How the New Google My Business Messaging Feature is Impacting SEO
With Google’s new My Business Messaging feature, you can now message your clients directly through your Google local panel in mobile search. Tests began last November, but the roll-out has finally begun for existing Google My Business customers in the US. That’s why we’ve collaborated with American online marketing agency, A Servants Heart Web Design and Marketing who have already seen the affects it’s having on local business rankings in American SERPs, and have kindly agreed to discuss the feature with us.
On initial glance, this feature is just another way Google wants to make it easier for businesses to connect with their customers, but let’s first go through how the feature works and how this will impact your company’s SEO.
How it Works
First, you need Google My Business, so if you’re already signed up for that, go to the GMB home page. You’ll notice a new section on the left entitled “Messaging” while in the center there is a button that says “Message with customers.” Search Engine Land has a neat series of graphics on each step to take if you want to check it out.
Source: Search Engine Land
Next, you’ll have to configure your device and enter your mobile phone number for standard SMS text messaging or through the app Allo. Now, you’re ready to receive messages from clients who are looking for you on Google! In a nutshell, when a searcher sees your company name pop up in mobile search, they will be able to click on a message icon. You as the business owner receive an automatic message to which you can reply directly to the customer.
Where SEO Comes In
So, what does SEO have to do with all this?
You should be implementing SEO strategies for your website already, as it’s critical to getting you found online. But it’s not enough to be found: you need to be appearing on page one of Google and that takes time, money and a lot of work. Strategic use of keywords within your content is one way to get there, but you’ll also need to secure quality links and ensure any technical fixes are sorted, among a host of other optimization techniques. One aspect which people often get wrong is hosting. As per standard practice, you should be hosting your site on a web server which is located in that area. E.g. when building a site focused at a UK audience, you should ideally be hosting in the UK. You should also be carrying out your own research on what hosting providers are best, in regards to speed, support, pricing etc. A good first step would be to look for sites such as Hosting Foundry which review a range of these hosting providers.
Optimizing for local search is also critical especially when it comes to Google My Business. People can’t find you if your information is unclear, muddled or different in any way across all platforms. When your business has a local element, you must also optimize your mobile content for local search, including standardizing your name, address, and phone number in business listings, and including your city and state name in your website’s metadata, says Moz.
Having a strong SEO game is of paramount importance when it comes to popping up on local map packs for mobile search. A solid mobile SEO strategy is also important, which allows you to rank higher in search engines because Google now makes mobile-optimized sites a priority over those that aren’t. Nowadays everything is about being fast and convenient, and this feature helps users achieve just that: instant information.
The Google My Business Messaging Feature also allows you to tag your business with geo-specific locations in an effort to attract your target audience. So with ultra-specific location targeting and mobile optimized sites getting local priority, it highlights just how important mobile optimization is becoming, especially with this new feature.
And just in case you have any doubt in your mind about the importance of mobile for local rankings, consider this fact from eMarketer: smartphone users around the world total 1.75 billion, and about 2.23 billion mobile phone users search online each month for product and service information.
With the new messaging feature, you can extend your reach and give your searchers yet another platform to obtain information in quickly and effectively.
Pros and Cons
The rollout has been happening throughout the US since July and is still happening now, but the feature has not yet reached the UK. You’ll know when (and if) you have access to it if you see the option to turn on messaging appears on your GMB dashboard, points out Search Engine Journal. Before you decide to use it, think about how it could benefit you, but also how it could hurt you.
Yes, the exposure and reach are both powerful. This could open up doors for your home care business, giving you immediate accessibility to potential clients who need your services. It opens a dialogue that can lead to new or continued business. People like texting. They don’t like talking on the phone or navigating online for hours to find the answers they want.
You’ll be able to check out stats about your messaging activity once you get going, such as:
– Number of clicks to message
– Number of conversations
– Number of total messages
There are some cons with this new technology though. If you’re too busy or forget to use the app, a slow response time could actually harm your reputation. Also, if you like your privacy and the ability to go home after a long day of work with no interruptions, you may not like the fact that searchers can message you at any time of the day or night. Perhaps in the future there will be a way to turn messaging on and off depending on your preferences and availability. However, this may defeat the whole purpose of this messaging feature in the first place.
Implications for UK search
Since the feature has not yet been rolled out to the UK, agencies such as ours and companies in the UK still have time to decide whether they utilize this messaging feature. This means companies have time to weight up the pros and cons above, or that perhaps the option to apply preferences to GMB messaging might be integrated by the time it reaches the UK.
However, one thing is for certain, this feature has highlighted the growing importance of mobile optimization which will become more pronounced, whether or not the GMB messaging feature is rolled out to worldwide SERPs.
ASH Web Design and Marketing have kindly offered to give more information and Google My Business Messaging assistance to any that want to learn more, so do feel free to contact them here. However, to find out more about how you can optimize you website for mobile, you can contact our SEO team or get a free website audit today!