If you’re a business owner looking for a better way to keep your customers close, Google might have just the tool for you. The tech giant is rolling out a new direct-to-business messaging feature on its search engine this holiday season: Google My Business will now make it possible for consumers to message businesses in real-time, directly through the business listings shown on Google Search’s results page.
While still in its early pilot stage, Google My Business’s messaging feature looks like a fairly robust alternative to the business-hours phone call.
Pinging off directly from your business listing, a potential customer can message your phone or Allo account, all the while never straying away from Google Search’s native user interface.
How Does It Work?
The feature is still in its pilot phase, and Google has been coquettishly tight-lipped about the exact operational details. However, a quick perusal of their help page does reveal several key points of note.
Firstly, the UI will be completely unobtrusive to Google search’s natural use. Customers will see the chat function as a modest icon in the business listings UI (pictured) – clicking through the icon will open a direct chat line to the consumer and the business in question.
On the business owner’s end, Google can either route all incoming messages directly to your phone as an SMS, or to your account on Google’s own Allo chat app, where you can respond and establish a dialogue at your leisure.
Setting up and editing phone numbers promises to be a cinch, with Google listing a four-step process:
- Find the “Chat” card, located in the Home tab of your Google My Business dashboard.
On the right side of the “Chat” card, click Edit number.
Enter your new phone number.
- For users wishing to link the function to Google’s Allo chat app, the process is even simpler:
- Download Google Allo from the Android Play Store or iOS App Store.
Register Allo with the same number you used to sign up for messaging on Google My Business.
- Messages will start to appear on Google Allo instead of SMS within an hour or two.
From the get-go, it’s clear that Google My Business’ new message functions have been designed to supplement – or perhaps even to potentially replace – the classic business-hours phone call. The guidelines recommend that you “respond as quickly as possible to messages from customers” during regular business hours. And it’s not just an idle suggestion, either: Google clocks your average response time and displays it for the whole internet to see. And businesses whose responses are deemed too slow may be suspended indefinitely from the pilot service.
Google My Business’ help page also recommends some common sense safety precautions when messaging, warning business owners to “avoid sensitive content” like credit card numbers, social security or government ID numbers, and login credentials. Like anything else on the internet, you’ll have to look after your own security.
What Does it All Mean?
So what’s the industry significance of Google My Business’s new messaging feature? Powered By Search’s own SEO expert Colan Nielsen breaks it down:
“This new feature has a few implications. 1. It demonstrates that Google continues to pour time, resources and energy into Google My Business. 2. It shows that the knowledge graph continues to be a very important part of the search engine results page and a very important part of the customer experience with a local business.”
“3. It is another step in Google’s effort to keep the user in Google and not leaving Google to go to other websites.”
Sounds Great! Where Do I Sign Up?
Well, there’s a little bit of bad news on that front. Google My Business’ messaging feature is currently in its infancy as an invitation-only pilot program. According to its Help Page, the function is currently “only available to a select group of business owners.” Details are scarce on how exactly you’d go about getting an invite, or which businesses are even eligible. Google’s playing their cards close, with its own help page being rather vague about the invitation process – essentially telling hopeful businesses to refer to their invitation email for further instruction.
For now, at least, if you’re not one of the lucky few to already have access to this newest feature, you may have to wait on the technomancers at Google for a more general roll-out. But if initial user feedback is any indication, the wait will be worth it – if only for the skyrocketing CTRs alone.
“Five separate WordStream Managed Services clients using this feature in beta saw CTR improvements from message extensions, averaging 50% higher CTR than the mobile ad alone! These message extensions even rivaled the success of call extensions.”
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