Earlier this year I wrote about the online giant Amazon.com entering the home services business. Or maybe it’s more appropriate to say Amazon.com has come to market as a lead generation option for professional contractors. I suppose either is true, it only depends on your perspective.
I have received no less than a dozen correspondence relating to the article I wrote only hours after the announcement of Amazon’s new offering and by all accounts the experiences relayed to me by contractors participating in the new program have been mostly positive. As the service picks up and expands across the U.S., as it has been at a feverish pace, I’ve no doubt we will hear more and more from our contractor friends about their experiences.
Just yesterday I had the privilege of attending one of Dan Holohan’s last speaking seminars before his January 2016 retirement. The stories were nothing short of entertaining and educational, told with great skill only a seasoned veteran like Dan can execute. I only hope to amass even half of the knowledge he has over his long career. One thing he said a few times in the seminar keeps replaying in my mind, and as I pondered the topic of this month’s article it hit me.
“The plumbing, HVAC and hydronics industries and the people and companies within them are changing every day,” said Holohan. “The pace is so fast that, if you’re not on top of your game, you might not even see them coming until they hit you in the face.”
Google’s new local service program
On August 4, 2015, our industry was hit with a whopper of progressive change, you may not have even seen or heard of it yet, but I can assure you it will hit us all in the face sooner than later.
Google Home Service Ads is that change. That’s right, the Internet as we know it [Google] has entered the lead generation business in a way that almost no other existing service will be able to compete — directly through search results.
With the recent growth of Angie's List, HomeAdvisor, and Amazon's announcement of their own home services program, Google apparently sees growth and value to enter this arena by promoting their own program called Home Service Ads.
Google just recently launched this new local service program that is designed to appear as a sponsored search result when people are looking for a local service provider, like plumbers. The program is currently being beta-tested in the San Francisco area.
[Google] has entered the lead generation business in a way that almost no other existing service will be able to compete — directly through search results.
Google’s home services ads promote pre-qualified home service professionals and enable users to submit requests to the providers straight from the search ads. BuzzFeed first reported the home services solution was in the works back in April. Google searchers are able to submit requests to the providers directly from these Ad results. The ads include a photo of the professional, their location and phone number, along with any ratings and what look-like callout ad extensions that detail qualifications and service qualities and offers such as 24/7 services and free estimates. Users can click the profiles for more details, contact the professional and then hire them.
Some might say Google has been in the lead generation business since the beginning of the “Ad Sense” program and that the pay-per-click or bidding for top ranking within the advertising space of a search result is practically lead generation. I wouldn’t totally agree.
Never before were the details of advertisers so focused to the end user/searcher nor have they been presented in a way that would allow or promote the click-thru for services offered that the new beta program is.
The best way to see how this new program works is to open your own browser, give Google a click and search the term “San Francisco Plumber.” The top three sponsored results will be very different in structure and information than if you were to search for a plumber in Minneapolis for example.
The Home Service Ads will soon take place of the traditional Ad Words and SEO placement rankings. Local marketers are going to have to continue to get creative in working within and around these systems to hit their objectives.
Hiring a professional outside of Google’s offices becomes more of a risk in the short term and as the service gains in popularity, working directly with Google may be the direction a lot of professional service advertisers steer.
Let’s face the facts; we are and have long been a society that wants instant gratification. This is what Google is banking on. Mr. or Mrs. Jones will see your smiling face; have quick access to your online customer reviews and the ability to instantly summon you to take care of their plumbing/heating emergency at no cost to them. I wonder how Angie feels about this?
And just like Dan said, that’s the kind of change that’ll hit you in the face if you’re not looking for it.
Thanks for taking the time to read these ramblings and I appreciate all the emails, tweets and messages…keep them coming!
Eric Aune started Aune Plumbing LLC in 2004 and specializes in residential and small commercial hydronic heating systems and service. He is a graduate of Dunwoody College of Technology and Plumbers Local 15, Minneapolis Apprenticeship Training Program, and is currently a United Association Instructor and teaches for the Plumbers Local 15 JATC. Aune is also founding partner and vice president of mechanical-hub.com. Contact him at: [email protected].