What Google’s Expanding Local Search Ads Feature Means for Your Business

A recent study provides some insight into how these new ads are affecting all search engine results

What Google’s Expanding Local Search Ads Feature Means for Your Business

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Google’s Local Search Ads, or LSAs, have rolled out for plumbers in over 70 markets, but they’re still relatively new to the scene.

Like most of the marketing world, we’ve been wondering how LSAs would affect clicks for other areas of the search engine results pages, or SERPs, and thanks to BrightLocal, we now have some data to pick through.

BrightLocal recently published a study on SERP clicks with and without LSAs for locksmiths, garage door contractors, house painters, plumbers and towing companies in the San Francisco area. We’ve parsed through the results, outlined the plumbing vertical stats, compared the plumbing results to the average results across verticals and put together a few key takeaways. Whether LSAs have rolled out in your area or not, this is info you’ll want to check out.

Before we dive in, a few notes:

  • The study we’re pulling data from compared clicks in SERPs when LSAs were present and when they were absent. We’ll be looking at those differences. 
  • Keep in mind that this study only looked at plumbing businesses in the San Francisco area. Results can and will likely vary depending on where you’re located in the U.S. For example, Yelp is an incredibly popular directory site on the West Coast, so it’s no surprise that it held the first spot in organic search results. That may not happen in other areas of the country.
  • This study only evaluated click rates on desktop, not mobile.
  • If LSAs haven’t yet rolled out in your area and you’re not sure what we’re talking about, they’re ads that allow “Google Guaranteed” businesses to get leads directly through Google. They’re not the same as Google pay-per-click ads (PPCs) because you only pay for qualified leads, not clicks. For a rundown on what Google LSAs are, what they look like, what’s considered a qualified lead and more, check out this tutorial that was published back in April 2018. 
  • We do throw out a lot of numbers and stats, so if your brain gets a little mucky or you just haven’t had enough coffee yet to dive deep, skip ahead to the takeaways at the end of each section.

Let’s get started. 

Clicks on LSAs

While they may be new to the scene, LSAs are getting some clicks, and we expect that clicks will increase with searcher familiarity. What are the current stats?

When they were present in the local plumber search results, they accounted for 12.9 percent of the clicks. The very first LSA (the top left ad) received 6.1 percent of those clicks, while the third spot received 4.6 percent and the center spot received 2.2 percent. Both the first and second business had a review rating of 4.7 stars, while the third business had a review rating of 4.8 stars.

What’s noteworthy about these results when compared with the overall results of the study (which included four other verticals) is that on average, the LSA in the second spot got more clicks than the LSA in the third. This was not so with plumbers.

So what caused things to differ for plumber LSAs? Well, the slightly higher review rating that the third business had could have been the reason for the extra clicks, but it’s also possible that the word “Discount” in the third LSA was more enticing than the word “Economy” in the second LSA.

The takeaway: If LSAs are available in your area, it’s worth experimenting with them because people are clicking. But even if they’re not yet available, work on getting your review ratings up so you’re ready to beat the competition when they do enter the scene.

Clicks on PPC Ads

The data from the study shows that when LSAs are present in plumber search results, top PPC ad clicks do drop, but not drastically. 

Top PPC ad click percentages when LSAs are absent.
Top PPC ad click percentages when LSAs are absent.
Top PPC ad click percentages when LSAs are present.
Top PPC ad click percentages when LSAs are present.

What’s curious about the results is that the first top PPC ad received just as many clicks (9.4 percent) when LSAs were present as it did when LSAs were absent. The number of clicks on the second top PPC ad, however, was cut in half (4.9 percent vs. 2.4 percent) when LSAs were present.

This wasn’t consistent with the average results that included all verticals. When all verticals were considered, both the first and second top PPC ad clicks were slightly lower when LSAs were present.

Average results (with all verticals considered):

  • No. 1 top ad with LSAs = 8.5 percent
  • No. 1 top ad without LSAs = 10.5 percent
  • No. 2 top ad with LSAs = 2.6 percent
  • No. 2 top ad without LSAs = 3.6 percent

What about bottom PPC ads? Well, the results were pretty bleak whether LSAs were present or not. When LSAs were shown in search results, the very bottom PPC ad was the only one out of the three that received clicks, and it only accounted for 0.3 percent of clicks.

When LSAs were absent, again, only the very last PPC ad was clicked and that number dipped even lower to 0.2 percent. Surprisingly, these numbers were higher than the average, where click rates sat at 0.1 percent.

