Yes, you can. Allow me to enlighten you.
My family owns a Mexican food restaurant in San Antonio, Texas. We’re not Mexican; we’re Lebanese. That’s a different story, though. Regardless, the restaurant was started by my (very Lebanese) grandfather in 1958 which means that the business is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. Although I’ve worked at the restaurant in many different capacities over the years, my current job is with Netvantage Marketing. However, I still handle all the digital and online “stuffs” for the family…’cause that’s how I roll.
A while back, probably while taking a peek at our analytics or fixing a glitch reported by Webmaster Tools (no, I will not call it “Search Console” thankyouverymuch), Google asked me if I wanted to enable text chatting for the business. “Sure…why not,” I think. “Let’s see how this goes.”
How It Goes
Really and truthfully…not that bad. I wish I had some kind of scathing review (click bait) or some juicy gossipy story to tell about the service, but really it just works. From the business side of things, you provide a phone number that can receive text messages and that’s it. Google puts a “Contact Us Now” tile in your business listing.
(ASIDE: I don’t think that “responds in an hour” garbage that they have listed on the contact us tile is accurate. I respond way quicker than that.)
From a user perspective, the user clicks that tile, their phone opens a new SMS text message window, the user types his or her message, hits “send,” and…well…you know how text messages work.
The receiver’s phone number (i.e. the business owner or representative’s phone number) is masked by some sort of Google SMS Forwarding Magic so the user never sees the actual number with whom they are texting.
OK, So, Does It Invite The Wackos?
No, not in my experience. It’s actually been very benign. I’ve had a few people ask the hours the business is open, I’ve had a couple of people ask about making reservations, and I had one person who wasn’t pleased with the speed of service he had received. Interestingly though, once we started exchanging text messages this person calmed down quite quickly and explained his position. We had a pleasant conversation and I think he was, if not happy, at least satisfied in the end.
Should I Enable SMS Chatting For My Business or Client?
From my limited experience, I would say sure, go ahead. The number of people using the feature is relatively low compared to traffic, your personal mobile phone number is kept hidden so other’s can’t see it, and it’s one more touch-point with your customers or potential customers. Also, you can always turn it off if it becomes burdensome.
Is it worthwhile for all local business?
Pretty much any local business type could benefit from this. Odds are, most of your website visitors are finding and reaching your website via a smartphone, so why not make it easier for them to get a hold of you? Say you run a HVAC company and are looking to find new ways to increase your leads. Your potential clients (especially if they are in a younger demographic) may be more comfortable to send a text when asking for a HVAC related quote. Finding little opportunities to increase visits and leads via search engines is what HVAC SEO is all about!
So, what are you waiting for? Go sign up for the Super Fancy Google Business Online Chat Extraordinaire!