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Is HomeAdvisor on Google Home the Model for Voice-Driven Local Search?

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The challenge of local search on a device like Amazon Echo or Google Home is that you don’t have much information to help make purchase decisions. You only get very basic data in return for queries (name, address, phone) — usually 1 to 4 listings.

If you ask Alexa for “nearby mexican restaurants,” for example, you’ll get a few restaurant names but little context or content. You can open the Alexa app on your phone and get slightly more information — if you remember. If you ask Google Home for painters or plumbers you’ll get business names and addresses but nothing more.

Smart speakers right now aren’t very useful for local search. But that may be about to change.

Yesterday, Google announced it was bringing home services content to the Google Assistant (Android, iPhone, Google Home). The inaugural providers are HomeAdvisor and Porch. But Google also offers local lead-generation (i.e., local services ads).

HomeAdvisor

In the case of HomeAdvisor users will be guided through a Q&A process that refines the query and then either delivers a list of providers or can connect the consumer to a local service professional. I assume but haven’t confirmed that this is paid lead-generation for the service provider. (This in turn raises questions about how you get into “position zero” and how Google will manage competing services.)

What’s potentially significant however is that the process starts with a category based query and can end with a phone call to the local contractor. If the user says “yes” to the phone call the system rings the user’s and contractor’s phones.

The new capabilities will roll out next week, so I haven’t yet had a chance to test it out. On paper at least it holds promise for consumers, SMB aggregators and local service professionals. However the user experience will be the key — the difference between something merely novel and something truly useful.

Regardless, it offers a model and potential way forward for voice-driven screen-free local search.

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