL, they’ll be directed to your search profile page. On desktop, users will be directed to your Google Maps profile page.

Right now, Google says that short names are a great way to encourage reviews and help customers find quick info about your business. And as with other Google features, there’s a good chance that it will have even more uses in the future.

Claim Your Google My Business Short Name Early!

Google My Business only introduced short names in April, and the feature is still getting rolled out. So at this point, 99% of businesses have yet to claim a short name.

But even if you don’t expect to use this feature now, it’s a good idea to claim your short name as soon as possible. As with social media handles, you don’t want to risk losing your short name to another business. Claiming your short name now will also save you the time and trouble of having to worry about someone posing as your business.

Plus, there’s a very real chance that Google My Business will start using short names in new ways. Google has never been shy about changing its services. Often, smaller features take on bigger roles over time. So, it’s possible that Google My Business short names will become a lot more prominent in the future. If that happens, you don’t want to be stuck with a second-rate short name.

How to Claim Your Google My Business Short Name

Google has made the process for claiming your short name simple for business owners. Here’s a quick overview of how this process works:

On Desktop

  1. Sign into your Google My Business account.
  2. Choose the location that you’ll be creating a short name for.
  3. Go to the menu, click on “Info,” then select “Add profile short name”
  4. Enter your short name.
  5. Click “Apply.”

On Mobile

  1. Open the Google My Business app.
  2. Select “Profile,” then tap “Add profile short name”
  3. Enter your short name.
  4. Tap “Save.”

Google My Business Short Name Guidelines

When creating a Google My Business short name, you’ll need to keep certain guidelines in mind. In particular, you’ll need to be mindful of the length of your short name and how often a short name can be changed. If you operate a multi-location brand, you’ll also need to think about how you’ll create unique short names for each location.

Note: Short names and custom URLs must adhere to relevant Google, Google My Business, and Google Maps policies. This means that you cannot impersonate a business, try to mislead users, or include obscene language when creating your short name.

General Short Name Guidelines

  • Short names must be at least 5 characters long and have a maximum of 32 characters.
  • Businesses can change their short names, up to a maximum of 3 changes per year.
  • If you choose a new short name, the old short name could be claimed by someone else.

Guidelines for Multi-Location Brands

  • For multiple locations, you will need to claim the short name for each location individually.
  • Every short name must be unique, so each location will need a unique short name.
  • Google suggests creating a unique short name by combining your brand name and a geographic identifier, such as your city or neighborhood.

To learn more about how you can take advantage of Google My Business solutions, contact us today!

The Science Behind Page Ranking

Before you ask, “How do I get my pages to rank #1 on Google?”, there’s another question you should ask first…

“How does Google decide its page rankings in the first place?”

To answer this question, you’ll need to learn how Google interprets search queries, how it matches different queries to relevant web pages, and how it ranks relevant pages in search results.

By understanding this process, you can start looking at keywords and content the way Google’s algorithm does. At that point, it’s much easier to create relevant content and craft it in a way that boost its ranking.

Determining Search Intent

Before Google calculates page rankings for a query, it first attempts to determine the query’s search intent. In many cases, this is an even more complicated process than the actual ranking of search results.

In determining searcher intent, Google looks at a range of signals. Some of these signals come from the query itself. Others come from data generated by billions of past Google searches. Google can also use data about your device and your Google history to make assumptions about your search intent.

This process has a lot of moving parts. So, to give you a sense of how this process works, let’s take a look at an example to see how Google might determine search intent…

Search Intent for “Restaurants Near Me”

Google has a gets over 20 million searches each month for “restaurants near me.” So, it has a ton of data to work with to figure out search intent.

Based on that data, Google knows that searchers who make this query are looking for restaurants in close proximity. But the user hasn’t told Google where “near me” is. Google has to look at the location of the device to determine where the user wants to search. So in addition to the query itself, Google will look at your location to determine search intent.

But Google’s analysis of search intent doesn’t stop there.

Google will also draw on data from other users searches to make educated guesses about your intent. For instance, Google knows that most people who search for “restaurants near me” are looking for restaurants that are currently open. So, Google might assume that you’re looking for restaurants with hours that line up with the time you made your search.

Google can also look at information from your Google history to narrow down your search intent. For example, if you tend to search for and visit burger joints and ramen shops, Google might assume that you’re looking for fast-casual restaurants based on your Google Maps history.

These factors — along with several others — help Google figure out the search intent for any given query. But once it’s determined that intent, how does it actually rank its search results?

Calculating Page Rankings

Once Google has determined a user’s search intent on a given query, it needs to do two things. First, it needs to sort out the relevant search results from the non-relevant results. Then, it needs to rank those results from most-helpful to least-helpful.

