google badge

Google has been making a big push of late with Local Services Ads, which includes its two underlying “trust certifications,” Google Guaranteed (home services) and Google Screened (professional services). And recently the company started making the Google Guaranteed badge available to businesses for a monthly fee, outside of participation in Local Services Ads (LSA).

Badges in the wild. Positioned as part of an “upgraded profile,” the Google Guaranteed badge costs $50 per month or $600 per year. The badge will appear on the local business profile and in the Local Pack. Google has labeled this program “an experiment,” which may or may not continue depending on adoption.

Now, local SEOs Tom Waddington and Joy Hawkins are starting to see the Google Guaranteed badge appear in the wild. (I have not been able to replicate their screenshots.) So far, SterlingSky’s Hawkins says her agency hasn’t been able to detect any Google Guaranteed badges outside of the LSA program.

Google A/B testing placement of Google Guaranteed badge

Click to enlarge. Screenshot provided by: LocalU.

In the graphic above, Simpson Air is an LSA advertiser. On one version of their Google Maps local profile the Google Guaranteed badge appears but in other places it does not. The company does not rank in the top three LSAs for the query “HVAC in Tampa Florida.” It’s buried on a secondary “more pros” page of LSA advertisers that is likely to receive few if any impressions, let alone contacts. (Cue the joke about the best place to hide a dead body.)

Guaranteed badge may lead to higher CTRs. The visibility of the Google Guaranteed badge on the profile in organic results presumably offers added value for LSA advertisers and may generate additional organic clicks and/or leads.

Given that Google has just moved from fixed pricing for LSAs to bidding, it’s possible marketers down the line will compare the relative value of the $50 per month profile “upgrade” vs. the per-lead cost of LSAs. Provided they pass the trust certification, it’s easier to pay $50 per month than it is to optimize and bid for placement in the top three LSAs.

Conversely, we may see larger advertisers doing LSAs and smaller business marketers choosing the $50 fee, although LSA advertisers get the benefit of both placement at the very top of search results — if they’re successful that is — and the badge on their listings.

The presence of the Google Guaranteed badge on the profile and Local Pack may confer a consumer-trust advantage that will result in higher CTRs. I’ve asked Google about this directly, but the company declined to share any performance data. I suspect however, that organic listings featuring the Google Guaranteed badge do or will see better response rates.

Why we care. LSAs are a potentially disruptive program for many local advertisers. LSAs are both simpler and more “foolproof” than traditional Google text ad campaigns and even the largely automated Local Campaigns. Despite bidding, there are no keywords, no extensions and no ad copy to write. And attribution is much less of an issue because the contact or transaction is captured on the landing page, so it’s effectively a closed loop.