The takeaway: Regardless of whether or not LSAs have rolled out in your area, it’s still smart to make PPC ads a part of your marketing strategy. There is one caveat though: If you’re using PPC ads to bring in leads, make sure you have the budget to get those top positions in search results. Very few people are scrolling down and clicking the ads in the bottom of search results, so those ads are unlikely to bring many leads. There’s a lot of competition for plumbers, so you tend to need a higher budget for PPC than other home service verticals do. Since you’re spending all that money, you better be sure you’re closing as many of those leads as possible.

Clicks on Map Results and Local Pack Results

Are map results and the local pack getting less love when LSAs are present? Only slightly less love.

When LSAs were present, the map results for plumbers received 1.5 percent of clicks, which is only 0.3 percent fewer clicks than the map received when LSAs were not present in search results.

The local three pack that’s directly below the map still captured 32.7 percent of clicks when LSAs were present, which is only 2.1 percent fewer clicks than the local pack received when LSAs were not present. So, not much difference here either.

Map and local pack with LSAs in search results.
Map and local pack with LSAs in search results.
Map and local pack without LSAs in search results.
Map and local pack without LSAs in search results.

What's notable is that the businesses in the first and second positions in the local pack received far more clicks than the business in the third position, regardless of whether or not LSAs were present.

Why do we think that is? According to the study, 51 percent of searchers say that review rating determined where they clicked in the local pack. The business in the third position did have the lowest review rating of the three, so that could explain its low click rate, although having the highest review rating didn’t lead to more clicks for the business in the second position over the one in the first position.

Another interesting finding is that, when compared to the average results (which included all five verticals studied), positions one and two in the plumber local pack received higher than average clicks, with and without LSAs.

The takeaway: The local pack is still an important place to be, especially the first spot. Local signals like proximity to searcher and relevancy go a long way in getting you into the local pack, but you certainly can’t deny the importance of reviews when it comes to getting clicks. If you don’t have a strategy in place to help you consistently bring in great reviews for your business, you need to get on it ASAP. Reviews are not going anywhere. In fact, they seem to be growing in importance each and every year.

Clicks on Organic Search Results

Finally, let’s look at how organic search results — the unpaid results that must earn their place — are affected by LSAs. 

Without LSAs in search results for local plumbers, organic results claimed 49.1 percent of clicks. With LSAs, organic still saw 40.9 percent of the clicks. In other words, as of now, organic isn’t suffering too much from the presence of LSAs. One could speculate that this will change as searchers become more familiar with LSAs, and the results could certainly be different on mobile where people are a little less willing to scroll. Only time will tell.

Organic click percentages with LSAs.
Organic click percentages with LSAs.
Organic click percentages without LSAs.
Organic click percentages without LSAs.

What is notable currently is that the websites that rank second and third in organic results get significantly fewer clicks when LSAs are present than they do when LSAs are absent. Also notable, the first and third organic positions when LSAs were present and absent were directory sites: Yelp and HomeAdvisor. Both received more clicks than the business website that claimed the No. 2 spot.

When people in the study were asked why they clicked on the organic result they clicked on, 31 percent of searchers said they clicked because it was a directory/listing site. Additionally, 30 percent of people in the study clicked an organic result because of the link content.

The takeaway: Organic rankings still matter greatly, but in addition to having a well-optimized, user-friendly website, you need to make sure that the titles and descriptions in your links are enticing and informative. It doesn’t matter how great your website looks if the link doesn’t get the searcher to click through to it. You also need to make sure your business has listings on the directory sites that are most important in your area. Yelp may not be claiming the No. 1 spot where you’re located, but do some Googling and figure out what directory sites are showing up time and again. If you don’t have a listing on those sites, get one up ASAP.

In Summary

LSAs are here and coming, and we suspect that, as people get more familiar with LSAs, what they are, and what it means to be “Google Guaranteed,” the number of clicks on those ads will likely increase. This may not be true for everyone, because many searchers have conditioned themselves to scroll beyond the ads and down to the local pack and organic results. But if you’re using ads to generate leads, it’s worth giving LSAs a try.

Have you had great success with LSAs? A terrible experience? We’d love to hear about it. Shoot us an email at help@sparkmarketer.com

About the Authors

Carter Harkins and Taylor Hill are the co-founders of Spark Marketer, a Nashville, Tennessee-based digital marketing company that works primarily with service businesses. They’re also the co-hosts of the "Blue Collar Proud (BCP) Show," a podcast that’s all about having and living the blue-collar dream, and the co-authors of the book, Blue Collar Proud: 10 Principles for Building a Kickass Business You Love. Both regularly speak at service industry trade shows and conferences across the nation. Visit www.facebook.com/sparkmarketewww.facebook.com/bcpshow or www.facebook.com/groups/bluecollarproudnation.


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