In the past couple of days there have been several reports (here and here) about Google testing a “Chat” button live in organic search results. It’s been appearing for a few businesses in the Local Knowledge Panel to the right of the organic search results. Although the reports have stated that Google is simply testing the Chat button, we’ve now seen it show up for this London florist. (Full disclosure – they are a current client). After multiple screenshots and some digging around here’s what we’ve found out so far.

Where does the Google Chat button show up?

On desktop it’s currently showing however you get the knowledge panel to show. So either through a branded search or a regular plain organic search with the knowledge panel being triggered by hovering over the relevant listing (as shown below).

Google chat button through organic search

The Chat button also appears through mobile search but so far I haven’t been able to find it anywhere through Google Maps, either on desktop or mobile.

Google chat button for mobile

What happens when you click the Chat button?

Clicking on the Chat (available) button pops up a Hangout window. It appears that you do need to be logged into a Google account for the Chat to actually work as it’s run through Google Hangouts. As you can see from the screenshot Google is clearly directing people to either the Android or iPhone Hangouts app.

Google chat button

There was a delay of a few minutes at the outset before the original message from me showed up in Wildabout’s Hangout app, but from there it was all pretty much instant chat. As you’d expect.

Who gets notified when a Chat gets started?

Still working on this one. As a Page Manager I got a notfication through the Hangouts app on my phone, so I ended up responding to myself through two different accounts – my own and Wildabout’s.

Google chat for local business

Not a riveting conversation but remarkably simple to use. Now I’m pretty sure that our client isn’t using Hangouts at the moment, so that’s going to be an important point to raise with them. Someone in the store will need to be available to respond to messages should anyone decide they’d like to get in touch. Another point to mention is that, so far, I haven’t been able to discover how to set the Chat button to “unavailable.” Sure, I can snooze notifications on the Hangouts app but that seems to have no bearing on the availability.

Why would consumers use the Chat button?

There could be a number of reasons but ultimately it comes down to choice. Some people like Twitter, some like email while others prefer picking up the phone or sending a text. The Google Chat button could potentialy enable a customer to begin a simple text Hangout then transfer that into either an actual phone call or even a vidoe Hangout. In terms of customer service and building stronger relationships with potential and existing customers the Google Chat button could be really exciting. Getting real time answers to questions should only be of benefit to consumers. Is a restaurant busy? What are the specials of the day? What game are you showing…you know, important stuff!

Potential uses for Chat

PPC isn’t really my area of expertise but I would assume that if you can run ads targeting people to call your business phone then it may, at some stage, also be possible to run ads with the call to action being live chat. “Got tax questions, chat with us now” or “Have we got your size in store, chat now.”

An additional and important point to note is regarding ranking. There’s been plenty of discussion about how dwell time on a Google+ Page may help signify to Google that a page is useful. Methods for increasing dwell time would include Google Business View (See Inside), videos, and more. Would the number and length of Chats that a business gets be a potential ranking factor? I would argue for a yes but would also have no clue how much weight it would carry.

At this stage it’s clearly early days and we’re still not entirely sure how the Google Chat button came to appear for Wildabout Flowers in the first place. We’ll keep monitoring things over the next few days and as we learn will look to post about it on Google+ and Twitter.

Have you or a business you know got the Google Chat button yet?