To sort and rank search results, Google’s algorithm looks at over 200 different signals. These signals include your site’s security certificate, the frequency of keywords and related terms in your content, the layout of your webpage, the backlink profile of the page, and many, many more.

What’s more, Google will weight these signals differently for different queries. For example, if Google believes that searchers are looking for detailed information on a topic, it will reward pages with a higher word count. In other cases, Google might believe that users are looking for shorter, to-the-point content. In these cases, it may reward pages with a lower word count.

Google can even weight these signals differently for the exact same query, depending on contextual signals. Here’s an example of how that can occur…

Calculating Page Rankings for “Black Hole”

If you searched for the term “black hole” on March 10, 2019, Google would assume that the intent of your search was to find general information about black holes. It would then adjust its ranking factors accordingly.

To do so, it would look for pages on trusted domains that specialize in general information (like Wikipedia) or space science specifically (like NASA). It would give higher rankings to pages with longer word counts and keywords related to the subject of black holes. And it would look for pages with high volumes of inbound links from trusted sources.

But if you conducted the same search on April 10 — the date that the first-ever image of a black hole was published — the results would look entirely different.

Based on signals from news sites, social media, and search habits, Google would assume that most searchers were looking for content about the black hole image. So, it would reconfigure the weighting of ranking factors to find pages related to the breaking news story.

To do this, it would prioritize more results from trusted news sites, like The New York Times and CNN. It would also prioritize recently published pages, rewarding newly posted content. And it would reward pages that contained trending keywords in other news stories and on social media.

The end result? A completely different set of rankings.

Bottom Line = Finding the Most Helpful Results

Based on this overview of how Google calculates page rankings, it’s clear that the process is complicated. At this point, even Google’s own engineers don’t fully understand why some pages rank ahead of others.

But if you’re looking for a general guideline on how Google’s algorithm ranks pages, look at this this way…

Google is trying to serve users with the content that they consider most relevant and most helpful for any given search. The best way to achieve high rankings is to approach content creation with the same goal: try to anticipate the pages that users are looking for, then create your content accordingly.

What Brands Need to Know About Local Service Ads Part 2

In a recent post, we talked about Google’s Local Services ads, including how they work, why they’re so effective, and the benefits they offer compared to traditional Google Ads.

Today, we’re going to talk about how you can get started with this platform, including the process for creating your Local Services ads account.

We’ll also give you an overview of the service categories and markets where Local Services ads are available, plus quick tips for how to generate more leads using the Local Services platform.

How To Get Started with Local Services Ads?

Google offers a simple, step-by-step process for getting started with Local Services ads. Before you get started with this process, here’s a quick preview of each step.

1. Confirm Your Eligibility

Before you get started with Google Local Services, you’ll need to confirm whether you’re eligible to use the platform. Eligibility will depend on your location, type of business, and whether you’re properly insured and licensed.

When you sign up for Local Services, you’ll be prompted to enter your ZIP code, your job category, and confirm insurance and licensing. At this point, you can check whether or not you’re eligible and create your business profile.

If you want to check your eligibility before starting this process, we’ve included a list of currently supported service categories and metro markets later in this post.

2. Create Your Business Profile

If you’re eligible for Google Local Services, you will be prompted to create a business profile.

The first step will be to establish your estimated weekly spend on Local Services ads. Because ads are priced by lead, you’ll be setting both your weekly budget and the leads per week that you wish to receive.

Next, you’ll be prompted to enter basic business information, including your business name, your business phone number, and your business website. Google will then ask for your email address, at which point it will create a Local Services account for your business.

Once your account is created, you’ll create a business profile. At this point, you will enter business hours, service areas, and the types of jobs that you want to receive. You can also create a short business bio that highlights key features about your business.

3. Add Your Insurance, Licensing, & Registration Info

After you’ve completed your business profile, Google will ask you to add details about insurance and any licenses and registrations held by your business.

For your insurance, you’ll be asked to provide the amount of your insurance coverage and your insurance expiration date. You’ll also need to upload a copy of your insurance certificate.

For licenses and registrations, you’ll need to specify the type of license/registration, the expiration date, and the license/ registration number.

Keep in mind that the above information is necessary if you want to earn the Google Guarantee and use the Local Services platform. So it’s important that you provide full and accurate information.

4. Complete Your Background Check

Before Google runs your Local Services ads, your business will need to pass a background check. This involves background checks for the business and the business owner. Some service categories also require background checks for service professionals.

The background check for your business is comprised of a civil litigation history check. Business owners and service professionals are required to pass an identity check and a criminal history check.

