The internet was once known as the “world wide web.” These days, that world seems to be getting smaller.

Now that users turn to the internet for everything from grocery delivery to finding a home repairperson, the value of search results for far-flung goods and services has diminished and the impact of local results has blossomed. What good is finding the website for a lawn care service in Duluth, Georgia, when you live in Duluth, Minnesota?

Because consumers now have little patience for sifting through low-value results from faraway businesses, professionals, and the like, Google Local Services ads are emerging as an option that may benefit your law firm’s digital marketing. Here’s what you need to know about them:

What are they?

Google Local Services ads are a relatively new offering from the tech giant. They started as an option for home services providers (think cleaners and repair people). When early results were promising, Google expanded the program in 2017 and began offering Local Services ads to other types of businesses.

What do they look like?

Google has moved Local Services ads around a few times in the three years they’ve been widely available. Currently, in markets where they are an option, they appear in three tiles above the AdWords and map results. Visually, they’re very minimal – just the name of the business, the phone number, hours of operation, and rating (more on that later). There is also a green “Google Guaranteed” design feature, meant to assure the viewer that he or she isn’t wasting his or her time contacting the business. The important thing is that Local Services ads come before anything else – organic search results, pay-per-click, and AdWords.

How do they work?

The ads appear when a user searches for relevant keywords, like “Tulsa” and “locksmith” or “San Antonio” and “pool cleaner.” Google needs these ads to be accurate and reliable or else customers will tire of them, so it has a short verification process to ensure a business is legitimate and is ready to serve clients. The specifics of that verification process depend on your industry and location; creating a Google Local ads account will prompt the verification process to begin. Having a positive rating from local reviewers helps Google think your business is a good option for Local Services ads because it’s an indicator that past local consumers have had a positive experience with you, so future local consumers will, too. That, in turn, reflects positively on Local AdWords.

Are they expensive?

It depends on what your definition of “expensive” is, of course, but a very appealing aspect of Google Local Services ads is that they have a click-to-call functionality and the client pays per call, not per click. That eliminates the expense of paying for people who click on the ad, visit your website and, for whatever reason, decide not to engage.

The cost varies based on your location and industry. Big markets with many competitors are more expensive than smaller markets or industries with fewer players. Google Local ads has a budget estimator tool that lets a user input his or her ZIP Code, type of service, and desired number of leads per month. Just to provide an example, an electrician in Augusta, Maine who wants 25 leads per month can expect to pay up to $400 per month.

Is this the marketing magic bullet I have been waiting for?

Google Local Services ads are shaping up to be a good option for many law firms, but they aren’t the be-all-end-all.

First, they’re hyper-local. That makes them a good choice for a solo family law attorney who draws most of her business from the three-county area, but a less attractive option for, say, a 20-attorney SSDI law firm that attracts clients from the entire lower half of its relevant state. Think of them as precise, but the wrong tool if the job is to cast a wide net.

Second, its unlikely Google Local Services ads will end Google’s other product offerings, like pay-per-click ads. Google wants to offer a suite of options, not just one take-it-or-leave-it choice, so Local Services ads will likely come to complement other options in its line-up of offerings and vice versa.

Third, Google Local Services ads draw from local ratings, so you still have to put the legwork into generating positive local reviews. Furthermore, no one form of marketing can build the positive reputation and beneficial word-of-mouth you need to prosper. There isn’t a marketing magic bullet and never will be.

So, how can I get started?

Because Google is still rolling out Local Services ads to businesses outside the home care space, it isn’t available to most types of law firms in most markets yet. Currently, only wills, estates, and trusts lawyers and immigration attorneys in Texas and California can run Google Local Services ad campaigns. However, it will likely be available soon.

And if these types of ads intrigue you, there are two steps you can take right now. First, tell your marketing vendor you’re interested in the program. As Google rolls out Local Services ads to more industries and markets, your vendor will likely have a pilot program of some sort that you may be able to join. Second, create a Google Local Services ads account. This will register your interest with Google and will help you get some preliminary questions answered.

 

 





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