10 Best Practices For Maximum ROI From Local Service Ads
Google Screened for Real Estate
Middleton Elite Coaching clients see a significant ROI with Google Local Services Ads (LSAs). This is one of the best paid lead sources available to real estate professionals due to the flexibility of budget, direct search results capabilities, top-of-page 1 placement, and the ability to pay for only qualified leads.
We’ve outlined what Google Local Service Ads are, how they are utilized, and the best practices for optimizing your ads. If you already advertise using Google LSA’s, click here to skip to our Best Practices for Google Screened to ensure your ads are optimized for a maximum lead performance.
What are Google Local Services Ads
Google LSAs is an ad type geared toward home services and professional categories such as real estate professionals, attorneys, and contractors. With Local Services Ads, you can advertise your business on Google and receive leads directly from potential customers. These leads are phone calls and messages sent to your business through your Local Services ad. You can reply to messages, track bookings, and manage all your leads through your Google ads account.
Unlike Google Search Ads, where you rank based on ad quality and bid strategy, Google Local Services Ads allow you to rank based on the number of reviews, your business hours, and a direct match between the services you provide and the customer searching for these services within your service area.
Google LSAs are extremely easy to maintain once the initial setup has been completed.
Benefits of Local Services Ads
- Opportunity to appear in the Local Services Ads at the top of Google Search results.
- Connect with potential customers searching for services you provide and are most likely to book.
- The tools to get started are simple and help you create a personalized profile.
- You can use the mobile app to communicate with customers at any time.
- You can build trust with customers by displaying the Google Screened badge.
- You only pay only for leads related to your business and the services you offer.
- Customers choose you: You only hear from customers who have specifically selected your profile out of all the rest.
How Google Local Services Ads Work
Google Local Services Ads are shown at the top of Google Search results when people search for your services in your chosen areas.
Potential customers can click or tap on your ad to call your business. Some of the available features in the US are messaging and scheduling a booking with you directly through your ad.
When a customer reaches out, you’ll get an email and notification from the Local Services Ads app. From then on, the lead is yours to respond to and convert into a client.
Google Screened Ads
Google Screened helps real estate professionals build a trusted reputation online. Businesses with this badge go through extensive background and license checks.
You will find the Google Screened badge next to verified businesses on Local Services listings.
All onboarding requirements must be submitted and reviewed to go live with the Google Screened badges. The Google verification process for your business can take some time. To accommodate this, Google Pre-Badge Ads offer a way for providers who have passed preliminary checks to begin getting leads from Local Services Ads while completing the remaining required onboarding checks.
With Pre-Badge Ads, the provider’s Local Services listing will appear in consumer search results but be placed under all providers who have completed all onboarding requirements and have obtained the Google Screened Badge.
The requirements to go live with Pre-Badge Ads are as follows:
- Business and/or state real estate license
- Accepting that you have the appropriate licenses to do business
- Client Reviews with a 3.0 rating or higher
- Completed billing and set your budget
Managing Your Local Services Ads Account
Google Local Services Ads are easy to maintain through your ads account dashboard and/or mobile app. Through your Local Services Ads account dashboard, you can:
- Receive and manage leads
- Communicate with customers about their requests and record notes
- Track your leads
- View reports about your ad’s performance
- Pause your ad if you’re too busy to accept new leads
- Adjust your budget
- Track your bookings (US and Canada only)
- Dispute charges (US and Canada only)
- Ask for reviews (US and Canada only)
How Leads Work
With Local Services Ads, you only pay for leads related to your business or services.
You will set an average weekly budget based on the number of leads you want to receive in any given week. (see tips on setting your budget later in this article). At the time of this article (Aug. 2023), the average cost per lead for real estate professionals is roughly $35-$45 across the US. The cost per lead is lower in smaller markets where there is less competition, and larger in markets with more Local Services Advertisers.
After setup, you can immediately dispute leads you believe aren’t valid. Successfully disputed leads will be credited to you later.
How You’re Charged For Leads
You’re charged for each valid lead you receive through your Local Services ad. Each lead received will count toward your budget.
Once you’ve reached your monthly max, your ad won’t appear for the remainder of the month unless you adjust your budget.
