Everything you Need to Know about Google Helpouts

Google made the headlines when it launched its newest service, Helpouts, on November 5. Here’s everything you need to know about the search engine giant’s foray into online advice.


The basics

Google Helpouts connects people looking for advice with more than 1,000 experts in a wide range of fields: Art and Music, Computers and Electronics, Cooking, Education and Careers, Fashion and Beauty, Fitness and Nutrition, Health, and Home and Garden.

How does it work? Users search the task or topic they need help with – like “How do I use Photoshop” or “How to play guitar.” Their search brings up a list of experts on the topic – users can filter results by best match, soonest available, lowest price or best reputation. Then, they choose an expert and schedule a video chat to receive live advice.

Who are these experts? Well, they could be just about anyone. Hobbyists. Freelancers in the field. People with advanced degrees, or self-taught careerists. Experts can be individuals or brands – including well-known ones like Sephora, Weight Watchers and Rosetta Stone. But, rest assured: all experts are vetted and backed by Google.

Experts charge a flat fee or a per-minute rate for their advice. Depending on the subject, Helpouts range from no cost to a few hundred dollars. Fees are determined by the experts, and Google gets a 20% kickback (except for Helpouts in the Health category). There’s a 100% money-back guarantee – refunds are available for unsatisfactory advice.


How is it different from existing advice sites?

Thousands of websites offer video tutorials online – and many of them, including eHow, wikiHow and even Google-owned Youtube, are free. What sets Google Helpouts apart?

For one, the experts are vetted, background-checked and backed by Google. Not just anyone can offer their services – experts have to have real credentials. That makes Helpouts distinct from free sites that let anyone and everyone post “expert” tutorials.

Most importantly, Google Helpouts offer live help. It’s not like reading a step-by-step tutorial or watching a pre-filmed video. When you use Google Helpouts, you can interact with experts. Ask questions. Get clarification or repetition. Make sure you’re doing it right – whatever “it” is.


What’s in it for Google?

Why would Google get involved in the video advice business? Well, they have a hand in just about every other online activity. Search. Email. Social networking. Blogging. Maps. Calendars. Cloud storage. Paid expert tutorials are the next logical step in Google’s quest for total Internet domination (just kidding – kind of).

Google Helpouts is also a way to revitalize the company’s lagging social network, Google+, which never really lived up to expectations. Helpouts requires a Google+ account – so people who want to tap into the expert resources have to create new accounts or dust off their old ones.


What if you want to sell your expertise?

So, you know how to find advice with Google Helpouts. But what if you’re an expert in a field, and you think Helpouts users could benefit from your instruction?

Registering as a Helpouts expert isn’t as easy as getting help. The experts currently featured on the site were selected before the service launched, and there’s no telling when Google will need more. If you have an invitation code, you can enter it on the Helpouts enrollment page. You can also request an invitation through the page. But there’s no guarantee when (or if) you’ll get a response.