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Other than using organic tricks, around 80% of local marketers are buying ads on Google. This figure is almost 10% more as compared to last year, as revealed by a MOZ survey of 1,300 local marketing agencies, small businesses and multi-location enterprises.

 

The survey also included questions regarding the impact of COVID-19 on marketing budgets. Majority of them (70%+) said that they were dealing with cuts. However, “74% believe that business-as-usual will return within a year of safety orders being lifted.” While local link building was somewhere in between, paid media, social and localized web content were more often cut than SEO.

 

When marketers were asked about the SERP feature that they were most focused on, the results were as follows:

  1. Featured Snippets
  2. Local Packs
  3. Google Business Profile
  4. “We don’t have an SERP feature strategy.”

 

Consistent with the zero-click narrative, 77% of respondents said they agreed with the statement that Google (Business Profiles) are “the new homepage” for local businesses.

 

Here you can see a local link building strategy with the highest ROI.

 

SEO

 

These are the Top Local SEO Tricks where marketers wanted to invest more.

 

  1. Local link building – 18%
  2. Local content development – 15%
  3. On-site optimization – 13%
  4. Technical analysis of ranking/traffic/conversions – 9%
  5. Website design – 8%
  6. Review management – 7%
  7. Social media – 6%
  8. Email marketing – 5%
  9. Technical needs – 4%
  10. Schema – 4%

 

As observed in the study, the highly competitive industries such as Automotive, Real Estate and Legal were “clamoring the loudest for devoted link building resources”. The top items on the local SEO tactical wish list, for enterprises, by comparison were:

 

  1. Review management – 13.9%
  2. Local content development – 13.2%
  3. On-site optimization – 13.2%
  4. Local link building – 11.1%
  5. Technical analysis for ranking/traffic/conversions – 10.4%
  6. Website design – 9%
  7. Schema – 5.6%
  8. Other Google Business Profile features management – 5.6%
  9. Technical needs – 4.2%
  10. Social media – 3.5%

 

When it comes to link building – content development, direct requests and sponsorships were the top 3 strategies with the highest ROI, as per the survey.

 

3/4th of respondents said that they believe “use of Google My Business profile features (e.g., Posts, Q&A) impacts rankings in the local pack”, which is partly true. Although some elements of GMB do impact local rankings, the local SEO consensus is that Posts and Q&A do not impact local rankings. Reviews and photos, by comparison, do not have an impact.

 

When asked about where local SEO resides within the organization, around 48% of the time, which is most often, it was located in the marketing department. Alternatively, it fell under the control of the business owner.

 

  1. Account Managers – 15%
  2. Webmasters – 9.1%
  3. IT Department – 6.6%
  4. Other groups – 3.4%

 

Most local marketers (68%) reported that they were using 2-5 local SEO tools, while 12% were using six or more, 20% used either none or one.

 

Local SEO is an essential part of digital marketing for the majority of U.S. businesses that have a physical presence or a service area. If you are looking to optimize your local presence, do get in touch with our experienced personnel for assistance.

 

Check Out Your SEO Score!

 

 

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Google My Business’s Messaging feature allows users to directly message businesses from their Google Maps listing and has been a mainstay for quite some time, but its use has been merely unsatisfactory. Businesses are required to use the GMB App to utilize the feature, but management between staff members becomes hard. There were no solid plans to make updates to the feature, up until the pandemic.

 

These times have been tough for people and businesses as they continue with their lives from a distance. The need for digital communication has spiked unlike ever before, making it a main priority. This desperate need for effective communication has led to Google rolling out some of the very best, user-friendly upgrades to their otherwise inert Messaging feature. Here is Google’s word on the upgrades:

 

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“Today we’re expanding Business Messages in Maps and Search to support all kinds of businesses, and giving them the ability to integrate Business Messages directly with their customer service platforms. Business Messages provides brands a comprehensive messaging solution across Android devices, and through Maps on iOS. To improve connections with customers, we’ve recently introduced new smart replies, visual product carousels, and unique welcome messages. There’s also a smooth transition from automated replies to a customer service agent, so that it’s not disruptive when the customer messages a business.”

