Virtual assistants are becoming more popular with consumers, and the technology is affecting the way people search for things online. Just as Google was one of the first to integrate speech recognition into search, they are taking steps to integrate their virtual assistant into their services. Starting now, Google Assistant will provide local services suggestions for things like plumbers and electricians.
When consumers use their Google Assistant on Android phones, Google’s iOS Assistant app and smart devices like Home, they can search for local services just by saying a phrase. For example, by saying “Ok Google, find me a plumber”, the device will ask a few follow up questions and then provide a list of some nearby local options.
Over the next few weeks, Google will roll this new Google Assistant feature out across the U.S. It may take some time for an international rollout. It’s easier for Google to be confident about their local suggestions in the U.S. than they would be for another country. That said, since the companies Google is partnering with in the U.S. to handle the vetting also operate in Europe, an international rollout of the feature isn’t out of the question or technically impossible.
Google hasn’t been terribly specific about how these suggestions will be generated but there are some clues. According to their blog post announcing the feature, in many cities, the suggestions will be prescreened by Google and companies like HomeAdvisor and Porch.
Even with the backup from the third-party providers, Google won’t be able to provide guaranteed suggestions for every city in America. That doesn’t mean the new Google Assistant feature won’t work in these place. According to Google, if a user is in a city that doesn’t have any available guaranteed or screened providers, they’ll still get an answer from the Assistant with other nearby results.
It’s a little unclear how businesses can tailor their online presence to take advantage of these features. Unlike the Google Home Service Ads, businesses aren’t being asked to do a special sign up or register their business with Google. While Google hasn’t stated it as a requirement, it would probably help contractors to sign up with services like HomeAdvisor or Porch if they want their business to be featured in the Google Assistant results.
Hopefully, Google will provide more details about the program in the near future. This has the potential to be a great lead generation tool for local service providers. As virtual assistant use increases in the population, being able to put your business in front of people that aren’t directly going to search boxes is an invaluable feature to marketers.
In the meantime, business owners that want to promote their local services should still update their website and Google My Business profile. While it’s unclear how much of a roll these things will play in determining the Google Assistant local search results, they will almost certainly be a factor in some form or another. And even if they aren’t, consumers will probably still check the websites of the businesses that are listed by Google Assistant. So having good SEO and engaging content is still important.
To learn more about Google Local Services ads, read this article that explains that program and its recent expansion.