Full Beta testing for Google’s “Google Guaranteed” program just launched in the San Francisco area today for select professional services.
This development by Google has BIG implications for doctors, dentists and other healthcare providers and signals what’s to come for those practices who want to remain at the top of the search results.
Initial reports from peers around in the SEO industry show some businesses, like electricians have already seeing large increases in web traffic already. While others that had ranked high previously have been completely filtered out of local search results.
This has nothing to do with any structural or technical changes to their SEO either. With Google Guaranteed, Google has taken a strategic decision to add another lever or limiting factor (depending on how you look at it) that has less to do with content and links and more to do with the “quality” of the business listed.
Today, Google Guaranteed is limited to select industries in the San Francisco market, but you can expect that the healthcare industry is undoubtedly going to be included once refinements have been made.
It’s important to prepare and take advantage of the changes before it’s rolled out everywhere. Let’s take a closer look.
What is Google guaranteed?
Google Guaranteed is the certification given to businesses that are registered and approved for Google Home Services. It’s primary purpose is to provide clarity to a searcher as to which businesses are most reputable, local, and of course provide services that the searcher needs. This means that searchers (like those searching for medical treatment) who find a business through this service are highly likely to want to engage.
It is not at all far-fetched to think that the label of “home services” will be duplicated for “medical services”, because reputation seriously matters when you’re seeking medical treatment. Again, the main purpose of the certification, is to provide search results to users searching Google for professional service businesses with the greatest reputation (measured by Google Reviews).
Google knows these higher converting searchers are more valuable to a business compared to the free version of the local 3-pack (Google Maps) that exists today.
The Google Guaranteed certification requires a background check for all employees of the business. The current program is free (where available in beta). It is not clear if there will be a cost associated with participating in the program when it is launched. It’s currently speculated to be a premium replacement for the free local 3-pack because Home Services features valuable enhancements compared to what you would normally get from your local 3-pack results. For example, things like qualified lead distribution for searchers who are seeking the types of services and treatments that a business or medical practice provide.
Any business, anywhere in the country can currently register for this service, and in conjunction with that, we are recommending that all of our clients also claim and optimize Google My Business profiles for all of their practitioners and practices. These profiles are used to generate search results for both Home Services and the local 3-pack.
Once these profiles are setup, they need to be optimized and available for reviews (which is another way Google is refining the search results to the most bona fide provider).
Just like Facebook, as implied by Mark Zuckerberg in his nearly 6000 word essay last week; Google knows that people want to connect to their search results quickly with a high degree of relevance. Also, akin to Facebook, Google’s aim with these changes is to become the largest-most-comprehensive-yellow-pages in the world and to be the greatest communications-business-and-marketing tool all rolled into one.
This is especially the case for those seeking professional services – and healthcare related services. There is a legitimate need for prospective patients seeking medical treatment to find the “best” or “highest quality” practice capable of providing services to treat their condition.
It’s quite easy to see how Google Guaranteed changes things for those businesses participating in the program.
Here are the new local search results for “electricians in san francisco”:
You’ll notice that Google now:
- brings up a new local 3 pack box titled “Electricians serving San Francisco”,
- that the business results are now on the left side,
- and that the map highlights (in a salmon-ish color) a very specific “Service area” that Google deems as the ideal reach of the respective business.
Lastly, the Green Shield Checkmark, the “Google Guaranteed” – a badge of approval!
What’s behind these changes?
Changes to Paid Advertising in Local Markets (Google PPC)
As a result of the Google Guaranteed program, there is now less space available for Google’s paid advertising (Adwords), and though this might seem counter intuitive, the resulting economics work out wonderfully to drive additional ad revenue to Google, as a decrease in the number of available spaces increases the price of keywords due to increased competition.
Relevance Scores – The Green “Google Guaranteed” Checkmark Shield
Though keyword prices are sure to go up; Google doesn’t want a business to be able to buy their way to the top anymore, it creates less diversified search results that rely solely on the metric of money. In an effort to counter that trend, the opposing metric is a relevance score: enter the Google Guaranteed badge:
- No business or medical practice will be listed in these results without this guarantee.
- Regardless of how sophisticated your online marketing and SEO is, you won’t get verified or listed without this badge.
The idea that Google doesn’t want to enable practices to buy their way to the top might also seem counter intuitive, but larger optics come into play; if Google’s audience of searchers doesn’t engage with a business because they found them in some other way, then their audience will rely less on them. If the audience relies less on them because they were not compelled to click a link found by searching Google, then their advertising product is less valuable, and over a long enough period of time would eventually collapse on itself.
The “Guarantee”: These are the details that Google uses to explain how to resolve service issues with the “Pro” vendor booked through their Guarantee program.
Clicking the title “Serving San Francisco” :
By clicking the new title in the box “Electricians Serving San Francisco”, searchers will now be presented with a form to send a request for service. It’s likely that Google will incorporate this to medical practices so that searchers may book appointments, as they already have integrated companies like ZocDoc.
Similar to moves that Google has made in the past to assist searchers with booking a hotel or flight, Google is moving towards helping searchers interact directly with providers without them having to go directly to your website.
You can see Google’s intent to do this in healthcare when they announced partnerships with ZocDoc, Healthgrades and others that allowed patients to book a participating physician right from the search results, something we covered last year.
So while Google Guarantee is not yet showing for health and medical related search queries, it’s only a matter of time before it does.
When will it be launched?
Though it’s not known exactly when the Google Guaranteed program will be launched nationally, it was rumored to launch in several months, at the end of last year.
What can a medical practice do to take advantage of Google Guarantee?
1. Optimize and Claim Google My Business Profiles for the practice and all practitioners
Part of the way that relevance score is calculated is based on your practices (and each individual practitioners) Google My Business profile. The more optimized, the more complete the profile the more relevant you are to Google.
2. Google My Business review solicitation program
Google specifies a “Reputation Check” as part of the requirements for a business to qualify as a Google Guaranteed Professional.
Therefore the number of reviews, and the review rating level of your Google My Business (and other trusted online profiles) play a critical role in separating your practice from your competition.
The higher the number of positive reviews (above 4.0 seems to be the current benchmark), the more likely you are to be listed in the local 3 pack (Google maps) results. In competitive markets it’s likely that Google will require further metrics to be hit (i.e. at least one 5 star review every 6 months).
It’s important to have a quick and easy program in place to begin collecting positive reviews now, so that when this change goes live you’ve already identified a process to generate reviews.
3. Fill out the Google Guaranteed From Now
Currently only plumbers, electricians, and locksmiths can earn the guaranteed badge. However this is the form to submit your information for your application and is the first step to becoming eligible.
Any further questions or feedback: Feel free to post or share this message. Or contact us directly! We believe that by providing our clients with the most cutting edge technology and services, we will drive the greatest results!