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Part one of this series introduced Local SEO. This post is going to focus on one trade to show what a searcher experiences and highlight some areas you might want to work on for your business.
“Plumbers near me”
While located in Houston’s 77018 zip code, on a desktop, a search for “plumbers near me” resulted in the screen capture below. This appeared at the very top of the search results, in fact, above the search results.
Take note of the “Sponsored” label in the top right corner, which indicates these three search results are paid ads. These are not the usual ads that you may be accustomed to seeing though. These are Local Service ads as shown by the green checkmark followed by “GOOGLE GUARANTEED”. Why would Google guarantee a business that is not its own? Google determined certain trades such as plumbers and locksmiths were often culprits for fraudulent business practices. To help protect consumers from shady businesses, Google set up the “Local Services” ads service, so that local businesses could show up more easily in local search results. Although the list is changing, businesses that may be eligible for Local Service ads include:
- Auto glass services
- Carpet cleaning services
- Cleaning services
- General contractors
- Garage door services
- HVAC (heating or air conditioning)
- Roadside assistance
A key component of this service is the screening process that businesses must go through to advertise on Google Local Services. The screening varies by type of service and country as well as whether the business advertises directly through Google or through a partner network. The screening process might consist of:
- Background checks of the business owner, business entity and even the service professionals
- License checks
- Insurance checks
- Interviews conducted by Google
- Business registration validity
The Google Guarantee covers claims with the quality of service up to the cost of the initial service with a lifetime cap of $2,000. Before a claim is handled by Google, the customer must try to work out the issue with the original service provider. If that fails, a claim can be submitted through Google, which will then investigate the claim and make a decision based on the findings. The customer has 30 days from the initial service date to submit the claim. For current information and details, visit the Google Guarantee .
Your customers can benefit from this service by finding a reputable business at the right time, whether dealing with a broken water pipe or clogged sink. Everything needed to hire your business is found conveniently through the ad and verified by Google. The pre-screening process by Google combined with customer reviews provides a level of trust that is hard to beat.
Second Place is First Loser
Past those ads in the prime location, it’s time to move further down the search results.
Immediately following the Local Services ads are, you guessed it, more ads. In this case there are only two more ads, but by now you should have an understanding of how competitive the plumbing service market is in this area of Houston.
These search results aren’t necessarily the “first loser” as the sub-headline states. Some people interpret businesses with the best ad spots as more expensive. This group of customers tends to skip down to the next set of results.
Finally, you’ll see the “local 3 pack,” which shows a Google map and the three most relevant search results with prominent map pins and their associated business names. See the screen shot at right.
Those same three businesses show up immediately below the map. The listings all include the business name, review ratings, service category, address and phone number. Note that the first and third listings show the business is “Open 24 hours,” while the second listing shows “Opens soon – 8AM”. Although the second listing has the best review rating, if a water pipe burst in your house, you would most likely call the first listing right away.
While all three listings have a photo, only “Texas Quality Plumbing” shows a plumber working. Choosing the right photo could influence which business gets the customers’ business.
100 Percent Organic Search Results Are Buried in the Dirt
Finally, after digging deep past the three Local Services ads, two paid ads and the infamous “local 3 pack,” you reach the organic search results. Remember: the organic search results display based on a close match between the search terms and the content on the displayed web page. (That might not be a website’s home page.) If that isn’t bad enough, the first five organic results in this case do not show any plumbers at all. Instead, all you see is a list of websites that claim to help you find the best plumbers near you. Most likely, you are not going to bother visiting those sites with the burst water pipe spewing water in your home. This does, however, highlight The fact that the top five search results are sites that list the best and top-rated plumbers indicates that there is a need for trustworthy sources.
The first organic search result for a plumbing business shows up two positions further down the page, outside of this screen capture. You’re not likely to bother with those search results after seeing all the great options further up the page.
Hopefully, you have taken some notes and are working on a strategy for improving your business’s local search results. Part three of this series and future articles will discuss some of the tools that can help you implement your strategy.