If you are a local service provider and you are not yet using Google LSA’s, it is time to get started. In addition to occupying arguably the most valuable real estate in the digital marketing world (the very top of the Google search engine results page aka SERP), LSA’s are offered on a pay per lead model (as opposed to cost per click) – which means that you only pay for leads that are qualified as relating to the products and/or services that you offer and after a contact was actually made.
The localized uptake that this can reveal for your business is – in one word: HUGE. Up to 3 LSA’s will appear immediately on the desktop, 2 on mobile, and 1 via Google Assistant.
Use case: you lock yourself out of your car, or your pipe bursts, or you are standing outside your home and you see that a fallen branch knocked a hole in your roof. You pull out your phone and you ask it to show you a ‘roofer near me’. The illustration below is an example of what you will see ->
Not to mention, your ads will stand out from the pack as part of the process of getting on LSA’s is becoming Google Screened or Google Guaranteed. ‘Google Screened’ applies to practitioners such as lawyers and financial advisors. ‘Google Guaranteed’ applies to service companies such as roofers, plumbers, and carpenters. The minimum review score threshold to get on board is just 3 stars. Both programs do include license and background verifications. The other noteworthy nuance to ‘Screened’ v. ‘Guaranteed’ is that the guaranteed status offers a limited-time money back guarantee if the consumer is not satisfied with the work. That’s also huge. Image if Google ads offered something in the form of ad extensions with similar weight?
Further down in this post, I will list out all of the various businesses that can market themselves through this super powerful and relatively new feature. And on that note, a bit of background on how LSA’s came about. But first I wanted to say — in this post, you should NOT LOSE THE SENSE OF URGENCY to get onto this platform. If you are serious about new business, you really don’t have a choice and regardless of what others might say, the process for background checks will stretch out the duration to anywhere between 4-6 weeks, so you should not hesitate to get started TODAY. WE CAN HELP!
When Did LSA’s First Launch?
Back in 2019, Google launched a test that was limited to select categories (lawyers, financial planners, and realtors) in the San Diego and Houston areas. The program was so successful that Google rolled out LSA’s for professional services on a national scale. Now, this has expanded to include nearly 50 business categories and sub-categories as of this writing – the majority of which are for home services. That nationwide rollout was in the middle of Q2, 2020. So, this capability is around six months old as of this writing, and it is safe to say that many businesses are not in the game yet for whatever reason.
Evolution of The LSA ‘Portal’?
When we first began offering LSA setup and management services to our clients (we were right there at the inception of the program on the national rollout in Q2 of 2020) – that which was available was less robust than what is available today:
Bidding: LSA management was limited to a fixed bid amount on a per category basis. E.g., the platform estimated that a fixed bid amount – say $50, would be standard for your service and within the location(s) that you were targeting. Based upon that bid, you could then set a weekly budget and the user interface would predict the amount of leads you can expect per week. In terms of the evolution that fixed type of setting is now more flexible and includes the ability to leverage Google’s automated algorithms (similar to Google Ads) to ‘maximize leads’. Optionally you can now set a ‘custom’ amount, however there are minimum and maximum thresholds. OUR EXPERIENCE has been that – you will typically not come close to the maximum bid amount that you set. Often times in the digital marketing world, we are fighting a war of attrition against our competitors. Sometimes a willingness to go ‘all-in’ is required to win. Our experience has also been that Google rewards that bravery.
Lead Type: LSA’s offer the ability to place a direct call (that is the primary), visit your LSA page, share your profile, or now to also receive ‘message leads’. Message leads will also allow consumers to contact you via LSA’s using text messages and/or email. There is also a ‘promotion’ area through which Google may provide incentives.
What Comprises an LSA?
The LSA contains your rating, hours of operation, phone number, bulleted features (i.e., industry accreditations), as well as your Google reviews and the Google ‘Screened’ or ‘Guaranteed’ status. All of this plus placement at the top of all other results makes it a no-brainer for any eligible business. Also, when you facilitate a query through Google Assistant (voice), you will get an email back outlining the results of that query.
