Google My Business Messaging FAQ

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?

Not yet.

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.

Google Messaging Rolling Out to More Dashboards

Update: Google has confirmed that Messaging is officially rolling out. See the Messaging FAQ here.

There have been numerous reports today of Google Messaging, the direct from Knowledge Panel SMS chat feature, rolling out more broadly.

Whether this is an early rollout or a late test, it is hard to know as Google has not yet announced anything. The rollout does not seem to be veritcal specific as it is showing up in everything from lawyers to hotels and restaurants but not in all that I have checked in each category.

The product was first trialed in November, 2016 and has been in an active public beta for a number of months. The Help Page. titled Chat with your customers, has not been updated to note that it is anything more than a pilot. But given Google’s recent product rollouts of Websites and Posts, it is not hard to believe that release is imminent.

The product allows the business to “listen” to the messages either via SMS or Allo. Customers are advised on the typical business response time.

Google has been giving business owners more and more reasons to visit the front page of Google for their brand search. It seems that with Messaging, Google is attempting to give consumers a reason as well.

Are you seeing Messaging in your dashboard?

Google My Business Using Pop Up Ads to Pitch Adwords Express

Many have asked whether Google would monetize Posts (or Websites, or Messaging or Insights or…). My thinking is that they will not monetize it directly but will use it as a reason for a business to come back to the Google My Business Dashboard where they can sell them Adwords.

And not actually Adwords but Adwords Express, which while we weren’t looking has become both powerful AND cheap (for how long?). Truly a self serve product that no longer needs a reseller to effectively execute….. tell Google your goal and your geographic marketing and voila you have a functioning AND functional ad on the cheap.

With each new feature Google has also increased their email notifications. Clearly they want the SMB back into the Dashboard and are going to get them there by hook or crook.

Historically, AdWords Express has just been one “card” amongst many in an ever growing more crowded dashboard. No more sissy stuff.  The gloves are off.

I saw this “pop up” this AM. With probably 10 million verified businesses in the US and ever more reasons to visit the dashboard, Adwords Express is clearly getting the push to be Google’s path to monetize the SMB world.

Which is not to say they won’t ever monetize Posts.  I would never say never in the money arena with Google  just not now and not the current product. It is always a possibility just one I don’t think is likely.

Google Updates GMB Insights Email

Google, just off releasing a raft of new products and still testing others, has significantly updated the monthly Insights email that is being sent to GMB account owners.

This email, one of many email notifications that the GMB is sending out, has signficantly more information than the previous email. Particularly this new email sends specific details instead of a rounding off at 999.

When viewed with the many other new emails that GMB is generating (notification of customer uploaded photos, posts expiring) as well as the emails around new reviews, ad credits, calls to action to add a new Website, and update your listing, Google has significantly upped their communication game around the GMB.

I am curious your thoughts on the new email? Will it attract business owners back into the GMB? How about all of the other email communication that is coming out of Google? Are they driving you and your clients back into the dashboard? What do you see as Google’s goal beyond simple engagement?

Here is the new monthly Insights email:

For comparison here is the email from last month:
Continue reading Google Updates GMB Insights Email

Google Testing Increased Front Page GMB Editing & Call to Action


First reported last week on Twitter by Thibault Adda , I am now seeing a new front page GMB dashboard interface that not only allows a business to edit their listing but to get ready access to uploading photos, respond to reviews and be taken to the dashboard for more Insights.

Google has long supported the ability of a logged in business to edit their business details via the Knowledge Panel, but this upgrade in testing, is a more visible and capable front page update. It doesn’t directly support some of the newer functionality of the GMB like Posts or Website, it is a dramatic visual call to action that should increase SMB engagement with their GMB product.

If a user does a brand search for a business that is in their Google My Business Dashboard they are presented with this new, bright blue menu laid over the search results:

Click to view larger

When you click the edit button you are taken to inline editing that greys out the background and highlights the editable fields in the Knowledge Panel like the current editor.

However, unlike the current editing capability, this new editor also allows for owner photo uploads and review responses and takes a business directly to the dashboard to view their Insights.

The feature, if implemented, makes accessing more of the GMB Dashboard easier for the small business and acts as a reminder of some of the functionality available to the business owner. Unfortunately the feature does not yet yet support a link for Posts or Webpage.

Google Local has been on a tear of late with major updates and new features for businesses in both the developed and developing worlds. This feature appears to be one more of those updates that, while not as dramatic as Posts or Webpages, works to increase the visibility of Google My Business by leveraging the front page of Google.

Google has long worked on the “build it and they will come” philosophy. That has not worked that well with their local product.  This upgrade seems to indicate an understanding that “build it and they will come” IF you give them enough reason and remind them often enough.

