Google's looking to make it easier for users to get in touch with businesses direct from Maps and Search in order to get quick answers to more specific queries.
As explained by Google:
"When people look for information online, they want to find the answers to their questions quickly. This is especially true for people browsing nearby businesses. Business Profiles help merchants share information like how late you’re open and what safety measures are in place. But sometimes people are looking for answers to more niche questions such as: “Do you make gluten-free cakes?” or “Is there covered parking?”"
Catering to this, Google is adding new, prominent message options in both Maps and Search, making it easier for people to reach out with their questions when they find your business in Google's apps.
First off, in Maps - from today, verified businesses on Google will be able to receive and respond to messages from the Google Maps app.
As per Google:
"Once you turn messaging on from your Business Profile, you can start replying to customers on Google Maps from the business messages section in the “Updates” tab. And soon you'll also be able to see your messages right from Google Search (via the Customers menu on your Business Profile) and message customers directly from your computer."
That will give potential customers another way to glean key information, and another opportunity to connect.
In order to verify your business on Google, you first need to claim your Google My Business listing - you can find out more about business verification here.
It could be a good opportunity to maximize your connection opportunities, though it is also worth considering the timeliness of your responses, and your capacity to engage via Google messages.
In addition to this, Google's also adding a message button to Google My Business posts, which are accessible via Search results.
This is in addition to the existing message button on your Google My Business profile, providing more ways for people to connect.
Google's also looking to provide more insight into exactly how people are discovering your business, with added insights in your Google My Business tools.
The new reports will include listings of search queries used to find your business, and how people are searching:
"At the beginning of next year, you’ll see updates to the performance page that show whether customers saw your business via Google Maps or Search and if they saw it from a computer or mobile device. All your performance data will be available for up to six months."
That could help you further hone your marketing efforts to ensure you're reaching people at the right time, on the right platform/s.
If you haven't claimed your Google My Business profile yet, you really should - with so much search traffic being driven by Google, it's important to ensure that you control what you can of your presence within search and maps. That'll become even more pressing in 2021, when people look to start traveling again, and 'near me' searches ramp up.
These new contact options will see many people looking to connect - and that presents another opportunity for your business.