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Google Tests Live Chat in Search Results

Content Takeover Mobile  Local SearchGoogle is experimenting with a service that incorporates Google Hangouts into its search results, a move that could allow local businesses to better communicate with consumers.

The test was first spotted by Twitter user @MattGibstein.

As shown in the tweet, the live chat feature is similar to Path Talk, a mobile app released by start-up Path in September of last year.

A local business can add “chat” functionality to communicate with consumers, as well as a link right after the “chat” option to show its availability. Consumers can then start a Google Hangouts conversation with the business, where they can have more flexibility to make reservations, check product availability, and ask menu-specific questions of a restaurant, for example.

The difference between the new Google feature and Path Talk, of course, is that this can leverage Google-owned-and-operated properties like Google Maps and will be listed in search results.

Search Engine Watch has reached out to Google to confirm the news. A source familiar with the project says the service is an experiment and no further details are available at the moment.

So the search community is left with many questions about the move, such as whether the live chat feature will be available on both mobile and desktop, when it will be rolled out, and if it will be viewed as a ranking factor by Google in the future.

It seems that Google is taking cues from smaller companies like Path and Yelp to build up its local search functionality. For example, prior to this news, Google introduced “Local Guides” to encourage users to write Yelp-like reviews on mobile.

Image via Shutterstock.

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