Here are screen shots of this feature over the past year and half… Continue reading Google Testing Increased Front Page GMB Editing & Call to Action

Uber & Amazon Flex in California; the Land of Milk, Honey and the Working Poor

I was feeling lazy and running a little late so rather than grabbing BART in San Francisco I grabbed an Uber to the airport today. As I typically do, I asked the driver how Uber was treating him given the recent firing of his boss… He grumbled and said they sucked and it was getting worse.

At first I thought it was just the standard line but he then said: “Amazon wasn’t too bad these days”.

****

Oh you work at Amazon?

Yes I am an Amazon Flex driver.

Flex?

I am a contract worker for Amazon deliveries.

Oh. Amazon’s same day grocery service? Or their same day delivery service?

No, no regular packages coming into one of their warehouses. They have four warehouses in the area. These are just Prime, 2 day deliveries.1

Does Amazon cover any of your expenses (Stupid question really but inquiring minds want to know)?2

Hah, no but neither does Uber.

How well do they pay you?

I sign up for 4 hour shifts and get $80. Sometimes, like on Pride Day, when there is a ton of traffic and no one wants to work I can get $120. Sometimes I can only get a 3 hour shift for $60. It’s not bad. I finished the run early and started on Uber. If another Amazon time block is available I might grab it. It depends on the deliveries for the day.

How many packages did you deliver today?

Continue reading Uber & Amazon Flex in California; the Land of Milk, Honey and the Working Poor

Google Website Adds 100,000 New Sites Since Launch

On June 13th Google introduced Google Website, their single page web builder for (very) small businesses, worldwide. The product had been in testing since last year and appears to be targeted primarily at developing countries. How is it going two weeks on? How many sites have been built?

I have been tracking the daily increase in the results for the query: site:business.site and recording the changes. Since introduction roughly ~100,000 new websites have been created.

This works out to roughly 7300 new pages per day since introduction. Hundred thousand here, a hundred thousand there… soon it adds up to real numbers.

Do you think Google is happy with the numbers?

 

Google Opens Waitlist for Testing Posts with Multi-location Chains

In a post on the Google My Business forum, Google allowed the sharing of a link to a form to for multi-location chains to express their interest in testing multi-location sharing of Posts.

They note on the form:

Posts for large multi-location businesses
Posting across multiple locations is currently not supported in Google

My Business. If you are a large business interested in Posts you can join the waitlist by submitting this form.We may send updates and notify you when the feature is available.

 

Google Posts Rolling Out WorldWide

Google is formally announcing the world wide availability of Google Posts today. The product allows a business to micro-blog directly to their Knowledge Panel result, create Posts of up to 300 words in length and include a photo. The Post can be further defined as an event with a date range or a call to action link can be added with a URL to a page that the business’s chooses.

According to Google the product will initially roll out to most categories of businesses but not all. Apparently (and not surprisingly given the degree of monetization) Hotels and B & B’s are excluded at launch. I would be curious to learn which other categories where you are not seeing Posts being available.

Google is working to expand the available categories. The launch is specifically about providing Posts to Local businesses that are using  the GMB dashboard and is not available to brands via G+.

Posts have a limited life span of one week during which they will display within the Knowledge Panel. Posts designated as an event will last as long as the event timeframe. Up to ten posts will show simultaneously via a carousel type display which the user can scroll through to see those not showing in the panel.

In the mobile interface Google has added a 3rd tab to the Knowledge Panel for Posts in addition to the recently added Reviews tab. Current. Older posts are accessible via this tab.

On mobile,  the Post content card with the first 100 characters of the post shows ABOVE the address and is very prominent. Consistent with other recent Knowledge Panel and local developments, Google is obviously hoping the SMB generated content and/or reviews will keep users engaged in the Knowledge Panel specifically and search generally for a longer time.

Posts can be shared by users socially across Facebook, Twitter, G+ and email. A link is provided to access the post via search as well.

On the desktop the post shows in the branded Knowledge Panel for the business.  When a user sees a 3 Pack and the business is selected from the 3 Pack, the searcher is taken to the Local finder where they will have a second chance to see the Post. It is not yet clear exactly where or how Posts that have drifted off the front page will live for desktop users or whether they will be indexed, searchable and discoverable via search.

Unlike the recently released Website product, which focuses on smaller businesses in the developing world, Posts is clearly targeted at businesses that are already users of Google My Business in the US, Europe and elsewhere. It appears to be both a sticky way to get businesses back into the GMB dashboard regularly and as a response to Facebook’s ease of posting. Like Websites, it does give Google potential access to the type of content that businesses are currently sharing on Facebook but to which Google has very limited access.

While there are those that speculate as to when it will be monetized, my sense is that, for the present, the Posts product is the hook to attract businesses back to Google on a regular basis where the business owner will then be pitched on AdWords Express and other fee based products. Who knows what will happen after Google finally monetizes every other nook and cranny in local but for the foreseeable future its a loss leader not an income generator.

