The next time you have a plumbing problem, could you be turning to Google to fix it?
In one sense, you probably already do, using the search engine to find prospective plumbing companies. You type in “trenchless sewer repair,” and back come millions of results either explaining your options or telling you where to get services.
But the fact that Google just hired the engineering team of the soon-to-close startup Homejoy has industry experts speculating that Google may soon be going one step further by offering referrals to plumbers, electricians, house cleaners and more. So when you face a saturated market (trenchless plumbing, for example, is quickly growing, capturing about half of the $3.4 billion sewer rehabilitation industry and an eighth of the $1.5 billion water line repair industry), you might get more guidance than just lists of websites containing the keywords you’ve searched.
Homejoy, which allowed users to book home services online, had amassed nearly $40 million in funding, but announced July 17 that it would be going defunct July 31 in the wake of several lawsuits regarding hiring workers as contractors, rather than as employees. But its offerings were popular, even in the crowded home services market.
Google has declined to comment on the matter except for confirming that it has hired “a portion” of Homejoy’s staff.
Experts are speculating that referrals would be embedded into results, rather than sending searchers to third-party sites.
Dan Ackerman, senior editor for CNET, told CBS News that the move could be a smart one for Google, pulling in a wide range of consumers. “I think it’s much more of a bread and butter issue than let’s say inventing virtual reality glasses to just kind of give people referrals to local contractors in their neighborhood,” he explained. “If you go on Google Now and you search for restaurants or anything on Google Maps, you can often get a lot of that information pulled right into Google. You don’t have to leave the site, and it’s sort of the same thing.”
Given that the change probably wouldn’t generate a lot of revenue, the goal would presumably be to keep users within the so-called Googlesphere, shoring up Google’s ability to act as a one-stop-shop in the face of competition from other sites such as Amazon.