 

Basically, this upgrade from Google works very similarly to the website chat feature that is used by several customers and businesses. Take an in-depth look at the latest additions made to the feature:

 

New Smart Replies – Much like your site’s chat feature, there are several options to provide automated support before anyone from your team steps in. It functions like an FAQs system, where you can send in your questions or click within the carousel, after which your team can come in and take over the conversation seamlessly.

 

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Visual Product Carousels – As the name suggests, this feature enables you to showcase the various products you have in store to the customer.

 

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Unique Welcome Messages – With this feature, you can customize welcome messages for your customers to see. This feature allows businesses to shine through and establish their brand presence online!

 

Enhanced Images – Images play a crucial role in our buying decision, and this new feature showcases images along with URLs.

 

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Actionable Strategy – We would highly recommend using Google My Business Message feature. It is not only free to use for now, but Google will be regularly integrating more of its top features for greater user experience. Now is the time to make most of the platform!

 

To know more about Business Messaging, click here. The message system now integrates with some of the best customer service systems, giving you the freedom to manage the complete process on your website rather than completely within Google’s system. Check out the list of partners here.

 

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If you wish to get started with any of the partners listed above, reach out to Google about it here. Or else, you can simply log into your GMB listing and select the messaging option on the left-hand menu. Make sure to download the app to use it!

 

Questions On How To Set Up GMB Messaging? Contact Us!

 

 

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With an aim to help businesses to better serve users limited from in-person transactions due to COVID-19, Google recently introduced the following four attributes that now appear in a business’s knowledge panel.

 

  • Online Care
  • Online Appointment
  • Online Estimates
  • Online Class

 

Here’s How to Add These Attributes to Your Google My Business Listings:

 

Businesses can add any attribute that is relevant to their business. Follow the below steps to add new attributes to your Google My Business listing.

 

Login into the Google My Business listing that you would like to edit.

 

Then click on Info in the left-hand menu.

 

Now scroll down to Add Attributes and click on Edit.

 

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Here’s how it appears. You can find all the attributes available for your business and select all the suitable ones that apply to your business.

 

Do You Have Questions About Google My Business? Ask Us!

 

 

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Bing’s Webmaster Guidelines, which have remained the same since 2012, were recently updated. The updated guidelines detail the changes they have made to the search engine and what the modern search results look like.

 

The Updated Document Shares How Bing Ranks Content

 

The 2020 version of the Webmaster Guidelines consists of an entire section that tells us how Bing ranks content. The main ranking factors mentioned by Bing are as follows:

 

  1. Relevance: It refers to how closely the landing page content matches the intent behind a search query. Semantic equivalents such as synonyms and abbreviations are also taken into consideration.

 

  1. Quality and Credibility: In order to evaluate the page itself, Bing considers factors such as the author’s or site’s reputation, the level of discourse, the completeness of the content and transparency of authorship.

 

  1. User Engagement: To determine user engagement, Bing considers factors such as:
  • Did users click through to search results for a given query, and if so, which results?
  • Did users spend time on the search results they clicked through to or did they return to Bing quickly?
  • Did the users adjust or reformulate their query?

 

  1. Freshness: Bing generally prefers “fresh” content, meaning sites that consistently provide up-to-date information.

 

  1. Location: Bing also considers factors such as where a user is located, where the page is hosted, the language used, and the location of the other visitors.

 

  1. Page Load Time: Bing considers slow page load time as poor user experience and hence, prefers faster page loads.

 

Generally, the characteristics of the goods or services do not affect how Bing ranks a site unless the content is potentially offensive or harmful to the users. Also, sites that promote methods of suicide or purport to sell opioids or other potentially harmful drugs may get demoted by Bing.

 

What You Should Do Next

 

Bing’s updated search guidelines are a quick 10 minutes read and it is highly recommended that you take the time out to go through it. If you are a pro in SEO then you will note that unlike Google, Bing admits that User Engagement is an important ranking factor.

 

If you happen to know anyone who is serious about marketing a website or is working on a website, ask them to go through the document as all the details shared here are must-know information.

 

 

Are you getting the best return out of your digital marketing?