To some extent, given its placement, it might offer local restaurants a way to put their reservation link front and center above those of the many order companies looking to get a piece of the pie. There is a vocal and unhappy crowd of local restaurants in the forums that still think the Knowledge Panel and local listings are theirs and that order links over which they have no control are an abomination. (I happen to agree with them).

Creation of a post is dead simple. It is accessed from the GMB dashboard via a highly placed left side link or via a card. The card shows your latest post with the number of times the post has been seen.

Analytics are lightweight with Google only showing total times it was seen and the number of actions taken. Actions are only visible if you click into a specific post. This data doesn’t appear to be included in Insights and there is no current way to see the data from posts over time or in an aggregate view to be able to easily assess what is working and what is not. Google has indicated that Insights will be addressed.

As noted, when creating the post you can add a photo (animated gifs and video are not supported). A pixel size of 750 x 750 is recommended with a minimum of 250 x 250 required. It auto crops the image to square and allows the user to easily identify which part of the photo should show. It is not yet clear whether that aspect ratio is respected in all display contexts as I have seen several different desktop displays.

The post, as noted, needs to be between 100 and 300 words in length. ONLY the first 100 characters show in the Knowledge Panel at the time of search so you need to make the first 100 characters really count in terms of messaging. The call to action can be selected only from the given list of Learn More, Reserve, Sign up and Buy. There currently is no verbiage that allows for “Book” or “Make an Appointment”. Google did note that they are open to adding addtional calls to action in the future. While it is not very emphatic on the desktop, the call to action is very obvious on mobile which is where the Post is most likely to be seen.

It will be interesting to see SMB uptake of the product. The product is easy for the SMB to use and more importantly, easy to understand what it does. In that sense it sidesteps the intrinsic complexity of local search and offers up a simple, functional product.  It provides some amount of organic reach for free (clearly in contrast to declining post reach in Facebook). But it is visible only after a consumer has in one way or another chosen your business thus limiting the reach to either a brand recovery search or a very late in the funnel keyword search.

Obviously there is a looming question of how spam will be handled, how automated Google’s removal is and how nuanced it is. Google has delineated a number of abuses that will lead to removal (additional Help files are here).

It is no small issue if they don’t take down obvious spam or if they do take down legitimate posts that have been improperly identified as spam. Given the short life cycle (7 days) of a Post, I doubt that there will be any reconsideration requests. But I can imagine users flooding the forums wondering why their post isn’t visible.

It is the sort of product that Google was discussing in 2012 in the form of the “Business Builder” but that has been delayed by the loss of Marissa Mayer, the change over to the Knowledge Graph, the forced march into and the exit from G+ and a number of back end updates that were needed to bring the GMB dashboard into the modern world.

By the same token this is the second major new feature added to the Google My Business Dashboard within the past two weeks. Interestingly these two features do not yet work together. But this rapid rate  of introductions indicates both significant resource allocation and a certain sense of urgency on the part of Google. Unlike efforts with Plus, this new product open up the front page of Google to small business content. That could be a huge differentiator if leveraged.

Google Local has long been the doormat and not the door at Google. So, despite limitations of the product, I welcome the fact that Local is finally moving forward.

As in all things Google, their antipathy towards marketing and advertising might hamper this products adoption. If the product survives and is promoted it should see significant SMB uptake

Here are some examples of businesses that are currently showing Posts. If you have an example of a business using it in a particularly creative and/or successful way please send it along.

Just Mind Austin tx
Barbara Oliver Jewelry Buffalo NY
izanami Restaurant Santa Fe

Mike B Around the Local Web

Summer has finally arrived to Western NY. And for me a burst of energy and new articles.

Here are some of the articles I wrote (or in the case of LocalU or StreetFight co-wrote) around the web:

Making Sense of Posts in Google’s SMB Product Portfolio – With David Mihmn at Streetfight. I have been following the development of posts since it first showed up for a local merchant early last year. I am bullish (or at least as bullish as any rational person can be with a new Google product) while David Mihm is more skeptical of its longevity. Read our thoughts.

How Willing Are Consumers to Leave Reviews? – Consumers attitudes towards writing reviews, at least in the US, are changing. I have been surveying their attitudes as to their willingness to actual read reviews instead of just write them and this piece looks at the almost linear decrease in “never write reviews” and the simultaneous increase amongst those that do.

Video Deep Dive: Consumer willingness to leave review– With Mary Bowling at LocalU. We discuss these changes and compare them to attitudes around the world. Available as a video, transcript and also now available as a podcast.

Video: Last Week in Local June 19, 2017 – With Mary Bowling. It was a busy week in local. We look at the implications of the Whole Foods buyout, the outcomes of using link building services and ways to more easily implement AMP on a wordpress site. Available as a post and podcast.  Or if you want the links delivered to your inbox, via email subscription.  Give us 15 minutes and we will give you the world of local.

Developing Knowledge about Local Search