Note that background checks are performed at no cost to businesses.

Will My Business Be Eligible?

Unsure if you’re eligible for Local Services ads? Here’s a quick rundown of currently supported service categories and markets.

Eligible Service Categories

Currently, the following service categories are supported in all or most U.S. markets where Local Services ads are available.

  • Carpet cleaner
  • Electrician
  • Garage door pro
  • House cleaner
  • HVAC pro
  • Locksmith
  • Plumber

Additionally, the following service categories are currently supported in select markets.

  • Air duct cleaner
  • Appliance repair service
  • Auto glass service
  • Auto service technician
  • Estate lawyer
  • Event planner
  • Financial planner
  • Handyman
  • Home improvement pro
  • Immigration lawyer
  • Junk removal provider
  • Lawn care provider
  • Mover
  • Painter
  • Pest control technician
  • Pet care provider
  • Pet groomer
  • Photographer
  • Real estate agent
  • Roadside assistance service
  • Roofer
  • Tree service provider
  • Tutor
  • Upholstery cleaner
  • Water damage service provider
  • Window cleaner
  • Window service provider

Note: Google is continually adding new service categories, so even if your service category isn’t listed above, it may soon be added to the list.

Eligible Metro Markets

Local Services ads are currently supported in the following metro areas within the U.S.

  • Atlanta
  • Baltimore
  • Boston
  • Charlotte
  • Chicago
  • Cincinnati
  • Dallas-Fort Worth
  • Denver
  • Detroit
  • Houston
  • Las Vegas
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul
  • New York City
  • Orlando
  • Philadelphia
  • Phoenix
  • Pittsburgh
  • Portland
  • Riverside
  • Sacramento
  • San Antonio
  • San Diego
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle
  • St. Louis
  • Tampa
  • Washington, D.C.

Note: Google is continually expanding its coverage, so even if your market isn’t listed above, it may soon be added to the list.

Tips for Success with Local Services Ads

Now that you’ve got your profile set up, how can you get the most mileage out of your ads?

Below, we’ve collected 5 tips to help you succeed with Local Services ads…

  • Focus on What You Do Best
    When selecting the types of jobs that you want to perform through Google Local Services, think carefully. It may feel tempting to sign up for as many types of jobs as possible. But if you sign up for jobs that you’re inexperienced with, you could run a higher risk of bad reviews or dissatisfied customers. That puts your Google Reviews rating and your Google Guarantee certification at risk.
  • Work Close to Your Customers
    Google Local Services rankings are partly determined by proximity. The closer you are to the searcher’s location, the higher your ad or listing will rank. This rewards service providers whose businesses are located close to their primary customer base. If your business is based at a significant distance from your main service areas, you may struggle on Google Local Services.
  • Respond Promptly to Inquiries
    Another ranking factor for Local Services ads is how promptly service providers respond to customer inquiries. The more responsive you are to your customers, the higher your ads will rank in Local Services listings. By responding to customer inquiries as promptly as possible, you can boost your visibility within Local Services rankings.
  • Generate Excellent Reviews
    Local Services rankings are also driven by your Google Reviews profile. The higher your average rating and the more reviews you have, the better. The Local Services console will allow you to request reviews from customers, so be sure to take advantage of this feature. At the same time, make sure that you’ve got protocols in place for responding to less-than-stellar reviews.
  • Keep Your Google Guarantee
    Coverage under the Google Guarantee has a lifetime cap of $2,000 for every business. Once you’ve reached this cap, you can still run ads via Local Services, but you’ll no longer be backed by the Google Guarantee. If this happens, your rankings will plummet, and you’ll receive far fewer leads. So, it’s important that you do everything in your power to retain your coverage. That means resolving claims from unsatisfied customers before they reach Google.

What Brands Need To Know About Local Service Ads Part 1

For most businesses, advertising on Google takes place on Google Ads or Google Ads Express. But if you’re a plumber, a locksmith, or another type of local contractor, Google offers an alternative platform that’s perfectly tailored to your needs: Local Services ads.

Local Services ads are precisely what they sound like — an ad format built exclusively for local service providers.

Google originally launched Local Services ads for a handful of service categories in select cities back in 2015. Since then, the program has expanded to every almost major metro area in the U.S., and it has added numerous service categories to its roster. More importantly, it has proved a major success with both service providers and consumers in the markets where it has launched.

If you’re new to Local Services ads and aren’t quite sure where to start, this guide will tell you everything you need to know.

What Are Local Services Ads?

Google’s Local Services ads are a special ad format and platform for local service providers, such as locksmiths, plumbers, and electricians. Local Services ads are distinct from usual Google Ads, offering a different appearance, different features, and a different pricing model.