Need an extra pair of eyes to review your online game plan? Let our experts take a look at your current state and do a comprehensive digital marketing analysis at no cost to you. Please call us at (800) 379-2829 or contact us today and we will get to work right away.

 

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Google My Business (GMB) has become an important part of local businesses. Google is less keen than ever on third party citations and off-page signals and is now relying heavily on content in GMB for ranking.

 

GMB made several headlines with a host of updates, which would be too vast to cover in one article. With four major Google Algorithm updates, there was at least one major local algorithm update in addition that tied to neutral matching.

 

Following is a summary of most of the updates and changes that happened in GMB this year, along with a few that are strictly not related to GMB.

 

January: Messaging, SAB flow, Virtual office rules

  • Google’s abandonment of SMS-based messaging drove owners and agencies to message exclusively through the Google My Business app as Google began emphasizing messaging in the GMB profile.
  • For service-area businesses, Google introduced a new sign-up flow that begins with a question about whether the business has a store or an office and sends the user down a SAB-specific path if the answer is no.
  • Google also provided guidelines to understand who is eligible to create a GMB page for a virtual office. In simple terms, on-site staffing is a must.

 

February: Map Reviews, AR directions, Join Waitlist

  • Google introduced a feature enabling hotel operators to directly enter their check-in and check-out times in Google My Business.
  • Google also tested augmented reality walking directions in Maps and rolled them out extensively in August, but they still haven’t proven to be fruitful ten months later.
  • The company also made replying to reviews in Google Maps easy by allowing business owners with verified GMB listings to reply on the desktop instead of asking them to use the GMB dashboard or Mobile App.
  • Google also introduced the “join waitlist” feature, which is a part of Reserve with Google whose functionality is provided by DineTime. Users have to input party size to receive updates on the status of their wait by texts.
  • The Search Engine Giant also announced the launch of their new spam report form for Google My Business and Google Maps related spam.

 

March 2019: Duplex Rollout, Core Update and SAB Addresses Disappear

  • Google introduced the Duplex restaurant reservations over the phone for Pixel users in 43 states in the U.S. and later broadened the capability to Android phones & iPhones.
  • For service-area businesses, Google removed business addresses from the GMB Profile.
  • The company also began running tests for auto-generated posts featuring reviews.
  • Although not local, Google’s March Core Update affected some local businesses and their customers. We didn’t notice any major change for our clients though.

 

April: Assistant Local Results, GMB Paid Services Survey

  • Business Listings that appear in Google Home or Google Assistant search results are drawn from Google Guaranteed Listings or listings certified by partners Porch or HomeAdvisor.
  • Google Posts enabled businesses to promote reviews as well as testimonials in a new form presented as “Suggested Posts.”
  • Google also surveyed small business owners to understand how much they can pay for monthly subscription fees that include a host of enhanced features and services of Google My Business, to which there were mixed reviews.

 

May: Popular Dishes, Food Ordering, and CallJoy

  • CallJoy automated customer service and call intelligence capabilities were introduced by Google for the SMB market for $39/month. The service and its capabilities were then upgraded in November.
  • ‘End-to-end’ food ordering was brought to Google Assistant, Google search and Maps via partners, DoorDash, Postmates, Delivery.com, and others.
  • Google also began to showcase a carousel of “popular dishes” on local restaurant pages in which selections are generated by machine learning.

 

June: Mapspam and Shortnames

  • The Wall Street Journal published an article on fake listings on Google search and maps. The search engine giant later countered with a post on how it fights local spam.
  • To encourage more local businesses to claim profiles, Google added various new GMB features and tools and also offered new branding and promotional capabilities.

 

July: Get a Quote and Place Topics

  • Google rolled out a new “Get a quote” button in local knowledge panels for some businesses that had opted-in GMB messaging.
  • It also tested “place topics”, basically tags, themes or keywords taken from machine learning using reviews. Note: Place topics only appear when there are enough user reviews on the GMB profile.

 

August: Carousel Pack, Bulk Reviews, Google Screened

  • A horizontal carousel was also tested to replace the local pack in mobile results.
  • GMB added support for hotels to update services and amenities details, appearing in Search and Maps.
  • Google also introduced bulk review management to allow businesses to view reviews for multiple listings at once and reply to them for multiple locations.
  • Google announced the testing of “Google Screened.” The program is directed at professional services but is currently limited to a few verticals in markets.
  • As part of Local campaigns, Google also tested competitor ads in local business profiles.