Valid leads are related to your business or services and can occur when customers find your Local Services ad on Google. Valid leads can be generated when:
- You receive a text message or email from the customer (United States and Canada only)
- You receive a voicemail from the customer
- You answer a phone call and speak with the customer
- You receive a missed call (without a voicemail), and you return the customer’s message with a text message, email, or call where you either speak with the customer or leave a voicemail
- You receive a booking request from a customer (United States only)
Disputing Invalid Leads
The ability to dispute charged leads is only available in the United States and Canada and is up to Google’s discretion. If you receive an invalid charge, you have 30 days to dispute the charge in your account. Credit requests for invalid leads won’t be considered after 30 days, and all dispute decisions are final. Before a lead is credited, Google will listen to call recordings to verify that one of the approved reasons below applies.
- Solicitation: The call was from a wrong number, or the caller was trying to sell you a product or service, and the call was from someone seeking employment at your business.
- Spam: The call was pre-recorded or otherwise not from a live human.
- Unrelated to your services: the customer communicated their service type, and the service wasn’t listed on your profile, and you declined the job. The caller was looking for a physical store or buying something other than a service.
- Outside of your service location: The customer communicated their location, and the location wasn’t listed on your profile, and you declined the job.
- Duplicate lead: The customer called to follow up on an existing lead for the same job within 15 days, and both leads were charged.
Google regularly reviews leads and will often automatically credit identified invalid leads.
Sometimes, how a customer contacts you (or how you’ve listed services on your profile) can impact your valid leads.
Examples of valid leads that won’t be credited:
- A lead was received outside of your business hours
- A customer asked for advice to complete a project related to your service
- A customer canceled a booking
- A customer was researching potential projects or prices related to your service
- A customer didn’t respond to your return call or message
- You listed a general service type on your profile but don’t do a specific type of service
One example is that the profile lists that you provide real estate services, and you don’t provide new construction real estate services.
- You generally service an area or provide a service, are temporarily unable or unwilling to provide these services, and they are still listed on your profile
10 Best Practices For Google Local Service Ads
1. Update Your Google Business Profile
Update your Google Business Profile with new and correct information such as:
- Include your business hours.
Tip: Google ranks your ads higher based on how quickly you respond to leads. If you cannot respond to calls after hours, it would not be wise to set your hours to 24/7.
- Years in the business
- Any accolades and awards you have received in the details section of your profile
- All specific services you offer, rather than general services
- Accurate business address and map link
- High-quality photos
The main image for your profile should be an individual photo of you or someone who operates your business. Team photos do not meet the photo guidelines. The main image guidelines are JPEG, PNG file type, 500×500 px resolution, 1:1 aspect ratio, and maximum file size of 10 MB.
Additional images of your logo, your team, your office, etc. Acceptable File types are JPEG, PNG, BMP, ICO, and WEBP—square images with 640 x 640 px resolution or higher. Maximum file size 10 MB.
You must own the rights to all images, and image content must be related to your business. Photos cannot contain clients or customers, cannot include personal information such as email addresses and phone numbers, and cannot be trademarked or watermarked with another business.
Low-quality images will not be accepted.
- A list of products (linked to your IDX website to display active listings)
- Include the unique aspects of your business to stand out
Some examples include minority-owned businesses, open on weekends, locally owned & operated, free consultations, evening appointments by request, etc.
2. Increase Your Google Reviews
Gain as many Reviews as possible and link your Google Business Profile to your Local Service Ads account. Google LSAs require an average rating of 3.0 or higher, and the higher your review count and rating, the more likely you are to receive leads.
3. Include All Services You Provide
It’s important to be specific in the services you provide. Rather than general Real Estate Services, include as many specific services as you offer. This will help you gain qualified leads and can also help you dispute invalid leads. Examples of specific services include Buyer’s Agent, Listing Agent, Luxury Properties, First Time Home Buyers, Investors, Foreclosures, New Construction, Relocation, etc.
4. Define Your Service Areas
Some advertisers successfully expand their service areas to one or more counties rather than listing individual service zip codes. If you are willing to serve all parts of a specific region, your Local Service Ads will benefit from a broad service area over smaller individual service areas.
