Notice anything different about your Google searches lately? Your favorite businesses are becoming even more reachable online. Now, you can simply Google a business and click on its highlighted phone number to give them a call immediately from your computer.
While it's always been possible to make phone calls via your laptop, the option to do so as you Google a new takeout spot makes one-click calls truly take just one easy tap on your trackpad.
Although you don't need to download extensive software to utilize Google's in-browser call feature, you do need a Google+ account to take advantage of it. Chances are you already have one that you rely on for Gmail, Google Docs, or YouTube. In fact, you can't even comment on a YouTube video now without having a Google+ account.
Google+ is the home of Hangouts, which includes both video and voice calls, and lets you contact anyone who's in your circles, contacts, or even Gmail inbox. And now, Google searches.
Make sure you're signed in to your Google account each time you plan to make a call. You can only make Google search phone calls while logged into your account—trying to do so incognito won't work. Any phone numbers that appear in your search results will be plain black text rather than links.
If you've never used Google Hangouts before, it takes just a few minutes to install and prep. Check Google's system requirements to ensure you're using a supported browser, then download the Hangouts plugin. If you don't download the plugin, you'll be prompted to install it the first time you try to use Hangouts to make a call.
To actually make the phone call, just do a Google search for a local restaurant or store. On the results page, the business's phone number will pop up in the right-side box that shows its Google Maps location and general business info. Click on the blue, hyperlinked number and a new window will pop up, opening Hangouts.
As soon as the window loads, first-time callers will be prompted to enable telephone call capability. If you've made voice calls to telephone numbers before, you'll automatically skip this step.
Next, the Hangouts window will ask for confirmation that you want to make the call. You'll also see the cost of the call, which will be free unless you're dialing a contact outside of the U.S. or Canada.
As soon as you click "Call", your laptop will begin dialing.
With this new addition to your search results, you can set appointments without leaving your desk—or picking up a phone. Keep in mind that every call you make via Google search will cause you to appear as "Unknown" on caller IDs. If you want to show your identity or phone number, you'll need to use a Google Voice account.