Google is Testing Upgraded GMB Listings: What This Means for Local Businesses

Monday, July 27, 2020 | By Tim Stoddart

Google My Business

This week, Google was reported to begin offering upgraded Google My Business listings for $50 a month. Although the program has yet to be officially announced by Google, this subscription billing model seems to bring to life an idea that Google has explored before – that having a green Google Guaranteed badge on your profile will make you stand out from the competition. But, is this investment really worth it? Here’s what we know.

The Google Guaranteed Business Program: How Did It Start?

The Google Guaranteed Business program isn’t new – what’s new is the $50/month subscription package. Google Guaranteed was originally introduced with Google ads to help promote a higher level of trust between consumers and business advertisements. However, since the launch of the program, it has continued to grow and evolve into a program that qualifies local businesses and providers for selective inclusion in Google Home search results.

The idea of paying a monthly subscription fee for GMB listings isn’t new. In August 2019, Google sent out surveys to many local businesses to determine whether or not they would pay a monthly subscription fee in exchange for specialized and backed service listings. The survey proposed four different subscription options with prices ranging from $25-60/month for a variety of different features. Some of the features mentioned in the surveys include background checks, customer support, lead generation from competitor profiles, verified and featured reviews, and even the option to promote a “book now” button. 

Prior to this survey, Google had already monetized local ads using Google Adwords, so moving on to an optional, subscription-based badge offer seems like the next logical step.

How the Upgraded Google My Business Google Guarantee Works

On top of paying $50 a month, businesses will have to meet Google Guaranteed’s eligibility rules and pass background and licensing checks in order to qualify for the badge. In addition, Google will back the services that the business provides under its Google Guarantee. According to Google

“If you’re backed by the Google Guarantee, and your customers (that came to your business through Google) aren’t satisfied with work quality, Google may refund the amount paid for the service.”

This means, if applicable, Google may cover claims on job invoices for up to $2,000 for businesses who qualify for the Google Guarantee and whose services are booked through Google Local Services. After a customer files a claim regarding one of your covered services, Google contacts you to discuss ways to mediate the situation. Upon investigation, Google may decide to cover certain claims with limitations and restrictions.

Right now, the Google Guarantee is only available for businesses that complete a thorough screening and qualification process through the Local Services Ads program. But, the upgraded GMB profiles will now integrate these features into eligible and paying business listings.

In lieu of the trust verification badge and the Google Guarantee, there are additional terms and agreements relating to the surrendering of the right to jury trials and class action lawsuits while resolving disputes and the use of binding arbitration.

The Significance of the Google Guaranteed Badge

Trust is one of the most important factors that healthcare professionals and other businesses must keep in mind. When looking for a healthcare provider or other service, people want to hire a service provider that they trust. This is why people consider patient reviews before choosing a dentist, look for that blue check-mark next to Twitter profiles to weigh the accuracy of the information on social media, and rely on word-of-mouth recommendations from trusted friends. They want vetted information from verified sources.

Other business listing and review platforms, such as Yelp and Angie’s list already provide variations of trust badges on businesses’ profiles who have been verified and vetted. Why? To build trust. If a customer is comparing two similar businesses, and one has the upgraded badging and the other does not, it’s likely to signal to that customer that the profile with the badge is more trustworthy than the other. This means that businesses without a trust badge may lose customers due to being seen as less trustworthy or unverified.

You’ve probably seen the blue checkmark on Twitter or Instagram that indicates verified profiles. You might look for this to decipher a celebrity’s social media account from a fan account.

Yelp offers verified licenses for qualifying service providers, indicated by a blue shield with a checkmark.

And, Angie’s list uses a black shield with a checkmark to indicate screened and approved service providers.

So, what does this look like coming to Google’s upgraded GMB listings? A Google My Business Product Expert, Tom Waddington, tweeted a screenshot of Google’s new offer:

While the upgraded profiles seem to be in a testing phase and have not been officially announced by Google, it could be an effective way to weed out fake or uncertified local listings. However, it’s also a steep price to pay for local businesses that depend on GMB for winning local business.

How Upgraded GMB Profiles Will Affect Local Traffic

Right now, there’s no evidence that paying for an upgraded GMB profile will affect local search rankings. However, it’s not a good look if your competitors have a trust badge and you don’t. If you’re searching or a plumber on Yelp, you would much rather prefer one with a verified license because it indicates a valid and up-to-date trade license, allowing customers to make safe and confident decisions. In fact, Angie’s List estimates that businesses that have a Verified License badge earn 24% more customer engagement than those who do not.

Your average customer isn’t going to see the Google Guaranteed Badge and know that only eligible companies who pay a monthly fee have the badge on their profile. Instead, they are going to view it as what it is designed to be – a symbol of trust.

Still, as other SEO analysts have noted, Google Search and Google Ads are separate for a reason. Google search allows search engine marketing teams to develop creative strategies to help their clients rank for local search terms. Google Ads, on the other hand, is all about generating revenue from targeted advertisements. 

The idea of charging for upgraded GMB listings is being highly criticized as a move by Google to further maximize on their ad revenue by pushing their Local Services Ads program on businesses and SEO agencies alike. In the end, it’s unlikely that an upgraded GMB listing will change your organic search rankings – but it could very well affect the way users interact with your GMB profile.

Key Points

In summary:

  • Google is testing an upgraded Google My Business profile option for $50 a month
  • The monthly fee would place a trust badge on your GMB profile if your business passes the screening process
  • If applicable, your services would be backed by the Google Guarantee
  • Being in the testing phase, this offer may not apply or be available to everyone

Although the upgraded Google My Business profiles offer consumers with a sense of trust and credibility when searching for a local business, the move is likely with the intent to get businesses more interested in using Local Services Ads, a pay-per-lead advertising platform by Google. If the trust badge becomes a popular tool, upgraded business profiles will likely become necessary across the board in order for local businesses to compete with the rest.

These upgraded GMB profiles are in the testing phase and aren’t available to just anyone. For now, they’re probably only available to certain local businesses that are already a part of the Local Services Ads program – so if you’re not seeing this offer just yet, it’s nothing big to sweat. If Google decides to run with it and the trust badge proves valuable, the monthly fee could hit already struggling local businesses as the upgraded profile could very well become crucial for a successful GMB strategy.

For more information on Google My Business, local search, and the latest digital marketing trends and strategies, visit Stodzy Internet Marketing today.

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Tim Stoddart

Tim Stoddart is the CEO of Stodzy Internet Marketing. He lives in Nashville with his wife and hit adorable pitbull, Alice. Tim loves to write about digital marketing and personal growth. You can learn more at TimStodz.com

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