5. Enable All Contact Features
For advertisers in the US, Google Local Service ads allow leads to contact your business by phone, text messages, and direct booking links (Calendly or similar). Enable a dedicated phone number for each contact method and use as many features as you or your team can handle.
6. Set A Competitive Budget
We recommend setting your bidding to ‘Maximize Leads’ and then setting the weekly budget accordingly rather than using a max price per lead.
Additionally, we recommend setting your weekly budget 1.5-2X higher than you would factor using our formula below. Google will rarely spend all of your weekly budget; however, the higher your budget is, the more leads Google thinks you can take, which will keep your ad showing higher until the budget is spent.
Google Local Service Ads Budget Formula
The formula below is a good practice for setting your weekly budget while ensuring you don’t spend more than you have budgeted for the month. Using our Google Local Service Ads Budget Formula, you will determine your monthly max budget and divide this by the average number of weeks per month.
Max Monthly Budget / Weeks Per Month = Weekly LSA Budget
Example: $2000 / 4 = $500/week
You can estimate the number of leads you will receive weekly by dividing this weekly budget by $40, the current average price per lead in the US for the real estate profession.
Weekly LSA Budget / Avg. Cost Per Lead = Estimated Weekly Leads
Example: $500 / $40 = 12.5 leads per week
If the number of leads is lower than you’d hope to receive per week, increase your weekly budget by 2X and leave your monthly budget the same.
Weekly LSA Budget x 2 / Avg. Cost Per Lead = Increased Weekly Lead Flow
Example: $500 x 2 / $40 = 25 leads per week for $1000
Spending more than your weekly budget in a given week is possible, though you will never spend more than your monthly max. Once you’ve reached your monthly max, your ad won’t appear for the remainder of the month unless you adjust your budget.
In the example above, $1000 is half of the monthly budget, though it can potentially all be spent in week one. If 25 qualified leads called your business in one week and you could convert them, the monthly budget could then be increased, or you can let your monthly budget run out in week two with 50 qualified leads to work with.
As a general rule, you typically want to set a budget 2-3 times what you plan on spending, as Google will rarely spend your entire budget. So, if the goal is to spend $2,000 monthly, you’d want to set a monthly budget of $6,000. Ensure you have the bandwidth to respond timely to the number of leads an increased ad budget might serve.
7. Respond to Leads Quickly
To ensure you continue receiving messages, respond to as many of them as possible, and as quickly as possible, even if you decline to provide the requested service. Your ad ranking may be affected if you regularly fail to answer calls or respond to messages.
8. Immediately Mark Valid Leads as Closed Business
If a lead turns into business, it is best to mark it as closed. This will communicate to Google the speed at which you converted this lead and clear leads from your open leads dashboard. If a lead is invalid, archive it for dispute and promptly take action.
9. Dispute Invalid Leads Promptly
Google allows 30 days to dispute invalid leads. If you have the bandwidth on your team, assign one person to review your LSA account dashboard daily and dispute invalid leads for credit. Google may also review these leads and penalize overuse of the disputing process if it is determined your disputed leads are valid. A best practice is to communicate your inability to help the customer and the reason why during your conversations with nonqualified leads.
10. Avoid Ad Disapprovals
LSAs will stop serving ads that are flagged as disapproved. Common reasons for disapproval are images and expired certifications.
Disapproved images –
Images may be disapproved if they:
- Contain inappropriate content
- Use images you don’t own the rights to
- Include your team
- Include clients and customers
- Include phone numbers and email addresses or are watermarked with other company information
- Headshots are not appropriately cropped. See the example below for the best results.
Expired certifications –
If the certifications and licenses you submitted when setting up your profile expire, submit your renewed certification within your Google Locals Service Ads account before the expiration date to avoid disapproval.
Google Local Service Ads are a great lead source option for real estate professionals- if set up properly and optimized following our best practices. Many of our clients see a 2-10x ROI with dedicated attention to handling lead flow promptly.
We assist our clients in evaluating their current marketing efforts to help drive maximum return. Connect with us if you’d like to learn more about the services we offer as part of our customized coaching programs.
Bill, Debbie, and The MEC Team