Google Local Services Ads Setup & Optimization

Google has nearly 90% of the search market. That’s great for them, but puts them in the position of always looking for ways to extract more advertising dollars from the market, and what better way to do that than create a new category of ad?

If you aren’t in one of the categories Google offers these for, you may not have heard of it yet. They are called Local Services Ads and are designed for service type businesses that operate in localized regions. Google started showing these a couple of years ago for businesses like plumbers and electricians. They continue to roll out new categories, first testing them in a couple of markets, then taking them nationwide.

Here’s the list from Google of Home Service and Professional service categories:

google local services ads business categories

Instead of paying for impressions, clicks, or conversions, you pay for leads.

The advantage of these ads is that they show up at the top of the page in Google search results. They are above the regular Google Ads, map pack and organic results.

If I do a search for a plumber, it looks like this:

search results of the term plumber in Google

Google Guaranteed Badge

We get 3 local services ads at the top, then the Google Ads, the map pack, and the organic results. Google ads credibility to these ads with the Google Guaranteed badge or the Google Screened badge. So the business gets the benefit of Google’s stamp of approval.

Notice that there is only basic information, starting with name, reviews, the Guarantee check, the area they serve and if they are open.

Hover over the ad and additional information appears, typically the phone number and years in business. The phone numbers are tracking numbers provided by Google.

When you click on one of these ads you are taken to a landing page provided by Google. There is additional information about the services offered, the business background, and reviews.

Google Screened Checkmark

When we do a search for divorce lawyer, the result is similar, but instead of the Google Guaranteed badge it’s a Google Screened checkmark.

Google is able to offer a guaranteed or screened badge because they do a background check on the business and owner or owners.

And as you can tell your Google reviews are really important. The number of reviews and the overall rating are going to play a big role in how well your ad performs. And if your ad doesn’t perform well against the competition, Google will show it less often.

If you currently run Google Ads, you know that the direction they are going is towards more control of the advertising process.

The Local Services Ads are a perfect example. Google controls the ad message and you don’t choose keywords, just categories to advertise to.

When you get a call, it’s recorded and there is a dashboard to track the calls and listen to the results.

Google Local Services Ads Setup Process

Let’s talk about the set-up process. It isn’t that complicated, but there are some oddities you need to know to avoid issues down the road.

The first is don’t use the same email you used to set up your Google Ads account. The best way to make sure you avoid conflicts within Google’s system is to create a new gmail account just to be used for the local services ads. Once it’s set up, go into the Gmail settings and set up an auto-forwarder so emails will be sent to your primary email. That way you won’t miss important notifications during the set up process and lead notifications once the account is up and running.

gmail on google

When you have the gmail account set up, search for Google local services ads. Watch out, because it’s easy to end up at the Google Ads site. Local Services Ads is considered a separate business unit, and Google wants to minimize crossover. So here we are – click get started.

Google Local Services Ads homepage

Now we are at the Eligibility check – enter your state and the zip code, then open the drop down menu to see the list of available job categories.

Select your business type, then enter the new gmail. Down at the bottom of the page is a phone number to call for help if you run into trouble during the set-up process. These Google reps are specifically for Local Services Ads. That’s all they do. Don’t be afraid to call, they are there to help and the wait times are usually short. I’ve found that calling first thing in the morning often gets me to a rep with no waiting at all.

Next is the Business Verification page. Here is a list of the tasks to be completed to set up the account.

First is the headshot. You’ll need to upload a head shot of the business owner that’s at least 500×500 and decent resolution. I’ve had headshots that meet all of Google’s criteria rejected. If that happens, change the file name and re-upload.

In this example the account is for a law firm, so a Law License is needed. Whatever profession you are creating an ad for will require the account number from the licensing agency.

Now comes the Background check. This is where both business and personal information for the owner will entered. When going through this section use only the gmail address you set up for this account. Google uses 3rd party services to do the background checks. The guidance provided can be confusing, so once again, call Google if you hit any stumbling blocks.

The background check can take anywhere from a week to 2 or 3 weeks.

Next is customer reviews. You most likely won’t need to do anything here. Google will automatically search for your Google reviews and find them on Google Maps or Google My Business. You must have at least one review on Google or you won’t be able to set up a Local Services Account.

As I mentioned before, the number of reviews you have, the overall review score, and the recency of reviews will impact how often you show up in search results.

If you don’t have a process in place for generating new reviews consistently, you’ll want to start one. This is one of the primary metrics Google uses to determine how often your ad shows.


Google is next going to have you set up bidding information and budget.

There are two options for bidding. Maxmimize Leads, where Google sets your bid and will try and get you the most leads within your budget. The other choice is to set a Max Per Lead cost. You’ll choose the maximum amount you are willing to pay for a lead.

When you’ve set your bidding, Google will tell you the “Weekly target” number of leads that are possible. The number is expressed as a range. There is no guarantee of leads, and the more competitive the segment you are advertising in the harder it is to get leads.

Billing information is fairly self-explanatory.

Importance Of Customer Service

Here is an important piece of information that Google mentions only in passing during set-up, and that’s customer service. They have a vague statement that “reviews and customer service” impact your results.

Here’s what that means: if calls to the tracking number that Google assigns to your account go unanswered, go to an answering machine, or it takes many rings for someone to pick up, that will count against you. Google uses their algorithm to assign a score to each advertiser, but that number isn’t shared with you and me.

If you have 24 hour live phone service, go ahead and tell Google they can show ads all the time.

But if you have an answering machine, limit your hours to when you have people available to answer the phone.

Something else to be aware of: when setting up a new local services account, ads will often start showing before the background check is completed. So when you are setting up the account, don’t submit your information before you are ready to handle leads.

Disputing Bad Leads

Once your ads are up and running, you’ll need to listen to your leads. Remember, they are recorded. The reason you want to listen to your leads is to decide if you should dispute a call. When a lead isn’t really a lead, such as someone that is already a client that googled your business just to get a phone number, you can tell Google that through the dispute process.

Click in the upper right corner to dispute, and the drop down menu of reasons for the dispute will appear. Select the one that is most accurate. Leads need to be disputed within 30 days. After that, the Dispute button disappears.

Google will review your dispute and approve or deny it. If denied, there is no appeal process. There is no rhyme or reason why disputes are approved or declined – you just have to calculate the value of a customer to determine if the overall cost is worth it. In most cases it will be. You will be notified by email for each lead in real time, and dispute resolutions take anywhere from a day to 8 weeks. The process seems to have sped up considerably in the Fall of 2021.

The process isn’t overly difficult once your Google Local Services account is set up. But like all advertising, if you aren’t paying attention, you won’t maximize your results.

Need Help?

Need help with your Google Ads or Local Services Ads campaigns? Schedule an appointment with me to talk about opportunities for improving your results. Click here to access my calendar:

Thanks for reading. Feel free to post questions in the comment section below.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *