As Director of Advertising for Nifty Marketing, my team and I have spent a ton of time helping clients incorporate their Google Ads and Google Local Services Ads (LSAs) into their overall marketing strategy. Below, I’ll spell out some of our key findings, observations, and best practices, exploring:
- What are LSAs?
- What does it take to get started?
- Best practices to dominate LSAs.
LSAs are a great way to get your home service business in front of local consumers and to build instant trust in your services. By putting the insights below into practice, you’ll be on your way to creating a new — and potentially lucrative — lead generation channel.
What are Google LSAs?
Google promotes services that are based locally to searchers, appearing at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs). Customers can click on your ad to call, message, or book directly with your business. LSAs might sound fairly similar to Google Ads — but it’s actually an entirely separate and distinct advertising platform, with some key advantages.
The most notable difference between Google Ads and Google LSAs is that LSAs are pay-per-lead. Your business only pays Google whenever you receive bookings directly from the ad, phone calls, or message requests (though these are often cheaper than bookings and calls.) There’s another distinction here: You only have to pay for calls that last over 30 seconds, which eliminates most accidental dials or very low-quality leads. Google even refunds poor leads, but we’ll delve into this in more detail later on.
You might be wondering what the catch is: If any, it’s a bit more complex to set up LSAs compared to regular Google Ads. Google heavily vets all businesses before they’re allowed to set up their own LSAs — which means you have to jump through a few hoops and background checks.
What are Google Guaranteed and Google Screened?
What’s the plus side to this vetting process? If your business is successful, you’ll receive a “Google Guaranteed” or “Google Screened” badge that appears alongside your ads.
Home services businesses showing the Google Guaranteed badge
Google Guaranteed only applies to home services businesses: carpet cleaning companies, electricians, and locksmiths, for example. Not only does the badge show that Google has decided your company is legitimate and trustworthy, but if customers aren’t happy with your company’s service, Google will refund them (though there’s a lifetime cap of $2,000 per customer).
Google Screened, on the other hand, is for businesses that engage in professional services, such as lawyers, accountants, and architects, for example. They’re not covered by Google’s guarantee, but the “Screened” badge shows that they’ve successfully passed the LSAs vetting process.
What are the pros of LSAs?
These are six of the top reasons your business stands to benefit from introducing LSAs into your marketing strategy.
1. You don’t pay for any bad leads
You can ask Google to refund low-quality leads within 30 days. A lead would be classified as low-quality if they meet any of the following parameters:
- They’re not in your service area.
- The caller dialed a wrong number or called with a sales call of their own.
- They requested a service that you don’t offer.
- It was a bot spam call.
- It was a duplicate lead.
However, be warned: Refunds usually come in the form of a credit to your LSAs account and may take 30-90 days to appear in your account.
2. Pay-per-call rather than pay-per-click
Calls are far more valuable than clicks. Research suggests that calls have a conversion rate of around 30%-50% compared to just 2% for clicks. So rather than paying whenever a lead clicks onto your site (before clicking off a few seconds later), you only pay when you receive an inbound call from a viable lead that lasts over 30 seconds.
3. They have a fantastic ROI
Return on investment (ROI) is the most important metric by which to judge your marketing. With LSAs, our pest control clients have seen around a 33% lower cost-per-call (CPC) compared to Google Ads. In fact, one of our clients has lowered their CPC by 54%.
4. Easy to manage
Keyword research can be a time-consuming, exhausting process requiring constant testing and learning. But with LSAs, you don’t need to manage any ads or keywords. Google will just take key pieces of information from your business profile and match you up to various search terms. This can be as broad as “lawn care specialists” or as narrow as “How can I make sure my new grass grows evenly with the rest of the lawn?”
5. Straightforward pricing structure
Google has already set up its own price-per-market and price-per-service. You don’t need to second guess the competition; if you see that the price point for home renovators in Boston is $80+, you already have a benchmark to follow.
6. Increased consumer confidence
Consumers know they can trust LSAs. All businesses that pop up have been vetted and approved by Google, while the Guarantee badge further demonstrates your credentials.
What are the cons of LSAs?
Unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows — there are still a few drawbacks to keep in mind.
1. An LSA might not always beat out an ad
Imagine that somebody searches “plumber near me.” In this case, you expect Google to show LSAs — but that’s not always the case. Logically speaking - Google is interested in protecting their revenue, as a result, you can expect some searches to focus on LSAs where a call is likely to occur, and others to focus on Google Ads where a click is more likely. Google prioritizes whatever ads they believe will generate revenue. If they think they have a better chance of gaining a click from a Google Ad than from a call/message/booking from a Local Services Ad, they’ll go with the Ad over the Local Services Ad. In some cases, both ad types will show.