A Best Practice for Tracking LSA’s
LSA’s also enable you to record the calls coming in, and to mark off those that qualify or close. What it does not enable you to do is assign the actual pipeline and closed revenue numbers. It is advisable to have a system which allows for you to review your LSA’s and assign dollar values for closed deals and to track your pipeline and conversion rates. We offer a system that enables you to do that and to easily filter out other channels, such as standard CPC, organic, and social.
How Much Does It Cost?
The investment comes down to setup and then platform cost. Businesses can handle the setup themselves, although it is tedious. We have handled numerous setup/implementations already and are here to help.
Ongoing budgeting is entirely up to you. Each category and if applicable subcategory will have different bid recommendations. The platform UI does not show you impression share (the amount of exposure that you have vs. the amount of overall available exposure within that region and for that category). As noted, this is a pay per lead model so you are not paying for every impression, or every contact for that matter. And we have helped clients to successfully negotiate credits back for leads already charged that turned out to be questionable.
OUR EXPERIENCE has been that over time, it is best to opt for maximum bids as this will not necessarily increase your cost per lead, but it will increase your exposure. How do we know that? Again there is no dashboard that shows that, however we can tell by how much more often the phone is ringing when we increase bids.
What are The Current Available Categories?
- Garage Door
- Air Duct Cleaner*
- Appliance Repair Service*
- Auto Glass Service*
- Auto Service Technician*
- Carpet Cleaner*
- Event Planner*
- Home Improvement Pro*
- House Cleaner*
- Junk Removal Provider*
- Lawn Care Provider*
- Pest Control Technician*
- Pet Care Provider*
- Pet Groomer*
- Roadside Assistance Service*
- Tree Service Provider*
- Upholstery Cleaner*
- Water Damage Service Provider*
- Window Cleaner*
- Window Service Provider*
*Not all services are supported in all markets.
Beneath each of these categories are a ton of additional sub-categories. With lawyers, for example, see the illustration below:
SUMMARY & INSIGHT:
As it is with any other area of your marketing mix, accurately assessing your return on investment is the bottom line. In the digital world you can get thousands of clicks, emails and phone calls. In the end, the value of each is simply relative to the amount of revenue that each one generates. In many cases, you may not be able to determine that number for some time, e.g., the case of a new personal injury client for an attorney where the total revenue is dependent upon a judgement that may or may not be favorable down the line – or a click on an ad or a phone call from someone who is interested but not yet ready to make a purchase. They come back three months later by way of a direct call and only if you are tracking things correctly will you ever know that their original awareness was created through an LSA, or whatever other channel.
At the risk of being redundant — if you are not on LSA’s, get on LSA’s. And get started asap. The process takes 4-6 weeks to complete, at a minimum. It is certainly an option to handle this in-house. Note that the setup requires perseverance and time, especially during the COVID period. But it is not something that one requires digital marketing knowledge to complete, as it is all fairly straightforward. Ongoing management is not as time consuming as managing a B2C account with thousands of products, however it does require a weekly time allocation if you want to optimize performance and keep it optimized. As noted above, it is critical to your decision-making and your strategic direction to know how much money you are making from your allocations. Also, some insight and understanding of the ‘intangibles’ of how Google works is advantageous; we have noticed through the accounts that we manage, for example, that when we change bids especially on automated bid types – exposure slows down for an unknown period of time. We observe the exact same conditions when we change the ‘target cost per acquisition’ on a Google ads campaign. Knowing how Google’s algorithms work through experience with Google ads is relevant. These algorithms are complex and as it with anything this fluid, the intuition that comes with experience is a difference-maker. Especially with an account with numerous categories and dozens of subcategories (like a law firm <link to KBO case study>) – there are an equal number of different bids that can be put into place. And setting/revising those bids is just as important 2-6 months into the account as it is on day 1. Experimentation through bid revisions cannot be something that happens mid-day and without a data-driven thought process – ideally through systematic reviews and on a periodic basis. Flying by the seat of your pants with constant, impulsive optimizations on this will result in the algorithms never getting a chance to know where your sweet spot is, and if not optimized enough you risk being beaten by the competition, becoming stagnant, and/or simply not getting as much bang for your buck as you would otherwise. Like anything in life, it is all about striking the right balance based upon informed decisions.