Many people are skeptical of the things they see online – and for good reason! Sometimes photoshopped pictures look more realistic than real life, catfishing (i.e., pretending to be someone else on social media) is so prevalent it spawned a popular tv show, and sophisticated fraudsters can impersonate legitimate credit card companies’ websites to steal unsuspecting victims’ login information. It’s a scary world out there! A few years ago Google introduced the Google Guarantee to help users connect with trustworthy, reputable local businesses offering in-home services. Now, Google is offering a second screening program: Google Screened. If you’re hoping to boost consumer confidence in your in-home services, which screening program do you need to use? Should you be Guaranteed, Screened, or both?
Screening Programs for Local Businesses
Google Guarantee: The Original
Introduced in 2016, Google Guarantee helps protect consumers who are using the search engine to find plumbers, locksmiths, HVAC technicians, painters, cleaners, and a variety of other professionals offering in-home services. Green badges indicate which companies have been vetted by Google, and these help connect users with companies that are trustworthy, legitimate, and insured. The program also provides a money-back guarantee, giving consumers peace of mind.
So when a consumer connects with or books a Google Guaranteed business, the work is backed by a money-back guarantee of up to $2,000 (the lifetime coverage limit for the claim). If a customer is not satisfied with a provider’s work, Google will refund the amount that person paid for the service, as detailed on the job invoice. However, the program does not cover add-on projects, future projects, damages to the property, dissatisfaction with price, frustration with the company’s responsiveness, or any cancellations. When a customer submits a claim to Google, Google contacts the business owner to learn more about the situation, and the business owner is given the opportunity to settle the issue with the customer. After investigating the claim with both parties, Google will decide how to proceed.
“Why did Google decide to offer this program?” you might ask, “What’s in it for them?” Google’s primary goal is to respond to users’ queries with helpful results so that they’ll have positive experiences and continue using Google for online searches. Plus, by offering the Google Guarantee program, Google tempts more companies to sign up for Local Services ads.
How to Sign Up
To sign up for Google Guarantee and secure that valuable green checkmark, businesses must go through a screening and qualification process. To get started, sign up for Local Services ads, which will automatically start you on the path toward a Google Guarantee. Enter the requested information and register with Pinkerton, the detective agency Google has partnered with for background checks.
Pinkerton will then run a background check on you and your employees (including subcontractors), looking at your criminal histories and the validity of your Social Security numbers. Any time you hire a new employee who will enter customers’ homes, that person must pass a background check as well. Your company’s professional licensure, insurance, and civil litigation history will be reviewed as well.
Once you’re approved, you’ll notice the badge above on all of your Google Local ads. This shows potential customers that you’re endorsed by Google and offer Google-guaranteed services. Additionally, your company will be listed at the top of the Local Services search results, along with the other Google Guaranteed businesses. Google ensures that users know what the green checkmark and “Google Guaranteed” label mean by placing a brief explanation at the top of the Local Services page.
Google Screened: The Newcomer
Still in the test program phase as of September 6, 2019, Google Screened is currently limited to a few professional services in two local markets. Right now, lawyers (offering estate planning and immigration services), financial planners, and realtors may sign up for the screening program if they’re based in San Diego or Houston. Qualifying companies and their employees must pass background checks. But unlike Google Guarantee, that isn’t the only stipulation; businesses must also have a star rating of 3.0+ to qualify for Google Screened (unless they are Financial Planners, as this category doesn’t require customer reviews).
Google Screened does not provide a money-back guarantee to customers. However, it does help customers select a business with confidence by showing which professionals have been vetted and which have not.
How to Sign Up
You must sign up with Local Services ads to get started. As with Google Guarantee, all businesses must pass a background check and go through licensure and insurance verification to qualify for Google Screened. Each professional within the business must also pass a license and background check. Additionally, Google will review the business’s star rating to ensure that it’s at or above 3.0.
On Local Service listings, Google Screened businesses have a green checkmark beside their name, as seen below (quite similar to the Google Guarantee program).
Google Guarantee vs. Google Screened
Since Google Guarantee (designed for in-home service providers) and Google Screened (designed for lawyers, realtors, and financial planners) are used by different types of businesses, there shouldn’t currently be any overlap in the services. You don’t need to decide which to use; you only need to confirm that you qualify for one or the other and sign up.
Both screening programs offer a valuable service to consumers, helping them select reputable businesses that they can trust and confidently hire. Google Guarantee goes a step beyond the vetting service, however, providing a money-back guarantee up to $2,000.
Google Guaranteed also works with Google Home (an interactive speaker) and Google Assistant (a hands-free, voice assistant). In fact, it’s a requirement to be Google Guaranteed to appear on Google Assistant results on smartphones and Google Home devices. Keep in mind that Google Home voice results are based solely on organic relevancy, not paid advertising, to ensure that the Federal Trade Commission does not consider them undisclosed ads. With Google Screened, the applicable industries don’t have to be “Screened” to appear in Google Assistant results. Of course, this may change in the future.
Going forward, these programs may expand to include other types of local businesses. In addition, while Google Guarantee and Google Screened currently only work with Google Local advertisers, they could expand to non-advertisers in the future.
Trusting a company you find online can be nerve-racking, but it’s often necessary in tricky situations. For example, what would you do if a water leak in your basement wouldn’t stop? Or you lost the only key to get back into your home? If you didn’t already know of a trusted plumber or locksmith (or know someone you could call for a personal recommendation), you would likely trust Google for help. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Wouldn’t you feel safer selecting a business that had been thoroughly vetted by a major company?
So if you work in an eligible profession, consider signing up for Google Guarantee or Google Screened so that prospective customers see that reassuring green badge and consider giving you a chance. With its money-back guarantee, Google Guarantee is especially enticing to prospective customers. But both programs provide a way for you to stand out from the competition and make your Google Local listing more appealing to your target audience. Plus, you’ll rank higher on the search results page, which may further increase your website traffic and leads.
Especially if you’re already running Google Services ads, don’t hesitate to take advantage of this free service.
Interested in becoming Google Guaranteed or Google Screened? If you need help getting started, check out 417 Marketing. Our team of knowledgeable, creative, and passionate professionals specializes in SEO, web design and maintenance, and Google Ads, and we have successfully completed over 700 websites since our inception in 2010. Click here to contact us and learn more about what we can do for your company.