Google, the king of search has just released a introduced a second screening program for professional services.
Google Screened is currently a test program limited to a few verticals in a few select markets with limited categories: lawyers (estate planning, immigration), financial planners and realtors in San Diego and Houston.
Businesses must also possess a star rating on Google of 3.0 or greater to be eligible. There’s no application fee for Local Services advertisers (in the relevant categories and markets). If Google decides to expand the program, there are dozens of available subcategories, including marketing and advertising services.
Google Guaranteed, by comparison, is now widely available and covers a broad range of home services categories, including HVAC, appliance repair, house cleaning, painting, locksmiths, plumbers and others. And if a consumer connects or books through Google, the program offers a money-back guarantee of up to $2,000 (lifetime cap) if consumers aren’t satisfied with the provider’s work.
Similar background checks. To become Google Guaranteed, businesses must pass a background check and have their license and insurance details verified. Google Screened businesses must also pass a similar license and background checks (civil and criminal). However, there’s no satisfaction or money-back guarantee with Google Screened.
Google Guaranteed or partner-screened status (HomeAdvisor, Porch) is a requirement to appear in Google Assistant results on the smartphone and Google Home devices. That does not currently extend to professional services; so lawyers, for example, don’t need to be Google Screened to appear in Google Assistant results. However, that could change to be more in line with Google Guaranteed should Google continue to expand Google Screened (I’m speculating).
Why we should care. While both are useful in helping to protect consumers, there’s also a very close link between the Google badging programs and Local Services Ads. In the case of Google Guaranteed, badging and results were decoupled for Google Home, in part to keep the company from running run afoul of FTC ad disclosure rules.
It will be interesting to see, going forward, whether Google Screened expands and whether Google makes it available (as it has with Google Guaranteed) to non-advertisers. And if it does, the next question is whether the company offers any rankings boost to pre-screened companies as a defense against fake local listings and spam — which is precisely what it’s doing with Google Guaranteed and the Google Assistant.