2. Lengthy background checks
This is a double-edged sword. Google’s rigorous background checks mean that only the most reputable businesses can post Local Service Ads, but the process takes a while — roughly two to three weeks. You have to provide various documents, including your certificate of insurance, business license, and at least one review (usually from your Google My Business listing).
3. Key budgetary considerations
You need to have enough budget in place to support at least three leads per week at a minimum. You may want to generate more than this, but for smaller businesses with tighter budgets, this is definitely a key consideration to bear in mind.
No matter how large or small your budget, Google will try its hardest to spread this throughout the week. Imagine you generate a ton of calls on Monday. If this happens and your budget is wearing thin, then Google may even pause your LSAs until Thursday or Friday.
If you ever run out of budget completely — for instance, if you’ve spent your weekly budget within the first few days of the week — then you’ll temporarily lose your Google Guaranteed badge. As a result, your ads will basically slip right down to the bottom of the list.
4. You can’t game the system
With Google Ads, you can essentially guarantee results if you’re willing to spend a lot of money. But LSAs aren’t quite so simple.
Google considers a range of different factors:
- Number of reviews
- Badge status
- Business hours
- Most importantly, your business’s proximity to the searcher. If there’s a similar business to yours that is nearer to the end user, Google will promote the business ahead of yours.
What are the five steps to getting started?
The following steps will make sure you get started the right way. However, remember that the process will take a few weeks — so make sure you begin well before your busiest season.
1. Check your eligibility and fill out your business profile
Even if you’re a home services business, Google still makes you run through a quick eligibility checker. Once you’ve completed that, you can sign up, fill out your business profile, and get started. Don’t worry, though — this should only take a few minutes.
2. Start the background checks
These checks are conducted by a third party (either Evident or Pinkerton.) They carry out identity and criminal history background checks for all business owners, as well as for any employees who perform “core services for the customer.”
Google will also carry out business entity checks, insurance checks, and license checks.
3. Assess your budget and bidding strategy
Identify how much your business is willing to spend and budget accordingly. It’s always a good idea to start small, test the waters, and then dedicate more budget once you get comfortable with how LSAs work.
And even if you’ve been running LSAs for a while, you still need to think about your bidding strategy — this was only introduced back in September 2020. Your bid basically states how much you’re willing to pay for a lead. If you’re willing to pay $45 for a lead and a competitor is only willing to pay $40, guess which ad Google will prioritize?
Follow these steps to add a bid for Google LSAs.
4. Get them up and running
Now the exciting part: Launching your ads! Toggle the ads “on” in the Profile & Budget section of your account. Now is a great time to double check your business hours, destination phone number, etc.
5. Don’t miss your LSA phone calls
One final word of warning: Make sure your reps are ready to answer the phones. Missing calls is perhaps the worst thing you can do. Not only do you miss out on leads, but consistently missing calls will negatively impact your LSAs ranking.
We’ve seen it hundreds of times with our clients — when calls go unanswered on a fairly regular basis, their ranking dips significantly.
7 best practices to make your LSAs a success
LSAs can work wonders for home services businesses. You have a great way to reach local consumers, Google Guaranteed demonstrates your credibility, and you can even beat out bigger competition that’s willing to spend more.
But you can only do all this on a consistent basis by following the best practices outlined below.
1. Set a max bid per lead
Here at Nifty, we trust automated bidding when it comes to Google Ads — but our tests with automated bidding in LSAs haven’t earned our confidence yet. We’ve generally found that automated bidding isn’t aggressive enough, so we always recommend that our clients set a max bid per lead instead, and we suggest they monitor it closely for any needed adjustments.
Google will always give you a minimum bid for each service in your area. However, it’s ultimately up to you to decide what your maximum cost-per-lead is.
Google’s LSAs bidding functionality
2. Make your business profile as complete as possible
Don’t simply fill in the bare minimum. Remember: Google is vouching for your business’s quality (via Google Guaranteed). They want to make sure that they promote the most trustworthy businesses, and they want to prioritize ads from businesses that appeal to consumers. Having a complete business profile (remember to include plenty of photos of your business) will increase consumer confidence. More consumers will get in touch, you’ll keep your LSAs ranking in good shape, and you’ll help your bottom line.
An example of a fully completed business profile for a Lawn Care Provider
3. Remember the three “Rs” (number of reviews, rating, and recency)
Consumers love checking reviews. Almost 80% of all consumers (and 91% of 18- to 34-year-olds) trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Google, therefore, promotes LSAs from businesses that have a large number of positive reviews. Unsurprisingly, these will be the ones most likely to result in leads.
So how can you use this to your advantage?
Consider asking happy customers to leave you a positive Google review. They might say no or forget, but if you mention how much reviews help your business, they might decide to play ball. As the old saying goes, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”
Recency is another key factor. Five-star reviews from two years ago are still valuable (as they contribute to your total number of reviews and overall rating,) but they’re nowhere near as valuable as receiving a five-star review today.
