Google is getting better at answering our questions right in the search results.

Google is predicting what we’re going to need  before we even ask.

Reaching and selling to customers is going to get trickier and trickier.

What’s a business to do?

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em

If someone can beat Google, it ain’t you or me. So as businesses, we might as well join Google and take advantage of all the ways it provides us to reach and sell to customers as directly as possible.

Right now, there are two different avenues (organic and paid) through which you as a business can reach your potential customers on Google,and each avenue has its own direct customer sales methods.

Organic

Google organic search results are providing more ways for businesses to gain clients directly. The businesses that currently gain the most are service providers, as Google offers “make a reservation or appointment” options right in the search results.

Restaurants

If you’re in the US and Canada, you can make a reservation for any restaurant signed up with OpenTable – right in Google search results. Search “make a reservation at [restaurant name] “, choose the date, time and party size, confirm your contact information – and your table is reserved!

Food order and delivery can also be accomplished right in the search results for restaurants using Seamless.

Fitness classes

Just in time for New Year’s resolutions, Google announced the ability to book classes and reservations at fitness studios, gyms and spas in certain geographical areas in the USA. They piloted on a separate Reserve site, but said that very soon they would launch the ability to book directly in Google Maps and Google Search.

Rideshare

Google enables you to book a ride from companies like Uber and Lyft right from Google Maps (and in India, the booking option is even appearing in Google searches like “Uber to airport”).

Other service providers

While Google is most forthcoming about the restaurant reservations and fitness class booking, they also mention how other local service providers can also give people the option to make an appointment right from Google search results.

How can your local business get orders and reservations right in the Google search results?

Step 1. Look into 3rd party online booking services.

Google doesn’t (yet) have its own online reservation engine. It draws and sends information via 3rd party services like OpenTable, FullSlate and DemandForce. Not all services are recognized and integrated by Google, so…

  1. Choose a service that’s integrated with Google to give your business the best shot. Google has mentioned the following services as integration partners:

OpenTable (restaurant reservations)

Seamless (food order and delivery)

MINDBODY (fitness and wellness)

Front Desk (fitness, wellness, music, dance, sports, kids’ activities)

FullSlate (general business)

Appointy (general business)

Local SEO expert Phil Rozek reports also seeing the following services being used by Google in search results appointment booking:

DemandForce (dental, medical, veterinary, spa and salon, automotive)

MyTime (general business)

Genbook (general business)

Zocdoc (medical)

Booker.com (spa and salon)

PatientConnect365.com (dental)

And Google themselves have referred to zingFit (fitness) as “coming soon.”

  1. Sign up for the service of your choice.
  2. If you already use a different service (not listed above), ask them if they’ve applied here to be integrated with Google for in-search-results bookings.
  3. Get reviews

Google will be more likely to show your business (with its new ability to book immediately!) if you have marked-up reviews on your own site or on 3rd party sites (like Google, Yelp or Facebook). Phil Rozek theorizes that reviews plus online booking ability might even give your site a rankings boost.

Another critical reason to get reviews is so when your business with online booking shows up, customers will actually want to book! Encourage customers to leave effective, descriptive reviews.

PPC

Receiving bookings directly from organic results is fantastic. Unfortunately, as Google’s disclaimer tells us:

Links to booking options will appear automatically for eligible businesses. There’s not currently a way to request this service for your business.

So there’s no guarantee.

If you’re buying ads from Google, you still don’t get guaranteed booking, but you do have some other useful options right there for your potential customers to click.

The Buy Button

The ability for consumers to buy retail products directly from mobile shopping ads piloted in 2015. The pilot was open to select retailers and has, of yet, still not been opened to the general retail market.  An UGG’s spokesman says the ads have been delivering great value on conversions and return-on-investment, so here’s hoping it rolls out to all retailers soon!

If you’re not a select retailer, here are two other Adwords ad extensions that can help start a sales conversation right there in the search results. (For more detailed information, check out our easy-to-follow PPC Newbie Guide to Adwords Ad Extensions.)

Click-to-call

Adwords call extensions add a clickable phone number to your ad. On mobile devices, your number becomes a Click-to-Call button (even more enticing). You do have to pay for clicks on your phone number, of course, but all clicks boost your CTR and Quality Score – ultimately improving your results and lowering your CPC.

You’re not always available on the phone? Not a problem. When you’re setting up the extension, you can specify at what hours it should show.

Make sure your phone calls are answered by a human being who can help the potential customer immediately. If they hit an automated system with instructions to “press 1 for…” or worse yet – voicemail! – they’re going to bail.

Adwords enables you to track all the calls in the Adwords reporting interface and see how they’re contributing to your business… for free. If you use call extensions, make sure to do this! Here’s how to set up call tracking:

screenshot of google adwords set up screen

Then:

screenshot showing how to set up google adwords conversion tracking for phone calls

 

And finally:

screenshot of a google adwords screen

Click-to-message

If your potential client base prefers texts to phone calls, message extensions are for you. Your message extension includes a call-to-action where you tell the searcher why they should message you, and an icon that will open their messaging app when they tap it. The messaging app will be pre-filled with a message you provide. If you’re a pizza place, for example, your pre-filled message might say: “How soon can you have the following order ready:”

Like call extensions, you can (and should) schedule your message extensions to show when you have people available to answer them promptly (or have an autoresponder set up to send an interim response).

Currently Adwords reports message conversions as call conversions – so make sure you have phone call conversion tracking set up (see above).

Reach your customer where they are

As a business, you want to minimize friction between your potential customer and their potential purchase of your product or service. Any additional step is friction.

Use the above methods to enable your customer to call, message, book, order or buy – right from the moment they search.

Happy sales!