Google Assistant: Local Service Ads Based On Relevance, Not Paid

Google late Wednesday called out some details in a recent article, which the company felt “was a little confusing” and did not accurately explain how its virtual assistant in Google Home -- as well as versions for Google Assistant-enabled devices such as Android smartphones and iPhones -- serves up information about local service recommendations.

“We’re not serving up any local services ads in the Assistant,” wrote a Google spokesperson to Search Marketing Daily.

The ranking of local providers listed on the Assistant is based on the relevant results from verbal queries, such as “Okay, Google, find me a plumber in Huntington Beach.”

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The recommendations, returned from the verbal search, are not paid or sponsored ads and are not monetized, the spokesperson explains. In addition, there is no marketing program that ties audible listings to Google Ads. The two are completely separate.

Any business can become part of the program. The idea is to help consumers in the United States find local providers such as electricians, plumbers and carpenters.

Any local provider can become eligible to show up in those results by going through Google’s verification process and earning the Google Guarantee badge -- which is completely free but is only available in the U.S., at least for now.

The Google Guarantee badge is a verification process and money-back guarantee promise up to a certain amount. Local providers don’t need to participate in Google’s advertising programs to obtain the badge. Google Assistant selects a small group of these providers to return as recommendations to verbal queries, when available in a category that best matches the user’s search request.

The local provider placement and ranking in the results on Assistant is not based on payment to Google or participation in Google Ads, but it does provide a list of recommendations. This is separate from the Local Services ads program, although there may be an overlap in results.

Consumers using a voice-activated speaker like Google Home or on an Android device will get an email with the recommendations. Choosing to call one of the providers, the Assistant will call directly from the device.

Reuters insists its required that companies displaying their information on Google must be clear about the results and whether they have underlying financial commitments with the search engine.

The assistant also makes recommendations through HomeAdvisor, but Google does not disclose that either, per Reuters. Google does disclose that those results come from partners, but does not say they act as paid referral services. 

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