Over the past couple weeks, Google began rolling out a Questions and Answers feature for Google My Business. This new feature allows business owners and the general public to ask and answer questions in Google Search and Google Maps. For example, someone may want to ask a car dealership, “Do I need to schedule an appointment to get an oil change?”. That question could then be answered directly by either you as the business representative, or by other users who know the answer.
By now you should see a Questions & Answers section in the Knowledge Panel for most businesses when using Google Search or Google Maps on your mobile device.
[UPDATE 11/30/2017] Google’s Q & A feature has now rolled out to desktop users and is visible in both the Knowledge Panel and Local Finder.
How and Why Should Your Business Prepare for Google Q&A?
At it’s core, Google Q&A provides a crowdsourcing opportunity for customers to actively engage with your business by asking timely and relevant questions. Answers to asked questions can be provided by the business itself and users in general. Users also have the ability to “thumbs up” previously provided answers to questions that they deem to be accurate and helpful. As a business owner, you can also join the conversation and both ask and answer questions that would provide value to your potential customers.
Any one signed into Google can provide answers to questions posed by others. However if you want to participate as your business, you first must have Manager Access to the verified Google My Business listing for your business. When you are logged into that Google account you’ll now be able to officially respond to, or post new, questions as your business entity.
One of the benefits to engaging in the Q&A as your business is that when users see answers directly from the business, it builds your authority and earns you a reputation of being responsive to customers.
How Will I Know When a Question Has Been Asked or Answered?
If you’re signed into the Google Maps app with the same account for which you have Google My Business management access, you’ll receive a notification from Google Maps that a new question has just been asked. From there it’s easy to jump right in and provide a relevant and timely answer.
Also, Google Local Guides who have visited or reviewed your business, may also get a notification letting them know that there’s a new unanswered question which they might be able to answer on behalf of the community.
For those who ask questions of a business, they’ll also get a notification when the business or someone else replies with an answer as long as the user is signed into Google Maps.
Should You Be Worried About Spam / Harassment?
Because of its crowdsourced nature, Google Q&A may open the door for spammy or harassing questions to be posted to the knowledge panel for your local business. While you do have the ability to report questions as inappropriate, at this time businesses have no control to remove specific questions or answers.
This is something you certainly want to keep an eye on. Local SEO specialist Mike Blumenthal points out,
“If antagonistic competitors figure out the moderation rules, I see it as very likely that passive aggressive negative information could easily be posted.”
That being said, Google does have a pretty strict content policy in place for its Questions and Answers feature, and I highly recommend you check it out. For example, if someone were to answer a question and include a phone number, email address or url that doesn’t belong to the business in question, it will be automatically detected and removed by Google.
In some of our own internal testing, answers that included links to pages within the actual business’s website were also removed. Because of this, we recommend that you answer questions as completely as possible without directing people to a page on your website. This will ultimately lead to a better user experience by not making a user take the additional steps of going to a website for the answer to their question.
Should you be worried about negative or misleading questions being posted to your knowledge panel? Me personally, I wouldn’t be. However, there are still a few things you can proactively do to lessen their potential impact should it happen….
Tips for a Successful Google Q & A Game Plan
1. Start Now!
The sooner you start, there will be less opportunity for spammers. If you post quality questions and answers early, they will have more opportunity to be upvoted above other Q&A’s over time. This will help ensure the information available is meeting your customer’s needs.
2. Write Some Questions
Write the questions for customers and in their language. This is not a marketing opportunity. These should be actual frequently asked questions and supply useful, easy to understand information. Do not be afraid to also get specific as long as they are actual questions. “Is there a team member that speaks Polish?” “Do you provide courtesy cars while my car is being serviced?”
View a list of example questions for Car Dealerships to get inspired!
3. Plan for Monitoring
Have a plan for someone to monitor the Knowledge Panel in Google Search and Google Maps for new questions. While using your GMB login, your answers will be displayed as from the business owner. No one can answer questions as effectively as you, so stay on top of this and continue being part of the conversation. Responding to new questions early will also help avoid others from providing incorrect answers, whether intentional or not.
On the other hand, you must be prepared to respond to situations where questions and answers are purposefully trying to hurt your business. Similar to responding to negative reviews, it is important to remain calm and have a plan. As mentioned, Google has some level of moderation, but it’s possible some information could slip through. Be familiar with Google’s terms of service for content, know how to flag the questions or answers and how to escalate the issue if needed. Google’s forums may be worth exploring as they can be a great tool to assist you with issues should they arise.
Inspiration: Example List of Questions for Car Dealerships
- Do I need an appointment to test drive a vehicle?
- Is there a team member that speaks Spanish?
- Is there a team member that speaks Polish?
- Is there a team member that speaks Arabic?
- Is there a team member that is fluent in American Sign Language (ASL)?
- Do you offer student discounts?
- Do you offer military discounts?
- Do you offer emergency services/first responder discounts?
- Is there a wheelchair accessible entrance here?
- Do you have valet service?
- Who can I contact regarding sponsorship opportunities?
- Are certified pre-owned vehicles sold here?
- Are new vehicles sold here?
- Do I need an appointment to get an oil change?
- Do you service all makes and models?
- Do you have a collision center?
- Do you provide courtesy cars while my car is being serviced?
- Do you offer a service rewards program?
- Do you have a lifetime warranty program?
- Does this place accept credit cards?
- Can you get tires here?
- Are your parts prices competitive?
- Do you install parts?
- Do you price match tires?
- Do you offer financing for people with less than ideal credit?
- What do I need to bring with me to get financing?
- Can you finance both new and used cars?
- What are your financing requirements?
In closing, Google’s Questions and Answers feature is meant to benefit your business by providing actual answers to the questions your customers have. Those businesses who take a proactive approach to managing their Q&A presence will have a leg up on the competition.
Do you have any Q’s that need A’s about Google’s Q&A feature? Feel free to ask them in the comments section below!