Google is in the process of shifting their relationship with home service businesses that advertise through them. Here’s a breakdown of the current requirements and the implications of being a “Google Guaranteed” business.
If you’re a business that enters people’s homes or deals with other types of secured property, Google wants to know you are trustworthy, insured, and legitimate, otherwise they won’t allow you to advertise. If they find you are all of these things, they’ll endorse you as a Google Guaranteed business.
If you’re a career locksmith or garage door repairman, you probably never considered that you’d be getting checked out by the Pinkerton Agency. And yes, that’s the same Pinkerton’s that ran a personal security service for Abraham Lincoln and chased Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid out of the country.
Google works with Pinkerton Consulting and Investigations, Inc. to run background checks on businesses looking to advertise on their Local Service Ads (LSA; formerly know as Home Service Ads) program, which we’ve written about already.
In this post, we’d like to delve more into background checks, which (as of this writing) are creating quite a bit of confusion.
Many businesses are wondering about the huge shift in Google’s advertising and verification process and what it means for them. Let’s get some answers.
Locksmiths, Leads and Reviews
Last year, Google decided to crack down on a scam involving locksmiths.
It went like this. Someone would get locked out of their house, and do a quick Google search for a locksmith. They’d click on an ad for what looked like an inexpensive local service.
However, their call would be routed to an offshore call center that would dispatch someone local to their door. This person would just drill the lock open without trying anything else, then slap people with a ridiculous fee for the service.
To crack down on this scam, Google started running background checks on locksmiths to make sure they were real businesses employing people who could pass a criminal background check.
Fast forward to today, and any business that enters consumers’ homes must pass through a verification process.
This did not use to be part of Google’s purview. They just used to be a search engine.
However, their business model isn’t just about delivering results, it’s about delivering results people are happy with. When it comes to home services, they realized that if people are being scammed by businesses they found on Google, they’d stop using it for searches.
Background checks are a convoluted process, and as of this writing, it remains to be seen how well this will work. But it is the current policy for LSA businesses. It’s required for locksmiths and garage door services to advertise in any way on Google Adwords.
These types of ads are also being set up so businesses can use a pay-per-lead system and so that reviews play an essential role in how businesses get ranked.
Again, Google realizes that consumers like review content and weigh it heavily when deciding on home services. They are also responding to competition from other lead-generation sites, like HomeAdvisor, that use a pay per lead model.
Passing the Background Check
In a nutshell, you and your employees (including subcontractors) must pass the Pinkerton background check. Here’s what’s included:
For each worker, the background check includes inquiries about Social Security number validity and criminal history (including cross-checks against national sex offender and terrorist/sanctions registries). At the company level, the process also includes professional license and insurance verifications, as well as civil litigation history (including judgments and liens from federal and state courts).
This is how they describe the criteria for passing the background check:
Full, complete, and accurate answers to all background check and related questions.
Honest and up-to-date disclosures about government documents (Examples: Social Security numbers, federal or state identification numbers, professional licenses, or insurance certifications).
No criminal history that demonstrates a risk to the safety or security of persons or property.
No civil litigation history that demonstrates negligent or substandard performance of services.
Your company also may be disqualified for any other reason consistent with the General Google Criteria or Minimum Provider Requirements. Eligibility decisions are made at the company level, not at the individual employee, contractor, subcontractor, or worker level. Example: You own a business with 10 workers who clean customers’ homes. You work solely in the office, not in the field. Eligibility will be based on the results of your background check, the background checks of all 10 workers who clean customers’ homes, and the company-level check of your business (for valid licensure, insurance, and civil litigation history).
All workers that go into customers’ homes must pass the background check. You have to update Pinkerton any time the status of a worker changes or you hire a new employee.
The Google Guarantee
Say you’re looking for a plumber in Los Angeles. Here are the results of your search:
google home ads results
They explain what a Google guarantee is at the top, and the top listings are all highly rated and have the Google guarantee trust badge.
Who do you think leads are going to choose?
For LSA, having the Google guarantee is compulsory. It shows you’re pre-screened and insured. It states that you’ll stand by your work and refund the customer if there is an issue.
Prepare Your Business
If you’re a home service business or business that deals with any type of on-site or secured access, prepare yourself for the Pinkerton’s. Make sure all your compliance and insurance paperwork is in order. Don’t hire anyone with a criminal background. A lot is riding on you passing this verification process.
Also, start getting more reviews on Google. Provide outstanding work, and get people to acknowledge it with written reviews.
Being a Google guaranteed business with a strong review profile is how you’ll rank in paid search and do lead-generation through Google. Without these elements, you’ll quickly fall out of the HSA search results.