Google says it is now testing a new feature that will allow users to message businesses from their Google My Business listing. Following the introduction of message extensions for AdWords, the search giant wants to roll out a similar feature in organic search.

At this stage, only a small group of business owners have been asked to pilot the new concept but Google has given us a quick preview of what to expect should the feature get the go-ahead.

 

Chat via Google My Businesses

Messaging businesses directly is certainly the big trend in digital marketing right now. Every article we post seems to mention chatbots in one way or another and Google wants to bring something similar to the search experience.

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The key difference is Google wants users to speak to actual people, rather than bots. So clicking on the message icon on a company’s My Business listing will send an SMS message or use Google’s own Allo messaging app.

Much like message extensions in AdWords, the idea is people might want to reserve a table or book an appointment without calling you directly. Instead, they can click to send a message, make their enquiry an get back to procrastinating at work (or wherever else they are).

You’ll notice response times are pretty important from the screenshot above. In fact, Google even warns businesses helping it test the new feature could be struck off the pilot scheme if their response times become too long.

What counts as “too long” will depend on the nature of your business and the enquiry you get. As best practice, it’s probably a good idea to send a generic “We’ll look into that and get right back to you” kind of message if it will take time to come up with a more concrete answer.

 

Google isn’t telling us when we can expect the new feature to roll out (assuming it does) but keep an eye out for those little message icons on Google My Business listing over the next few months.