How is Google’s Advanced Verification Test Affecting Local Listings?

Google had previously announced that it will be beta testing a new advanced verification process for spammy map categories. These categories include industries like plumbers and locksmiths as Google tends to see a lot of spam from these categories in the map & local results.

The testing was done in the San Diego region where Google asked locksmiths and plumbers in the area to go through the advanced verification process. They had until November 10th to complete the process which uses a third-party company named Pinkerton. Once the process is complete Google will let them know if they have passed the verification. If they do not pass or did not complete the verification Google will remove their listing.

Now that the November 10th deadline has come and passed what is the outcome? Well one of the major difference is the new local 3 pack. Now, search results for “Plumbers San Diego” are showing two different types of “local 3-packs” the new home service 3-pack and the organic 3-pack.

Home Services 3-Pack

The home service 3 pack appears to feature “Sponsored” results. These results show home service pros that appear to be paid, adding “Google may be compensated by some of these pros”. When you then click from the 3-pack to view more home service pros you then get both paid and organic listings. The top listings appear to be paid and have a green check and a “Google Guarantee” next to their names. Although these listings appear to be paid Google has not yet released any information regarding them.

As you click from the 3-pack to view more home service pros, you then find what appear to be both paid and organic listings – although this is yet to be confirmed by Google.

The top listings appear to be paid and have a green check and a “Google Guarantee” next to their names.  As you move down the page we notice what appear to be organic listings; sans green check and Google Guarantee, but a few things lead us to believe that these listings are still being paid for. First, many of them are not listed in their actual location. Many of these businesses store fronts are located in a suburb of San Diego such as Vista or Ramona but are listed as San Diego in the results. And secondly, these listings appear to be using a tracking phone number which also leads us to believe there is a paid aspect.

Organic 3-Pack

As for the organic local 3-pack, nearly 90% of business were dropped, leaving just 7 behind. Before the November 10th deadline, there were about 8 pages of results each with approximately 20 listings. The few business that made the cut and passed the advanced verification process all have storefront locations along with driving direction request buttons. The business that didn’t pass the advanced verification or didn’t have a storefront were dropped from Googles search results.

Another result we are seeing from this advanced verification test is that the home services 3-pack is now appearing in branded searches. So even if someone is searching for your business name competitors can pay to appear in the home service local 3-pack. This is a huge game change to pay per click as your competitors can pay to appear for your name.

Although this test is still in the early stages and only appearing in San Diego for a small percentage of users this could be big things in the future for Home Service Industry. Google has not confirmed any reports resulting from this test. We will continue to monitor the results and any plans Google may have to expand past San Diego.

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