Many of these differences resolve problems that local service providers have with Google Ads. In the past, the ad formats and pay-per-click model of Google Ads have hurt local service providers. Text ads lack features that consumers are looking for from local contractors. Meanwhile, these ads generate low conversion rates for a number of local service industries, leading to higher costs and limited returns.

With Local Services ads, Google has created a format that encourages clicks and conversions. What’s more, Google doesn’t charge for Local Services ads on a pay per click basis. Instead, it charges per lead.

How Do Local Services Ads Work?

When a user performs a Google search for local service providers — e.g., “plumber in Bronx” or “HVAC technician Anaheim” — Google will include a Local Services section in the search results.

This section will appear at the top of the results, ahead of text ads and organic results. Google will display its top three ads (on desktop search) or its top two ads (on mobile search), as well as an option to explore more results.

Each Local Services ad contains the following information and features:

  • Your business’s name
  • Your Google Reviews rating
  • Your approximate location
  • Your Google Guarantee badge
  • Your business hours
  • Your contact information

When a user clicks on one of your Local Services ads, Google directs them to a detailed business profile that includes the above information, as well as additional information like your list of services, a short business bio, and your Google reviews.

Rather than click on one of the top-ranked Local Services ads, users also have the option of exploring a longer list of Local Services providers. This list is presented based on the type of job needed and the user’s ZIP code. The user can then choose from a full list of Local Services providers in their area.

In addition to appearing in the search results, Local Services ads also appear in results for Google Assistant. Searches made using Google Assistant prompt the user to confirm the type of job they need performed and their address, minimizing the chance of a mismatch.

How Are Local Services Ads Priced?

Unlike other Google Ads, businesses are not charged when a user clicks on a Local Services ad. Instead, Google will only charge your business when the user sends you an email or text, calls and leaves a voicemail, or calls and speaks with a representative. This way, you pay per lead instead of per click.

The average cost per lead varies from service category to service category, and from region to region. Some leads cost as little as $6. Others can cost upwards of $30.

If you receive an invalid lead, you can dispute the lead. If Google finds that the lead was a case of solicitation or spam, from a customer outside your service area, or from a customer who needed a service that you do not provide, Google will credit the cost of the lead to your business.

What Is the “Google Guarantee”?

Business that use Local Services ads can build trust with users through the Google Guarantee. This results in a badge on your Local Services ads.

Under this policy, Google guarantees customer satisfaction on any job booked via a Local Services ad. If a customer is dissatisfied with the results of a job, Google will refund the customer up to the amount of the invoice. This way, customers can book jobs through Local Services ads with greater confidence.

However, each business has a lifetime cap for coverage of $2,000 under the Google Guarantee. If a business exceeds its cap, Google rescinds the guarantee and removes its “Google guaranteed” badge from your Local Services ads.

Thankfully, you’ll have the opportunity to make things right with any dissatisfied customer before Google provides a refund. Additionally, Google will only issue a refund after investigating a claim.

Why Use Local Services Ads?

Wondering whether Google’s Local Services ads are worth it for your business? Below are five of the biggest reasons why the Local Services platform has been a hit with many local service providers.

  1. Pay per Lead Instead of per Click
    Local services providers usually struggle with the cost of traditional PPC ads, since many clicks result in poor leads. By using Local Services ads, you will only ever pay for actual leads, so you don’t end up wasting money on useless clicks.
  2. Visibility in Google Search Results
    Google has designed its Local Services ads for visibility, appearing at the top of search results in an eye-catching format. This makes them much more prominent and noticeable than standard Google Ads.
  3. Integration with Google Voice Search
    In addition to appearing in Google desktop and mobile search results, Google also provides Local Services results via Google Assistant. According to Google, the number of Google Assistant users quadrupled in 2018 — a market uniquely available to Local Services providers.
  4. Increased Trust with the Google Guarantee
    Trust can be an obstacle for local service providers who advertise through regular PPC ads. The Google Guarantee on Local Services ads gives customers a greater and more immediate sense of confidence.
  5. Simplified Campaign Management
    PPC campaigns on Google Ads require extensive keyword research, compelling ad content, and split-testing different ad groups. For Local Services ads, Google takes care of keyword research and ads are automatically generated. The result is a much simpler and easier approach to paid search ads.

A Breakdown of Google Maps Marketing

According to Google, local searches on Google and Google Maps drive consumers to 1.5 billion destinations each year. That makes Google Maps a uniquely potent tool for local digital marketing. In fact, many brick-and-mortar businesses now treat Google Maps marketing as its own marketing channel.

