Google recently rolled out the ability to book appointments at US salons and spas directly within search results and Google Maps.
Whether it expands further remains to be seen, but, in the meantime, it offers interesting opportunities for both Google and small businesses.
According to Tom LaVecchia, president of digital marketing firm X Factor Media, the move marks Google beefing up its own local presence, which has been somewhat weak so far.
And, for Marcus Miller, head of SEO and PPC at digital marketing firm Bowler Hat, the main takeaway is Google allowing consumers to do more within search results.
“Google by its very nature is always sending people away from the search engine, contrary to Facebook or [other social platforms] where users spend far more actual time,” Miller said. “By weaving more functionality into the search results, local or otherwise, they can keep people on the search engine longer and have more [of a] chance to get people to click ads.”
For his part, David Erickson, vice president of online marketing at Karwoski & Courage Public Relations, agreed Google is inserting itself into the customer journey at a point where said consumer might break away, which could be beneficial for small businesses that don’t already have the ability to book appointments on their websites. However, he noted the companies that want to control the booking experience and gather data on their websites could see this as an unwanted intrusion.
Miller said he also wouldn’t be surprised to see this initially free feature eventually become paid.
Per Miller, this means it’s even more important than ever that small businesses stay abreast of what is happening in local search so they can benefit from relevant features “and make sure they are early movers to benefit before the paid elements eventually creep in”.
Erickson also advised small businesses implement a system to solicit feedback of customer reviews as “star ratings and customer reviews within the search results and the knowledge panel will play a huge role in whether or not a potential customer decides to use the booking feature”.
This could also be a sign that, like jobs and travel, Google is considering a move into online booking and appointment services.
“With Gmail and Google Calendar, the fundamental infrastructure is there for Google to enter that market,” Erickson added.