Changes in the way people use the internet, along with better search algorithms, have started a trend of more local-focused internet marketing. In the past, search engines could only tell consumers what businesses were in their city. Now, searchers can easily find restaurants, movie theaters and more based on their GPS location. Google is testing a feature that would make their local search even more useful to consumers. Google has confirmed tests where local services like painters and plumbers can get a special listing on Google that may eventually rival services like Angie’s Lists.
Google’s current test involves providing information about local home service professionals who have been verified through a variety of factors. Marketers first got wind of the plan back in April from BuzzFeed. And we learned more when Recode reported that Google had hired a team of former Homejoy engineers to build the search matching technology for the service, back in mid July. The tests in the wild were reported last week.
The new Home Services Ads will allow consumers to get more information about the professional by clicking the links by their listing and even make direct requests from the search results page. There’s a button to send a request to the professional on the card with more information and there’s also a more link that can be used to select several more providers in case the first is too busy to handle the request.
In the current San Francisco tests, three listings for professional service providers appear a special block of sponsored listings when Google thinks a user is trying to find certain types of service professionals in the test area. For comparison, here are screenshots of a search for San Francisco Plumbers that uses the test format, and below that, a search for house painters in the same area that uses the current model.
The verification system is more robust than what is used to verify listings on Google My Business. For example, businesses that submit an application will a background check run on them, include cross-checks against national sex offender, terrorist and sanctions registries. Google also uses reviews from secret shopper services. Some of the information on the vetting process is available on the support page for the Home Service Ads.
On the support page, it reads, “We collect ratings and reviews from people who hired home service professionals through our home service ads, and use mystery shoppers — customers who communicate and hire professionals on our behalf without mentioning any affiliation with Google — to help us learn more about the customer experience.”
Google confirmed the tests like week in a statement to SearchEngineLand. However, other than acknowledging the test, they gave little information about a possible implementation for any sort of home services ad or even if the experiment will show up in other test markets.
A Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land, “We’re testing a new experience for local searches in the San Francisco Bay Area. We regularly test different options to deliver better results in search.”
If the response to the new ad format is good, it could rival services like Angie’s List that also connect consumers with businesses with very strong track records. Though it’s too early to say for sure, it seems more likely than not that Google will bring this service to more markets eventually.
For more news about changes and updates to Google, read this article on Google’s new remarketing options for Google Ads that connects with Google Analytics.