Google may open the Google Guarantee to some local organic search opportunities – and it could mean big changes to the way small businesses set themselves apart.
In late July, we learned that Google appeared to be offering upgraded profile features to Google My Business members.
For $50 a month, local businesses that aren’t already part of Google’s Local Service Ads (LSA) program are being offered badging and backing similar to the Google Guarantee.
This apparent shift toward offering its SEO muscle to organic search, in addition to paid, is significant.
It also has some interesting ramifications for local businesses and consumers alike.
Let’s break down what this means and where Google’s efforts might go from here.
What Is Happening With Google Guarantee?
First, a quick refresher on Google Guarantee.
The program – previously limited to paying Google Local Service Ads customers – gives a recognizable green badge to reputable, Google-vetted service providers.
But the value of the program lies in leads.
Businesses pay per direct sales lead, which are made possible by a boost in Google’s search rankings.
The guarantee also shields consumers from fraud by offering to refund them if a service provider is illegitimate –making customers who are searching blindly for a service much more likely to opt for the Google-backed option.
The only real differentiator from the guarantee apparently being offered now and what LSAs already have is that it’s Google’s first foray into putting their reputation behind businesses that aren’t already part of their ad program.
It’s also a game-changer for organic search.
For a $50 price point, small businesses are being offered a monumental opportunity to set themselves apart from other service providers in the local area – a difficult feat with the limited budgets and lack of time small business owners typically have.
What’s Behind Google’s Potential Move?
It’s clear this new offering could be a play toward getting more businesses in the funnel for LSAs. And it’s smart.
By giving small businesses a taste of what Google’s guarantee and rankings boost can accomplish, the company is betting they will see the value of the relatively small $50 sum and want to spend more.
But the move may also signal a further departure from Google’s original intent with its guarantee program.
When it initially launched, the feature was aimed at combating spam and fraud.
Google was charging a premium to keep listings safe from competitors and bad actors.
Now, with a launch of the program into organic search and opening the guarantee to more business, it’s clear the company’s intent is more about ensuring the legitimacy of their results and getting more partners into their ad ecosystem.
How Google Guarantee Changes May Affect Consumers and Business
The win for consumers here would be a no-brainer.
More guaranteed businesses mean better searches and less risk when making often big financial decisions on service providers.
Also, if the service hits critical mass in a given geographic area, you can make the argument that Google is helping reduce fraud and bad business practices at the local level.
The effects on local businesses are complex.
On its face, a $50 price point for the guarantee is relatively cheap and likely costs far less than existing local ad efforts.
It’s also probably the cheapest way a small business can improve its organic ranking while converting leads.
But what remains to be seen is how receptive businesses will be.
Naturally, if they begin to lose business to a competitor with a Guarantee badge, it will be clear the $50 is a necessary cost.
However, the move raises concerns that at a certain point, the badges will lose meaning if every business is jumping on board.
It’s also a gamble for Google – by forcing the hands of local businesses, they risk looking greedy.
The Bottom Line on Google Guarantee Changes
The expanded Google Guarantee will be interesting for ad geeks to watch.
Google targeting small businesses outside of its LSA program means the company’s sales funnel is only growing larger.
And the opportunity small businesses now have to improve their organic search leads through the program will offer results marketers will be hungry to get their hands on.
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