The way Google puts a lot of information in the hands of consumers is one of the reasons why the search giant and all of its services are so popular. Last week, Google quietly announced a change to desktop search results that integrates Google Hangouts into the branded search results for businesses. There were already many reasons for business owners to embrace Google+, but this newest change makes adoption a far more urgent matter. This article will explain how Google Hangout will be integrated in to desktop search results and what business owners should do about it.
This new feature integrates Google Hangout into the Knowledge Graph that appears on desktop search results. Now, when users search for a brand or business, if a contact number is available, it will display prominently at the top of the search results. Better still, by clicking the number, a Google Hangout session is started where the user can choose to call the business from the desktop. Desktops with a microphone and speakers can use their browser to make the VOIP call.
“Looking for information and want to get in touch fast? The next time you’re searching for a business or place (on desktop), look for the linked phone number that appears as a quick answer,” wrote Mayur Kamat in a post on Google+. “When you click, you’ll place the call right via Hangouts. Calls to US and Canada are free and calls to other countries are just a few cents away.”
The phone number appears in the top box of the Knowledge Graph (i.e. search results pages on desktop). It’s above the search results so consumers are essentially given an option click on the phone number before they get to the link for the website. Once clicked, the phone number will open a dialog box that asks if the user wants to call the business using Google Hangout and how much it would cost to do so. As Kamat stated earlier, calls to the US and Canada are free, and the rates for international calls are very low. In some cases, the per minute rate for international calls on Google Hangout is half the price of “leading internet telephony provider” they use for comparison on their website.
In a way, this new feature exponentially increases the importance of Google+ for businesses. First, any business that doesn’t have their phone number listed on Google needs to create a Google+ business profile (which would have the added benefit of adding more information to the right-hand side of branded search results).
Second, businesses that haven’t updated their Google+ pages with up-to-date contact information need to do so immediately. With the ability to start a phone call with a company with one click from the search result pages, many consumers may bypass clicking on a website entirely and go straight for the Google Hangout option. If these calls go to the wrong place, searchers may move on to another business instead of delving through the website in the potentially vain hope of finding the correct number.
Besides making sure their information is available and current on Google, business owners would be wise to make sure everything is ready on their end as well. For example, some businesses may see an uptick in the number of phone calls they receive and they may have to assign more staff to handle additional customer requests. Similarly, it’s important to make sure that the employees handling the phones be able to answer basic questions about services, have access to commonly requested information, and are trained in proper business telephone etiquette. Business owners may want to consider using Google Apps for Business so they can have their business number set to go to Google Hangouts. This will mean that searchers would get a face-to-face call on Google Hangout.
It remains to be see the effect this new feature will have, but depending on consumer behavior, it may make an up-to-date Google+ profile as important as an up-to-date website. Business owners need to make sure their information is correct and think of ways they can use this feature to give their business an edge over the competition.