At this point, most of you are probably already familiar with Google Home Service Ads (HSAs) and their placement at the top of the SERP.   Three HSAs can show for any given search, marked as “Google Guaranteed,” with their business name, reviews, home city, phone number and hours displayed.  Searchers can click on the “More Pros” link to see additional providers.  But what happens when Google doesn’t have three qualified providers in a vertical and metro area where HSAs are active?  Do some businesses get top placement for free?!?

As Joy Hawkin’s reported on Whitespark, businesses participating in Google HSA are listed in the 3-pack home service unit marked with “Google Guaranteed.”  Service area businesses (SAB) that are not showing their address have been removed from the local pack and pushed to the bottom of the home service unit, below all the businesses that are paying (news that  Mike Blumenthal broke on August 17 for all those confused SABs that saw their Google My Business listing go MIA recently).  In examples I have previously seen, there are always three HSAs shown for businesses that appear to have passed Google’s strict business and employee background checks.

However, what is Google doing in cases where they started showing the HSA 3-pack, but there aren’t three “Google Guaranteed” customers in the HSA program?  I came across an example of this earlier this week, in the overhead door category.

Google HSA 3-Pack with non Google Guaranteed businesses showing

This Google HSA 3-packs shows only one Google Guaranteed HSA paying customer. Do the other two businesses get prime placement for free?

Triton appears to be paying for prime real estate on the Google SERP, in the HSA 3-pack, but are Doors West and Absolute Garage Door just along for the ride?  The lack of Google Guaranteed marking seems to indicate that they are getting prime placement for free.  When I asked the Google HSA about this scenario, they said they would follow up with me to let me know how or if businesses like this are being charged.  It seems a little unfair that businesses that went through the rigorous HSA checks have to pay to be seen at the top of the page, but others show in the coveted 2 and 3 spot on the page, having gone through no such process.

If you have other examples of this situation, or know more about the non “Google Guaranteed” businesses showing in the Google HSA 3-pack, please comment.  I will update this post when/if I get more information from Google HSA.