Are Local Services Ads Stealing Clicks from Google My Business? A Case Study of 110 Listings - Sterling Sky Inc

Are Local Services Ads Stealing Clicks from Google My Business? A Case Study of 110 Listings

are local service ads stealing clicks from GMB

In September 2020, Google rolled out Local Services Ads (LSA) to lawyers across the United States.  The rollout happened fast and since lawyers generally focus a lot on marketing, we weren’t surprised to see so many law firms sign up for the platform very quickly.

I have heard many people ask if Local Services Ads (LSA) are essentially stealing clicks that would have otherwise gone to the local pack results (Google My Business listings) if the ads weren’t present.  We wanted to see what the data is telling us so far.

Methodology

In this case study, we looked at Google My Business Insights for 110 different listings for various lawyer types.  We looked specifically at discovery searches (not direct) to avoid including branded searches.  We looked at the last 2 months (October & November) and compared it to the 2 months directly before Local Services Ads rolled out (July & August).  We left out September since that was the month when the ads launched so they were not live all month.  We also wanted to see how these trends compared to October and November of 2019 so we included that data as well.

Are Listings in the Local Pack Getting Less Clicks Now?

Yes, but it might not be at drastic as you’re imagining.

Impact of LSA

The average click-through-rate with Local Services Ads present was 3.03%.  Before they were present, it was 3.22%.  So overall, the click-through-rate declined.  We defined click-through-rate as the total actions divided by the total discovery searches.

LSA Click Through Rate - GMB

Are Local Services Ads Stealing More Clicks on Mobile vs Desktop?

At first glance, it might look like Local Services Ads are a lot more prevalent on mobile since they take up almost the entire screen:

Local Services Ads Mobile

To help measure the impact of these ads on mobile devices, we decided to look at the call-through rate to see how that changed the months after Local Services Ads rolled out.  We looked at this because local packs on mobile contain call buttons and not website icons so if mobile was more impacted, we would expect to see less clicks-to-call.

The months before the ads rolled out, the average call-through-rate (call actions /discovery impressions) was 1.32%.  The months after, the call-through-rate was 1.24%.

On the flip side, the click-through-rate for the website specifically (which only shows up on desktop), went down from 1.71% to 1.60%.

Overall, both rates went down almost equally so we didn’t see anything that would make us believe Local Services Ads are impacting mobile SERPs more than desktop.

How Much is this Impacting the Average Business?

When we totaled up what the decrease in click-through-rate meant for the average business in our study, it decreased the total actions by about 5.11 per month.  On average, two of those clicks would have been calls, and 3 of those clicks would have been to the business website.  We saw virtually no impact or change to the number of driving directions requests.  The click-through-rate specifically for driving directions was only 0.19% in October & November of 2020.  This is less than half of what it was in October & November of 2019.  This makes sense considering people aren’t going in-person as much these days.

This graph of a personal injury lawyer shows the common trend we are seeing with driving direction requests in 2020.

But What About Branded Searches?

We only calculated the click-through-rate based on discovery searches because direct searches (aka searches for the particular business location) wouldn’t surface a local pack and wouldn’t surface Local Services Ads.  However, if there was a substantial drop in branded searches, this could potentially decrease the total clicks, thus making the click-through-rate lower.

The number of branded (direct) searches in October and November was 11.71% lower than July and August.

direct searches by month

This drop in branded searches was likely also responsible for some of the loss of clicks we saw.   It’s impossible to say exactly how many of the lost clicks were branded and not due to the introduction of Local Services Ads, however, it’s safe to assume that some of them were. It would be really nice if Google let us segment this data in GMB Insights – but they don’t. While they segment the searches, they don’t segment the clicks (actions).  I cross-referenced a few of these law firms in Search Console to find out what percentage of their traffic was branded over the last months.  Here was the data for a few firms I checked:

  1. 7-location personal injury law firm:  1,161 clicks from GMB, 49.5% were branded (575)
  2. 2-location personal injury law firm: 336 clicks from GMB, 25% were branded (84)
  3. 7-location family law firm: 2,043 clicks from GMB,  15% were branded (316)

These numbers are going to vary a ton based on the law firm, the number of customers they have, and the type of advertising they do so I don’t think there is a way to get a “standard”.

Summary

Google Local Services Ads (LSA) were introduced for lawyers in 2020.  We saw decreases in clicks on Google My Business listings the 2 months after the ads rolled out when compared to the 2 months before.  However, some of this decline was likely based on the decline in branded searches (11%) that we saw.  Overall, the decline in the click-through-rate (from 3.22% to 3.03%)  was small and would likely result in less than 5 clicks a month to the average law firm’s listing.  Although we expected the introduction of Local Services Ads to have some type of impact on organic search, the impact was small and shouldn’t minimize the amount of effort small businesses spend on SEO.

7 replies on "Are Local Services Ads Stealing Clicks from Google My Business? A Case Study of 110 Listings"

  1. Nicely done. I think this is going to hurt more biz after COVID. I know myself and others are noticing big directories dominating page 1 more and more. Yes, you list clients in the directories, but they have companies buying spots at the top of their pages. Yelp, Manta, and others. Now there are 5 paid ads appearing and paid ads are showing up in local pack. Small businesses are suffering now from virus. Now Google is killing them. Thanks for any thoughts.

    1. Hi Joy thanks for the article. I deal only in the roofing vertical and I am watching these guys close. So far I am see about the same thing. One thing we are seeing is a much higher conversion rate than on PPC as well as higher ticket prices. For my guys it’s a huge win so far.

      1. If you know what you convert for how much it is going to be a winner for most firms when you pay per call. Most firms don’t understand or do the maths. It does not surprise me that a roofing firm or law firm does well when a call might be £10 or $15 and they convert one in five. That’s still cheap client acquisition for most businesses. $75 for a new roofing client…it’s easily added to the cost of the quote. The real key is great phone conversion and follow up process. On boarding specialists and onboarding training is probably as important as SEO.

  2. Good study Joy. It would be nice to see data on more than just GMB (not sure how easy that would be) to get a better understanding of the impact of LSA’s. For example, where are the LSA’s stealing most of their clicks from, organic? PPC? After all they must be coming from somewhere. My feeling is that Insights data is hard to rely on, and it would be nice to have other data corroborate any conclusions.

    It would also be helpful to see this data tracked over a longer period of time, because we don’t know actual data on LSA’s, i.e., how many clicks did they get? For example, it’s possible that LSA was so new that it didn’t get many clicks, but over time users will adapt and they will steal more and more clicks.

    1. Hey Tony,

      Data from LSA itself would be tricky to use since the individual accounts don’t reflect how often the total ad unit gets clicked or seen. We are looking at Ad data yet and I’m anticipating that LSAs actually hurt regular ad performance more so than it impacted GMB. I have yet to look at any impact it had on the actual organic results but would like to do that after more time has elapsed as well.

  3. I used it today and before the call is placed it says that google is recording the call and it is not confidential. Not good business for lawyers.

  4. Joy,
    This is extremely comprehensive & helpful, I have been wondering about this since they launched- thanks.
    Have you looked at all how LSAs are impacting featured snippets? Seems like it might be similar to the GMB/LSA dynamic.
    Thanks again

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send this to a friend