Is Google About To Screw Contractors?
For years now Google has been an affordable place for home improvement contractors to generate their own leads. The introduction of the Local Places section allowed contractors to be displayed high on the first page with only their business information needed. You did not even need a website to promote your business on Google.
As someone who has been involved in search engine optimization for the past 18 years, the past few weeks have definitely been discouraging when it comes to Google. There have been some changes in the way Google is currently displaying their search results, as well as a possible new service which would put them on par with HomeAdvisor or any other lead service.
Google Now Only Displaying 3 Local Places Listings
Two weeks ago Google went from their seven pack of local map listings down to three. That means if your company was in the 4-7 slot you are no longer on the 1st page of search results. Before Google displayed the local places listing like this:
As you can see above if you worked on your Google Places listing, you can generate leads by being one of the seven companies in your town. They have now eliminated the 7 pack and cut it down to three, which you can view here:
As you can see the address and phone number does not display, a new website and directions button displays and there is a link for MORE PLUMBERS to view more listings.
Another thing that has changed is that by clicking on the company’s business name it no longer takes you to their Google+ page, but instead takes them to a “local finder” page that shows detailed information about the company. This just confirms the rumors that Google may soon be abandoning their Google+ product.
When you are searching via your mobile device, the search results getting even slimmer, as you can see below:
As you can see, Google does not display the phone number or the website. The theory behind the “click to call” button is for Google to now track clicks – before they were unable to get that data because the phone number was displayed. So, Google has now limited the amount of information a company can display as well as the number of companies that are displaying. Why would Google do this when historically they want to display the best results for the user?
Google Beta Testing Lead Service
That is right. Google is heading towards charging home improvement contractors for leads. Just like HomeAdvisor, Angie’s List and the other lead services, Google is beta testing their Home Service Ads in the Northern California area. For example if you do a search for a plumber in San Mateo, you will see the following results:
As you can see, these are sponsored listings that completely replace the local places listings. Also of note, Home Service Ads push Google Adwords ads to the right hand column of search results. Meaning that even with PPC enabled these new Home Service Ads will take the top positions. The ads include a photo of the home improvement contractor, their location and phone number, along with any ratings and what look like call out promotional text that detail qualifications and service qualities and offers such as BBB A+ or emergency service. Users can click the profiles for more details, which is not pulling data but rather user implemented. Meaning in order to be listed in this area, you need to be paying Google. In order to qualify for these type of ads, you can view Google’s support link here.
In addition to having to provide all of your business information, licenses, insurance, etc. Google has the typical User form which allows them to sell leads. If you click on the link MORE PLUMBERS TO VIEW OR CONTACT you are brought to the following page:
As you can see Google will be allowing Users to select the typical 3 contractors to contact, thus following the typical practice used by lead companies.
While Google’s home service ads are currently only available for plumbing and locksmith home improvement contractors selected by Google in Northern California, I see a connection between them and the larger changes to Google’s local places section.
For home improvement contractors who have just been dropped from the first page, I will be writing more this week on how to correct that. Though Google’s Home Service Ads are currently in a testing mode, do not fear that it will take over. I do not think Users really enjoy the “have three contractors” call me method. Also, how is Google going to handle issues when the User is not satisfied with the three contractors, or the contractor does not believe that the leads are worthy?
Either way, contractors are going to have to be on top of their online game. While the local places listings are shrinking and many contractors have been knocked off the first page, contractors are going to need to focus on Google’s requirements, as well as have a budget to compete for the 1st page results.
In the next few weeks, I will be discussing on how to manage through this process and what our own Footbridge Media clients can do to help them stay on the 1st page of search results.