 

September: Post Highlights, Food Ordering Opt-Out

  • Google Post highlights start to show up in the Local Pack and Local Finder, although the posts have no impact on ranking.
  • Google enabled local restaurants to opt-out of third-party food ordering and delivery, which proved to be highly unpopular.
  • Another Core Algorithm Update was launched, which had an impact on local marketers. Again, this one didn’t have any major impact on our client rankings.

 

October: Search by Photos, Incognito Mode for Maps

  • A new “search by photos” option was introduced in mobile results which appear as a module in SERP that opens a larger page of an image with star ratings.
  • Google implemented several promised privacy controls for users that included Incognito Mode for Google Maps, voice control to delete Google Assistant search activity and auto-delete for YouTube history.

 

November: Local Algo Update, Follow Local Guides, No More Phone Support

  • A local guides follow feature was introduced to enable Google Maps users in multiple cities to follow local guides and see local recommendations of places and things to do.
  • Toll-free phone support was discontinued for Google My Business. Users are now required to fill out a form and request a call back which slows response times.

 

December: Review Carousels, Auto-Posts, Choose an Area

  • Google started showing carousels with local reviews (and Q&A content) on local business profiles, whenever relevant to the search query & has enough “high-quality reviews.”
  • It also began creating posts automatically from GMB posts, but these posts cannot be deleted by the business owner.
  • Google displayed a “request quotes” button in local results. Only available to businesses participating in the Local Services Ads (LSAs) program and that have passed “Google Guaranteed” background checks.
  • A test for the “choose area” feature was conducted that enabled mobile users to refine their search area below a city level as well as allow businesses to designate a large metropolitan area (MSA) as a service area than smaller areas.

 

Local SERP Continues to Evolve

Many of the above changes have impacted local marketers, but certain developments are more important than others. Google is using machine learning extensively to improve the relevance and auto-generate content for uses that vary by query and context.

 

Keep reading for upcoming updates in the local search world.

 

Do You Have Questions About Google My Business? Contact Us!

 

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Looks like Google is out to test another new feature on local results. Last month, a ‘Request Quotes’ button made a sudden appearance above the local pack on mobile.

 

Request Quotes Seems to be a Part of the Messaging Feature in GMB

 

The ‘Request Quotes’ button appears to be in line with Google’s efforts to make Google My Business (GMB) an engagement platform. First spotted by Tom Waddington, this new feature allows users to simultaneously request quotes from multiple businesses, provided they all have messaging enabled.

 

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While any listing can appear in the initial 3-pack, messaging has to be enabled for a business to appear in the results that come up after tapping the ‘Request Quotes’ button.

 

Final Takeaway

As of now, it is not very clear whether Google has already launched this feature or if it is still in test mode. However, what we do know is that besides enabling messaging within the GMB app, it is also important that the quote requests are replied to within 24 Hours. Failure to do so may lead to deactivation, for not being able to keep up with the responses.

 

Have Questions About Your Google Listing? Contact Us!

 

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Managing a WordPress site? Make sure you review what version of PHP your site is running on.

 

As of December 2019, around 62.2% of WordPress sites are running on outdated, prior to 7.2 version of PHP. These sites are vulnerable to hacking.

 

The safest PHP version that you should be using is the current revision, 7.4 or version 7.3.

 

So what exactly is PHP? “Hypertext Preprocessor is a server-side scripting language designed for Web development, and also used as a general-purpose programming language.” To put it simply, a lot of sites are built on PHP programming language. All WordPress sites in particular.

 

The prime reason why you need to update your PHP is that the versions prior to 7.3 are no longer receiving security patches, without which your site becomes extremely vulnerable to hacking.

 

Final Takeaway – Considering the fact that only 37.7% of websites are on PHP version 7.3 or higher, chances of you having to deal with this issue are greater, at least on one of the sites that you manage.

 

When you log in to your WordPress dashboard, you will see a warning message which is a clear indication to update your PHP version.

