Businesses will soon be able to apply for a badge of trust on Google, and it’s a game-changer for local SEO and advertisement.
The future of local search on Google is about to look very different. Soon there will be two types of business on Google- trusted and untrusted. Google has unveiled plans for its new badge, which will take the form of a green checkmark, to dictate which businesses are verified by Google as trusted. It’s a move that Google has been moving towards for years, and while the move isn’t surprising for those in the industry, it will severely change how local advertising and SEO operates in the future.
Confined for Now
Google already has some version of this trusted badge in use. Right now, it’s been confined to Local Service Ads (LSA), visible within the GMB dash. It lives at the customer ID level, allowing it to be transportable for a business across all of Google’s business units and ad types.
There are two programs that can earn businesses a badge- Google Guaranteed and Google Screened. Google Guaranteed covers most Home Services categories, such as appliance repairs, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, etc. The checkmark for these businesses means that Google has verified the business and backs the services booked.
Google Screened was added more recently and is for Professional Services. This program is aimed at lawyers, real estate agents, photographers, tax specialists, financial planners, etc. The checkmark means that Google has verified the providers’ background and backs their expertise.
Expansion Coming Soon
Having found success with Google Guaranteed and Google Screened, Google appears to be moving forward with expanding the trust badges on Google My Business. Soon certain GMB profiles will be classified as “trusted.” This is being beta tested for non-LSA services providers but will likely expand to more business types in the future.
Certain business owners are already being encouraged to upgrade their GMB profile in order to become trusted. But how exactly does it happen, and what does it mean moving forward?
Earning a Trust Badge
A trust badge isn’t a new concept. Instagram and Twitter both already offer a verification checkmark, which is given based on status and follower count. Google is taking a different approach. In order for businesses to get a badge, they have to pay. Right now, it’s $50 a month to obtain a badge.
In addition to the trust badge, businesses that upgrade will also get expanded GMB features. This includes access to call recording, extended license, insurance, and background check details, local bookings, and Google support.
At present, getting approved for a badge is a time consuming and frustrating process. Google currently outsources it to a third-party, making the process challenging. Service professionals have to undergo intense examinations, including checking litigation history, previous liens, background checks, checking licenses, and more.
Google is shifting away from this, though, and is now making the process more seamless by including a front-end platform for the process. Businesses can apply on the GMB dashboard and will be able to see the badge approval stages.
What the Badge Means for Local SEO
Whether it’s bought or not, Google’s trusted badges will be a game-changer for local SEO and advertising. Here are a few ways this is going to impact local digital marketing.
Split Google My Business
GMB has been touted as a “free and easy-to-use tool,” and Google has pushed the service hard in recent years. Now we know why. Once the badges launch full scale, GMB will essentially be split into two- the free and the paid. Not only will premium GMB users get access to more features, but they’ll also have verification of Google’s trust, which will put them ahead of the competition. Not having a badge doesn’t mean Google doesn’t trust a business, but it will still impact users, especially in certain sectors such as lawyers, doctors, accountants, home repairs, etc. Businesses will soon have to consider expanding their budget to account for this monthly fee or get left behind.
Google has been carrying the responsibility for verifying businesses for years, often to their own determent. The search engine has borne the brunt of scrutiny when business operating on their platform has defrauded customers in the past. With the trusted badges, they’re not shifting that responsibility onto businesses and customers. Businesses will now be responsible for maintaining accurate local data integrity, and customers will have to accept responsibility if they use an untrusted business. It’s similar to how Amazon operates with its verified sellers.
New Ranking Factor
For the past few years, ever since Google started pushing it hard, GMB has been a ranking factor. Businesses that take the time to optimize and update their GMB profile are rewarded. Adding in trust badges will likely only increase the weight of GMB as a ranking factor. While paying for an upgraded profile probably won’t be a direct factor, it stands to reason that users will gravitate more towards those that have the badge, resulting in more traffic and clicks, thus higher rankings.
Future of Local Search
Google launching trust badges on a larger scale is, not to put it lightly, a major shift in local search. It will greatly alter how local SEO and local advertising operates. From user trust to ranking factors, the trust badge stands to change how local businesses operate on Google.
Google has been hinting at these changes for a while now, but now their plot is clear. They want to earn users’ trust and monetize businesses that they haven’t been able to previously. This is a risky move for the company, though, and one that toes the line of antitrust. Charging businesses for trust is a bold move and will likely be under scrutiny by governments.
The timeline for a full launch is still unclear, but the pressure is now on for marketers and businesses. Change is coming, and we need to get ready.