So Local Service Ads (Google Guaranteed) are up and running in the UK now and my first observations are not great at all!
Note: This is the first roll out, so things may improve.
Expectations vs Reality on Local Service Ads
Local Service Ads were initially intended to reduce spam businesses operating in Google My Business. As with anything where revenue is involved, these core principles have eroded over time, as we have seen in the US and quite shockingly already in the UK.
Revenue trumps all I guess with Google.
UK support for Local Service Ads is provided from non UK call centre’s and this experience has led to users suspending their LSA accounts – lack of transparency, inability to query lead calls (calls are not recorded like the US)
Google is using 3rd party Ad agencies to onboard businesses by providing them with discounts on lead call costs – who then hoof on a monthly management fee, some as much as £96 per month – thereby costing the business more per lead.
What is Going On?
Local Service Ads at their core run on the Google My Business platform.
If you’re a service-area business, you should hide your business address from customers.
For example, if you’re a plumber and run your business from your residential address, clear the address from your Business Profile.
I realise this is pretty minor BUT if you are dropping the guidelines so early on in the game, what will be dropped next ?
Support for Local Service Ads
In the US phone calls are recorded which allows the business to easily dispute whether this was an actual lead. Rember LSA is a cost-per-lead system and recordings help dispute charges.
I spoke to a few plumbers this morning who have all suspended their accounts (no longer display Google Guaranteed badge) because they had difficulty conversing with LSA support and disputing the calls as actual leads.
At £20 per call, they decided it was too expensive to be paying hundreds of pounds a week for non lead calls – which they could not properly dispute with LSA support.
They all felt that regular Ads where cheaper to run and provided better ROI and where not wasting hundreds of pounds a week.
Being Added to LSA Platform without Signing Up
Worryingly I spoke to two plumbers listed in LSA (not displaying Google Guaranteed) who said they had never signed up to LSA and had people calling them for services they did not provide.
They did not know how they ended up on LSA or who had provided the service list. I sent them the LSA Support link for them to contact and have removed – good luck with that.
Note: Again one of these was an ineligible business
Ad Agencies Pushing On Boarding
Local Service Ads are using 3rd party ad agencies to help onboard businesses, Like AdInvestor (part of the Push Group)
These 3rd parties offer cheaper cost-per-calls to incentivise sign up, however the 3rd party then hoofs on a monthly management fee, actually making it more expensive for the business (category dependant).
I have no issue with an Ad company charging a monthly management fee, you have to be paid to manage accounts BUT they need to be transparent about the fact that LSA is free to signup too.
Again Google My Business has 3rd party guidelines about transparency.
Another issue is that if you suspend your service with AdInvestor you are removed from their platform, including LSA and would need to reapply to LSA (According to their support team – Ian).
Again this would be in violation of 3rd party guidelines with Google my Business – I cant specifically find Ads policy on this matter.
Initial Verdict on UK Local Service Ads
First glance of Local Service Ads was good and anticipated by me since 2018. The actual reality of roll out is not great for legit businesses trying to compete when ineligible businesses are onboarded.
Customer support by all accounts is terrible and disputing and leads is near impossible, according to five plumbers I spoke to.
Adding businesses without their knowledge to what I can only assume is to bulk up the current offering to users should not be happening either.
If you have or encountered issues with Local Service Ads, speak to our Google My Business Consultants, for a no obligation chat.