Updated: Saturday July 1th
Q: Has Messaging been launched as a product?
Yes, Google has confirmed that it is now launched in the U.S.
Q: Does every dashboard have Messaging?
It is rolling out now to US users but should be in all US dashboards shortly.
Q: Is the release worldwide?
No, it is coming first to the US and next week to Brazil and India later this summer. No word on other countries beyond that. Some users are already seeing the product now.
Q: Is the chat feature available on all local platforms like Maps, the browser and the mobile Google App?
No, at this time it is available on desktop and mobile browsers and the search app on Android. More platforms will be coming soon.
Q: Is there a Help Page?
Yes, the Messaging Help Page was updated yesterday to indicated that “Chatting with customers is a new Google My Business feature that’s currently available in select countries“.
Q: Which account users may use the feature?
Currently it can be configured for either the owner or the manager but those with just communication level privileges will not have access.
Q: Can I add more than one phone number to receive messages on?
Q: Can I use one number for multiple locations?
Yes, the UI is not optimal and but it will work.
Q: What messaging apps are supported?
SMS, Allo and something on Android called App Preview Messages.
Q: What the f&*k is App Preview Messages?
It is preview product that appears to be an abstraction layer that allows Android users to communicate with one another even if they have different messaging apps. OK, just stick to SMS.
Q: Does the product support automated responses?
Business owners can apparently set a welcome message for their customers to see.
Q: Is the the “welcome message” available to all users?
There are two “client” experiences – one is the embedded messenger that some percentage of users on Android see and the other is SMS, which is what everyone else sees.
Right now, the welcome message is only seen in the embedded messenger experience. It isn’t possible to simulate the welcome message in the SMS experience (can’t send a text without you sending one first)
Q: Are stats available?
Google will display the following stats around messaging usage in the current insights view:
-Number of Clicks on the message button
-Number of actual conversations with customers
-Number of Actual messages with customers
Q: Does the “Message” option always appear on Google or does it only show up during my opening hours?
The merchant can opt in or out manually, but it’s not linked to opening hours. Businesses can turn off messaging when they want to and turn it back on – when they turn it off, the message icon disappears from the Knowledge Panel. Users can get a message outside the opening hours if the product is on.
Q: Once set, can the SMS number be changed if the owner, say, goes on vacation?
Yes from the GMB dashboard menu.
Q: Can the messages be responded to via the GMB dashboard.
Not at this time.
Q: What phone number does an end user see when the chat is initiated via SMS?
Google assigns a “proxy” or relay number for the business. A customer could add this to their contacts and as long as they use this for messaging, this should work. The number is not local to the customer at this time but Google is looking at fixing that.
Q: What happens if the customer attempts to call that number?
When you call this phone number, there is a recording that the number has been disconnected. Google is working on solutions to this.
Q: Should I turn this feature on?
I think that every business is going to feel differently about the utility of this product. It does offer an immediate way to communicate with existing and new customers but for some businesses it might be a distraction.
Obviously you need someone in your organization that is ready and willing to receive SMS messages on their phone. If you don’t have that, skip it.
I see it as ideal for plumbers and contractors that don’t have support staff as it could relieve them of responding to as many voice calls.
It could be an interesting solution for DUI lawyers or Emergency Car services that offer 24/7 coverage even when their regular hours are closed.
Where as in health care I see the product as full of potential hazards requiring much more thought before using. If at all.
In some industries it could be just another distraction from effective communication and just “one more thing” to worry about.
Test, try it. If it works great. If not, turn it off.
Q: Why is the initial rollout to just US, Brazil and India?
Like Websites, Google obviously is thinking of this product as a way to attract their next billion users and as a way of making headway in developing countries amongst small businesses. Between this product and Websites, it could very well fulfill a large portion of the marketing and communication needs for the (very small) businesses in those markets.
Q: In some industries, Google won’t show your listing if you are marked as closed. If you have Messaging turn on, but it is off hours, will Google show your listing?
Hmm… good question. Anyone?
Q: Will it impact rank?
I doubt that it will. For sure not now and maybe never but at least not until Google has a great deal more data and confidence that it offers users value as a signal. It could, as noted above, possibly at some point increase visibility for businesses that respond quickly.
But it could help or hurt conversions. If both you and a competitor are using the product and they have a 5 minute response time and you have a 50 minute one, who they gonna call?
Do you have any of your clients using the product? What do you see as effective use cases?
Let me know how it goes. I would love to see if they think it effective or just a PITA.