Local Service Ads (LSAs) are a hero channel for local brands looking for more cost-effective leads. This real estate client achieved 10X the ROI than the conventional real estate lead flow:
Local Services Ads for real estate = big wins
While they are incredibly simple to maintain once set up, they have undergone some changes since they began in 2016, both in how they’re set up and the markets they work for. So in this post, I’m going to outline the pitfalls and mechanics to account for, as well as seven tips to get the most out of Google Local Services Ads.
Before getting into the tips, here’s a brief refresher on Google LSAs. You can learn more in our Ultimate Guide to Google Local Services Ads, but here are the basics.
Google Local Services Ads are an ad type geared for home service-based businesses. While Google Search Ads are pay per click and Ad Rank is based on factors like bid, ad quality, and more, LSAs are pay per lead and ad rank is based on factors like customer reviews, proximity, and hours. The ads appear above regular Google Search Ads and the advertiser goes through an extensive verification process.
Google has two versions of LSAs: Google Screened and Google Guaranteed.
To qualify for either program, businesses need to meet the following requirements:
When setting up your LSA profile you’ll be prompted to set up a review link, as well as input your credentials.
Google LSAs make it easy for lawyers, real estate agents, and home services businesses to show up for local searches. Here are some small details that can make a big difference in the ROI of your LSAs.
It’s always easier to establish account structure from the outset than fixing it later. Understanding whether your brand is best suited for a manager account (MCC) versus an individual ad account comes down to the following considerations:
It’s a best practice to limit LSA profiles to three major targets per profile. Otherwise, if you serve more than one location, you are diluting the budget focus and potentially risking the proximity ranking factor. Serving multiple locations can benefit from having multiple Google Business Profiles, with one LSA profile per market.
Essentially, unless you just target one market, you will need more than one profile.
Setting up your LSA profiles as an MCC will allow you to easily navigate between them without logging in and out of your account. You’ll also get the benefit of MCC-level billing, reporting, and shared assets.
As a franchise/agency this is especially important as you only can share login access with a LSA profile with one other email.
Each Local Services Ads profile should be viewed as a campaign. Just like you wouldn’t ask a campaign to service more than one major market, it’s unrealistic to ask a Local Services Ads to target more than three major markets.
So as just mentioned, in an ideal structure, you’d have each LSA profile focusing on one major market (corresponding to one Google Business Profile).
However if you only have one GBP and serve multiple locations, be sure the locations you choose to target are in close proximity to your main prospect hubs (i.e where you’ll have a higher likelihood of benefiting from the proximity ranking factor).
Targeting a county or DMA counts as one target. You can exclude zip codes or towns to narrow your focus and bypass competitive auctions.
While there is no official cap for brands in a given market, the average amount of vendors a given geo can support is 35. It’s important to quickly secure your LSA profile and focus budget on priority markets so you can ensure your dominance on the SERP.
The most common reason for LSAs to stop serving are disapprovals, and two common disapprovals are for the image to get flagged or certifications to go out of date.
To avoid expired certifications:
When you’re setting up your profile you’ll be asked to input the expiration date of your certifications. However, some certifications don’t need to be renewed—or if they do, they’re not an annual renewal. Be sure to set the expiration date far enough in advance that you won’t need to think about it for 5-10 years.
To avoid flagged headshots:
For your headshot, it’s important that your picture is of more than just your face. Ideal images will cover down to the elbows. Here is an example of a headshot that will likely succeed:
Here is an example of a headshot that will likely fail:
Profile pictures don’t need to have a plain white background or lack personality. The core difference between one being acceptable and the other not is the visibility of the arms.
Keep in mind that reviews on your regular Google Business Profile appear on your LSA profile and impact your ad ranking, but not the other way around. And any reviews you get from your LSAs will go away if you stop advertising, and you won’t be able to respond to reviews that come through your review link.
It’s also important to know that Local Service Ads require a 3.0 average review rating to remain active. If your Google Business Profile slips below 3.0, your ads will stop serving till your review score clears 3.0.
You can learn how to get more Google reviews here.
It’s understandable that brands might be wary of setting aggressive bids and budgets on a new marketing channel. Local Service Ads invite the pitfall of underbudgeting and bidding because of their reputation for low-cost leads.
When you set up your campaigns, you’re given the option to set a manual bid per lead or opt into automated bidding. It’s common for ads to under-serve (or not serve at all) if you opt into auto bidding with a low budget.
As a general rule, you typically want to set a budget 2-3 times what you actually plan on spending as Google often struggles to spend the budget. So if the goal is to spend $5,000 per month, you’d want to set a budget at $15,000.
Though the budget for this account was set to $10,000, Google only spent $3,054.
Also, the cap per bid has gone up to $1,000, so if you’re struggling to gain traction with auto bidding, you might be running into competitors setting aggressive manual bids. This might be a reason to target a tangential market.
Because you only pay for calls lasting at least two minutes or form fills, your marketing dollars are going to have a much easier conversion rate than traditional paid search (which requires you to pay per click). If your leads cost $50 and you have a goal of $500 monthly spend, that means you’re striving for 10 leads per month. Depending on your bandwidth, you might want to strive for more or less leads.
Conversion rates for LSAs and response times have a strong correlation: the faster you are to respond to leads, the greater the chance you will win the business.
Local Service Ads do not factor response times into ranking, but they do learn what kind of users result in successful calls/form-fills.
Make sure your LSA is set to only run when you have the team to respond. If you can’t support leads 24/7, do not let the campaign run 24/7. This will help Google allocate budget as efficiently as possible.
If a lead turns into business, mark it as closed successfully, and archive leads that aren’t a good fit. Some lead quality issues can be because of services you said you were open to taking (i.e., saying you’ll take rentals but you really only do sales/purchases), but most will be because the prospect just wasn’t right. Archiving the lead communicates that to Google so it can learn where not to invest your budget.
Local businesses can’t afford to leave Local Service Ads out of their local marketing efforts. Thankfully they’re easy to maintain and the performance pitfalls are easy to bypass. Just be sure to follow these seven tips:
Want to get started with LSAs? Currently, the following verticals are eligible for LSAs:
Navah Hopkins is a Top 25 PPC Expert and international speaker who has been in the digital marketing industry since 2008. She specializes in paid media strategy and helping brands build relationships with profitable partners and customers.
She’s a cofounding member of the Paid Search Association, a group dedicated to empowering the next generation of PPC practitioners, and she continues to give back by sharing lessons learned at conferences and local universities, and in blogs and webinars for SEJ, SEL, Semrush, and WordStream.
See other posts by Navah Hopkins
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