 

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Upon seeing the message, you need to contact your hosting company and ask them about the steps that need to be taken to get your PHP updated to version 7.3 or higher.

 

Although your hosting company will assist you with everything, you will have to check on all of your plugins before updating.

 

You can even check the version of your PHP by installing this PHP plugin. Have a look to find out where each version of PHP is in their life cycle according to php.net.

 

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Updating your PHP isn’t complicated. You can start by backing up your website. However, outdated plugins and themes can make it seem complicated.

 

Theme & Plugin Compatibility With New PHP Versions

At times you may find that the older plugins and older themes or the custom plugins aren’t compatible with 7.3 or higher versions. Before updating your PHP, it is advised to check which ones are likely to create incompatibility issues and get them updated or replaced.

 

If you have a very outdated theme and are looking to update it, you will have to make certain adjustments for a more recent version. Themes that have a high risk of upgrading problems are those that use advanced editors such as Visual Composer. We have observed that these editors usually generate layout, menu, etc. problems when upgrading the theme.

 

To avoid facing any problems, it is necessary that you resolve any issues before upgrading your PHP version. We suggest you follow the process in the following order to make things easier.

 

  • Delete any plugins that are not in use.
  • Check if there are any compatibility issues with the plugins and themes using PHP Compatibility Checker.
  • Consider using a different plugin in case the latest version of plugins aren’t compatible with 7.3 or higher.
  • Next, go to your web hosting control panel and find the PHP section where you will see the upgrade your website option.

 

Besides, you can always reach out to us if you get stuck at any stage! Our experienced personnel will help you out.

 

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Are you getting the best return out of your digital marketing? Need an extra pair of eyes to review your online game plan? Let our experts take a look at your current state and do a comprehensive digital marketing analysis at no cost to you. Please call us at (800) 379-2829 or contact us today and we will get to work right away.

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Do local citations matter anymore? Mike Blumenthal and other SEO experts share their opinions about how much attention we should be really giving to structured citations.

For any local business, giving a quote, managing their local citations i.e. submitting to top local search engines and directories is still one of the things that make it to the top of the local SEO checklist. With a key focus on quick (automated) submissions and consistency, many local businesses turned to Yext as their go-to service and helped it propel to a $170 million business in 2018!

Local citations were historically seen as one of the top ranking factors but things are not the same now. SEO experts such as Mike Blumenthal (GatherUp) now dismiss citations as almost of no use.

 

Here’s what Mike Blumenthal has to say.

“If a business has their data correct on their website and can get their data straightened away at Google, Facebook and maybe Yelp, there is no need for a citation campaign and certainly no need for a recurring cost to do so.

Google cares about local sites and web-references that users engage with and occur on pages on some amount of prominence. So it isn’t just a matter of having a citation at Yelp or HealthGrades or Trip Advisor, but of having a listing that ranks well at those sites and can pass some authority to your local entity. The strongest industry vertical sites, in some industries, do send some traffic so a citation and content build-out is relevant there.

But the idea of getting listed at 80 sites and paying for it annually is an idea whose time has passed. And the traditional idea of an unstructured citation, (i.e., being cited at an authoritative journal or news source even without a link) has merit. But that is more along the lines of PR than a citation campaign and it can have significant influence over the rank of a business.”

 

Similar to Mike Blumenthal, this is what Joy Hawkins from Sterling Sky has to say.

“I often find that people are surprised to hear that my agency doesn’t focus much on citation building or “maintaining” as a strategy.  We’ve found that time is better spent on other high-impact tactics.

We only bother with citation work if the client has recently moved locations. Even then, we notice that it doesn’t make a huge difference.

We don’t ignore it completely; it’s just labeled here as a low-impact tactic so it’s not what we tackle first.”

 

What’s our take on this?

 

The consensus now appears to be that citations are declining in importance. It’s quite true that our industry’s perception of the role of citations has changed a lot. However, we continue to believe local citations still have an important role to play and are not yet ready to throw them out of our toolkit.

Every location-based business needs to own as much of its branded and core keyword SERPs as possible. Taking maximum control of citations is one of the most obvious and sensible ways to achieve a high degree of ownership. Because all forms of citations could be points of entry for consumers, businesses need to manage them for accuracy and consistency.

