Searches for local services grew more than 25% YoY across European countries.
Greg Sterling on September 30, 2020 at 4:59 am
Google’s Local Services Ads (LSAs) program is now rolling out in Europe. It will initially be available for 16 home services categories (not professional services) in 10 countries: Germany, UK, France, Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland and Spain.
16 home services verticals. The featured home services verticals include Appliance Repair, Carpet Cleaning, Electricians, Garage Door Installation and Repair, House Cleaning, Lawn Care, Movers, Pest Control, Plumbers, Roofers, Water Damage Restoration, Window Cleaning, Window Repair, Junk Removal and Tree Service.
LSAs is a pay-per-lead program that started with the idea of offering a very simple ad product to small businesses that generated more tangible results. There’s essentially no merchant-provided ad creative; and fixed pricing made everything simple. However, last week Google introduced bidding for LSAs while preserving fixed pricing as an alternative option. In Europe, pricing will be auction-based.
Would-be LSA advertisers must submit to background and licensing checks to qualify for the Google Guarantee, a precondition for LSA participation. Google is not rolling out LSAs for professional services (Google Screened) in Europe at this time.
LSAs come with the Google Guarantee. The Google Guarantee offers to reimburse consumers who used LSAs but ultimately weren’t satisfied with the quality of work performed — after attempting to resolve the problem with the service provider. There’s a lifetime benefit cap of $2,000. In most participating European countries the limit is €1,500 ($1,760). In the UK it’s £1,500 ($1,923).
European LSA example
No third party background checkers in Europe. In the U.S. Google uses third parties to perform licensing, insurance and background checks for the Google Guarantee and Google Screened programs. In Europe, Google will be doing its own verifications in-house, using relevant government databases. Typically, there’s a 14-day wait before the applicant-business is checked and verified. That wait should be less in Europe given the absence of third party involvement.
For consumers the core proposition of LSAs is trust (and visibility). They appear at the very top of the SERP and feature star ratings as well as a Google Guaranteed/Screened badge. There are a number of ways local marketers can receive LSA leads: phone, via messaging/email or online booking. The booking feature will not be available in Europe at launch, however.
The LSA merchant pitch is “only pay for results.” And merchants are only charged upon receiving a valid lead. In the U.S. Google defines “valid lead” as follows:
- You receive a text message or email from the customer (US only).
- You receive a voicemail from the customer.
- You answer a phone call and speak with the customer.
- You receive a missed call (without a voicemail), and you return the customer’s message with a text message, email or call where you either speak with the customer or leave a voicemail.
- You receive a booking request from a customer.
Along with the European rollout, Google reported that “in the first half of 2020, searches for local services, like home improvement or maintenance, increased by over 25% in a year across a range of European countries.” As in the U.S. that’s undoubtedly because working from home and shelter in place rules have brought consumer attention to all the repair work and improvement projects that need to be done around the house.
Why we care. Google has been placing more emphasis on LSAs recently. The company is making them available to more local advertisers in more places. And while Google won’t share LSA performance data, we can infer the ad units are working for both Google and local advertisers.
Because LSAs outrank other ads and everything else on the page, local marketers must pay attention. Indeed, it won’t be long before categories are highly competitive and, with bidding, more expensive.
Google also recently separated the Google Guarantee badge from LSA participation. Merchants can now get checked and pay $50 per month, to display the Google Guarantee badge on their Business Profiles. I suspect that will become popular and, ultimately, widely adopted.