Google Maps marketing takes a combination of local SEO, paid search, and reputation management, with an assist from local listings management. In this post, we’ll look at how local businesses can use these tools to boost their visibility on Google Maps.

The Basics of Google Maps Marketing

Before we get into the details of Google Maps marketing, let’s cover some basics.

When we talk about Google Maps marketing, we’re not talking about a single platform. Google Maps results are shown on multiple platforms, including the Google Maps app and the Google Maps mobile and desktop sites. Google also includes Google Maps results in a feature called the Local 3-Pack on Google.com search results, which includes the top 3 local search results from Google Maps.

The good news is that your Google Maps marketing efforts can pay dividends across all of these platforms. The same actions that boost your visibility in the Google Maps app will also boost your visibility on the Google Maps website and in the Local 3-Pack.

But is Google Maps marketing really worth it? That depends on the type of business you run. But for most local businesses, the answer is a resounding YES!

Just consider the following stats:

  • 84% of Google users conduct local searches
  • 46% of all Google searches are local queries
  • 75% of local searches result in a store visit within 24 hours
  • 28% of these store visits result in a purchase
  • 92% of local searchers choose a business on the first page of results

Based on this data, it’s clear that Google Maps drives a massive amount of purchase traffic. So, let’s examine how Google Maps marketing efforts can boost your organic visibility in local search results.

Organic Google Maps Marketing

There are two types of organic results on Google Maps: proximity results and ranked results. Here’s a quick look at how both work…

Proximity Results. If a user performs a local search with location data enabled on their device, Google will use that location data to serve results based on proximity to the users’ device. In simple terms, this means that if you search for “coffee shop” on the Google Maps app, Google will show you the coffee shops closest to your current location. The closer the coffee shop is, the better it will rank in the results.

Ranked Results. Ranked results in Google Maps include all businesses within a given area, with no preference given to proximity. Google Maps will generally serve ranked results for one of two reasons. The first is when a user has location data disabled, so Google can’t judge their proximity to local businesses. The other is when a user is in one location, but they’re performing a local search for another location (e.g., when a user in Houston searches for “restaurants in Memphis”).

Google Maps Optimization

So, how can you boost your rankings in Google Maps results?

In proximity results, the distance between the user and your business is the biggest ranking factor. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to change that. However, if you have strong Google Reviews and an excellent Google My Business profile, you can leapfrog nearby competitors in proximity results.

For ranked results, optimizing for Google Maps can give you a significant boost. These results are mostly based on your Google Reviews and Google My Business profile. So if you optimize these two areas, you can dominate ranked results.

For higher rankings, your Google Maps marketing strategy will need to focus on these three areas:

  • More & Better Reviews. The higher your average rating on Google Reviews, the higher you’ll rank on Google Maps. But Google also rewards businesses based on their volume of reviews. A 4.4 rating based on 100 reviews is more valuable than a 4.6 rating based on 10 reviews.
  • Optimized GMB Profile. Google rewards businesses with rich Google My Business profiles by awarding them higher positions in Google Maps. Make sure that your profile is as detailed as possible and includes multiple photos.
  • Local Listings Management. To avoid confusing Google, you need to make sure that your NAP (name, address, and phone number) are listed exactly the same across the internet. If your NAP is inconsistent from one website to another, Google may exclude your business from Google Maps listings. Alternatively, it might overwrite your preferred NAP with one that it scraped from another website.

Paid Google Maps Marketing

Every local business should invest in a strong organic strategy for Google Maps marketing. But once you’ve done this, there’s an easy way and cost-effective way to further boost your visibility: local search ads. These ads appear at the top of local search results on Google and Google Maps, ahead of organic results.

Local search ads are part of Google Ads. So if already have a Google Ads account, it’s easy to start advertising through Google Maps. However, you’ll need to make sure that you have location extensions enabled on your Google Ads account, and you’ll need a complete Google My Business profile. When running local search ads, you’ll also need to use location targeting, bid by location, and optimize your keywords for local search.

Starting in January of 2018, Google introduced three new features to local search ads that can be used for Google Maps marketing.

  • Promoted Pins. In addition to displaying your ad in Google Maps results, Google will display a custom pin with your logo in the Google Maps display.
  • In-Store Promotions. If you’re running an in-store promotion, you can list this promotion in your local search ad.
  • Local Inventory Search. Users can tap a button to search your store’s inventory and find out if a specific product is in stock.

If you’re just introducing local search ads to your Google Maps marketing strategy, we suggest starting with basic ads. But if you’ve had success with paid ads on Google Maps, these features could drive additional traffic to your location.