However, we feel that the idea of getting your business listed on multiple sites and paying for it annually makes no sense at all. Instead, we focus more on manual submissions which are much quicker to show up as compared to automated submissions, you can select which directories to submit to and you have full ownership and control over these sites.

 

Reference:

searchengineland.com/do-local-citations-matter-anymore-five-local-seos-sound-off-320015

 

Questions About Google My Business? Contact Us!

 

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Due to the growing need to bolster online security, every search engine strives to come up with new, innovative ways to make users feel as secure as possible in the digital world. One such measure taken by the search engines is to warn users against insecure sites by showing a “Warning: Security Risk Ahead” message page.

 

How Bing Reacts to Expired SSL Certificate

Google Chrome and Firefox show a “Not Secure” warning to users on non-secure (without https) websites.

 

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If a website has been flagged as a phishing site, it will display this warning before allowing you to proceed on Chrome.

 

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Bing goes a step further by warning the users that there is a problem with the website’s security certificate and that the problem may be an indication that it might be an attempt to fool you or intercept your data.

 

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How This Can Affect Your Business

Even if there is no real security threat to the users or their data, the fact that the search engines redirect the users to a warning page instead of the homepage can have a huge impact on your website’s organic traffic. Hence, it is important that you keep a track on when your site’s security certificate is about to expire and renew it promptly to ensure that potential leads are not discouraged from visiting your website.

 

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Entities with Google accounts can now claim their knowledge panels to gain complete access over the information that it contains. So if you are a brand that is large enough to trigger a knowledge panel, go ahead and create your own Google knowledge panel today.

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How to Claim?

 

  • Make sure you have a Google account.
  • Search for your entity in the Google search box.
  • Scroll to the very bottom and click on the ‘claim this knowledge panel’ button which will direct you to the entity verification page.
  • Verify your entity by signing in to your listed official site/profile.
  • YouTube
  • Search Console
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Review the displayed information, once the features are granted post verification.

 

Remember: Use the most accurate and engaging information about your entity while you review it. Information that shows up on search (images, stats, facts, etc.) can be changed accordingly.

 

Outcome: Since Google has depreciated the importance of structured data markup for knowledge panels, this is the easiest and latest way of getting your company details updated. So make sure you claim your panel right away!

 

Is your online listing up to date? Find out your visibility score today!

 

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Google recently tested a new “Request A Quote” button feature within the knowledge panels of the businesses that are verified and listed on Google My Business (GMB) and also who have the messaging feature within the GMB App.

Google is automatically adding a large “Request a Quote” button to eligible business listings in search results. The button also appears in mobile search results when the business name is searched for. I, along with others, can replicate this quote feature which means it’s not just a test.

 

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Trying it Ourselves

 

Although the testing of the quote feature was hit-and-miss for us, it did lead us to conclude that there are high chances that for now, Google must have been testing the quote feature in a specific region only.

Google had earlier launched the Messaging feature for Google My Business (GMB) App in June 2017 and since has proven to be a great option to get in touch with businesses for potential clients, that too via TEXT!

The quote feature also allows businesses to set a limit for the number of messages received and can also be turned on/off as and when needed.

Actionable Strategy

 

If you haven’t figured out a way to use the quote feature or haven’t come across it yet then we would highly recommend you to download and try it for your business today. Get entire details on how to make use of this feature here. Those who have the app installed already can proceed with the following steps:

  • Open your Google My Business app
  • Click on the location you want to message from
  • Click the Customers button
  • Click the Messages button
  • Click Turn On

 

Final Takeaway

 

Although the “Request A Quote” feature is not officially launched yet, it is only a matter of time when it will be. The quote feature would surely be a great addition to all of GMB’s features, allowing easy and direct communication between customers and businesses.

 

Have Questions About Your Google Listing? Contact Us!

 

 

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Are you getting the best return out of your digital marketing? Need an extra pair of eyes to review your online game plan? Let our experts take a look at your current state and do a comprehensive digital marketing analysis at no cost to you. Please call us at (800) 379-2829 or contact us today and we will get to work right away.