4. Set the ads to only run during business hours
You have two options: Keep the ads running 24/7, or only display them during business hours. We strongly recommend the latter.
Wait — shouldn’t you promote your business at every opportunity? Not necessarily.
As mentioned above, Google heavily penalizes businesses that don't pick up the phone when prospects call from LSAs. This means that your phone might be ringing off the hook all hours of the day, but when the office is closed, they all go through to voicemail. Suddenly, your ranking dips — and your competitors’ LSAs are now prioritized above your business’s.
You could redirect calls from your office phone to your personal mobile outside of business hours. But is this really worth it? Do you want to be bombarded with work calls at all hours of the day? Likely not — especially if you’ve just come home for dinner after a long day out in the field.
5. Play around with your geo-targeting settings
We’ve sometimes found that customers miss out on valuable leads because their geo-targeting is too narrow. This is slightly tricky as there’s no hard-and-fast rule here. Some consumers don’t mind working with businesses that have to come from slightly out of town, whereas others prefer local options. Some businesses want to waste very little valuable time traveling between jobs — others, however, are keen to take on as many projects as possible.
So keep on tweaking, testing, and learning. That’s the only way that you’ll find out the best strategy for _your _business.
6. Submit refund requests within 30 days
Remember to submit refund requests within 30 days of the initial call, booking appointment, or message. If you try to submit a refund request even 31 days after they got in touch, then tough luck.
Google usually gets back to you with a decision within a few days. Unfortunately, it can take up to 3 months for the credit to hit your account. If you’d prefer money instead, we’ve had clients that have paused their LSAs account and had money refunded to their company credit cards.
7. If you’re an agency, don’t run ads for your clients on a duplicate separate account
Don’t try to run LSAs for your clients on another account while your clients have their own LSAs running. This is a really bad idea. You might get away with it for a short while, but Google will soon realize that this business is gaming the system with duplicate accounts both bidding for the same searches. When they do, your client might be punished by no longer being able to post LSAs.
It’s just not worth the risk. Instead, you should ask your clients for the login details so that you can manage their LSAs from their own business account (just as you would with Google Ads.)
Note: Multiple accounts for the same business with multiple office locations (one per location) are acceptable.
Watch the webinar, "Pay for Calls, Not Clicks: Google Ads for Home Services"
How can CallRail help you make the most of your Google local advertising investment?
I always make sure to use CallRail when running LSAs for my clients — and here’s why.
1. It helps our clients gain a deeper understanding of their calls
When you apply for a refund, you have to state why the lead wasn’t up to scratch. But this can be difficult using Google’s own call data — it provides minimal information. If you have hundreds of calls coming in per day and can’t remember which were good or bad, then the problem becomes even harder.
The call data that Google provides you with
CallRail, on the other hand, gives us so much more information than Google. Their Conversation Intelligence solution (and its Call Tracking feature in particular) provides us with a complete breakdown of each conversation.
The CallRail dashboard for the same call/caller
2. They can attribute correctly 100% of the time
We can also dive in and see where the caller came from. This is really useful — callers might have seen your Google My Business listing, your SERP, a Google Ad, or even a Local Services Ad. When you ask them where they came from, the consumer might not even be sure — but with CallRail, our clients will absolutely be sure.
Correctly attribute inbound leads with CallRail’s visitor-level tracking
3. The hidden insights they uncover improve all-around marketing performance
There’s one CallRail feature that both we and our clients love above all others: Conversation Intelligence’s Key Terms Spotted report. It unearths all important (or frequently mentioned) keywords or phrases that pop up throughout the conversation, displaying them in an easy-to-view word cloud. You can either do this for individual calls or for all your calls put together. In other words, you can zoom in and out to gain a micro-level view of individual conversations — or a macro-level view of all your customer interactions.
Imagine you analyze all your calls and you see that the phrase “home consultation” pops up time and time again. If you haven’t already done so, then it might be worth bidding for this keyword on your Google Ads, including it in your LSAs profile and GMB listing, or even targeting it via your organic SEO efforts.
Conversation Intelligence’s word cloud feature
This means you can derive as much value as possible from your LSAs. With Conversation Intelligence, you can dig into exactly what services prospects coming from this channel want, need, and ask about. These key insights can then be put to good use across your entire marketing strategy.
If you’re going to do it, do it right
We at Nifty Marketing love LSAs, and we love helping our clients get the most out of their marketing investment, but we couldn’t generate nearly as much ROI for our clients without CallRail. LSAs might be great at getting inbound leads through the door, but with CallRail, our clients can begin to understand more about who the leads are, where they came from, and what they want.
So if you’re ready to get started with LSAs, make sure you try out CallRail first.