Looking for some help? Providing answers has always been Google’s goal, and now it has a new way to do it. “Helpouts,” a way to pick people offering help via live video, for a price. People that are vetted, checked and backed by Google.
Google shared the news of the new program today on its blog, saying:
With Helpouts, you can choose who you get help from based on their qualifications, their availability, their price, their ratings and reviews. You can connect instantly or book in advance. You can get help from individuals or from brands you already know and trust, like Sephora, One Medical, Weight Watchers, Red Beacon (a Home Depot company), and Rosetta Stone.
With the program, you select the expert you want, share your screen if you’d like and work with them live. Not happy with your experience? Google says there’s a money-back guarantee.
Looking For Experts
The Helpouts site offers the ability to search for experts. In the example below, I searched for “how to fix a leaky pipe” and was offered one expert, “Affordable Handyman Services of Chicago,” as you’ll see below:
How’s this person ending up in the Helpouts directory of providers? They’re apparently one of many companies and individuals that Google’s been working with in advance of this program going live, people who had invitation codes to participate. Google’s enrollment page, for those with invites, is here.
If you don’t have an invite, you can also request one via that page. But you won’t get one immediately. It only allows you to express interest in being part of the program.
Looking for some SEO help? You’ll find people offering that for anywhere from $1 per minute to $25 per “helpout,” as shown below:
How Expert Are The Experts?
How good are any of these people, none of whom are from some of the name brands that Google talked about like Sephora or Weight Watchers? Who knows. For some I checked, there are no third-party ratings:
Others do have these:
Oddly, I couldn’t find a way to click on the people who made the reviews, to find out more about them. Maybe that will come to the pages later.
Experts Vetted By Google
I guess since it’s a money-back program, people might feel they’re risking nothing by going with any self-proclaimed expert on the service. That’s not to say the people above aren’t experts or aren’t good. Heck, they might be. And, according to Mashable, Google says all the experts above would have been vetted and checked:
Google must invite each company that offers a service to the platform, and all professionals are vetted and checked, according to Osi Imeokparia, Helpouts’ director of product management.
How are they checked? Looking at the Helpouts help area, after someone fills out a profile, it’ll be submitted for a review. Next, Google says it will contact the expert over video to learn more, though the check really seems to be about formatting and broadcasting issues
We’ll contact you to meet you — over video, of course — to learn more about you, to discuss setting up a Helpouts listing and to make sure your video is working well.
For medical services and health care professionals, third-parties will check for certificates. Other than that, presumably, Google doesn’t have experts on every topic able to tell if someone really is an expert as they present themselves. For this reason, “vetted and checked” sounds a lot like just a cursory review of what’s promised.
Of course, with some advice, there is a risk beyond the money you put out for it. If you get bad advice that you act upon, you could make whatever situation you’re trying to fix worse.
Google Helpouts 1.0: Google Answers
By the way, this is Google’s second attempt to enter the paid expert space. The first, Google Answers, was launched in April 2002 and was closed in November 2006. After just over four years, Google declared it a “great experiment” with material for “future products.”
Now, in the age of easy online video, I guess Google Helpouts fills that future products promise.
Google’s also released a video about the program:
Postscript: A Google spokesperson provided us with this explanation of how it chose the current set of Helpout providers:
We have big brands and also individuals who are signed up to provide help. We select providers who can give help in the category areas we have prioritized at launch. We are looking for experts in their field, who have strong reputations and are great at sharing their knowledge with others. Anyone who is giving help using Helpouts must comply with our content guidelines and demonstrate to our quality assurance team that they would provide excellent help to the Helpouts community.
After we determined our Helpouts categories we selected partners who are able to give help in those areas. If we felt you would be a good fit for Helpouts we extended an invitation to apply. So at this point, all the providers on Helpouts were by invitation only.
That’s right — we actually met and vetted every provider on the platform and took several measures to ensure that the provides of Helpouts are of the highest quality: We will review all new Helpouts listings and meet the applicant face-to-face over live video in order to learn more about their background, communication skills and comfort level with online video.
We’re in early days and just getting started. We’re excited to see how the community will grow over time.