Ah, Google: Always on the cutting edge of, well, everything. Now, with the implementation of Google My Business Q&A, they’re attempting to answer commonly asked questions right from the Knowledge Panel. Some may see this update as yet another way Google is stripping power from business owners, but this new feature offers a lot of potential for brand growth—if handled properly.
What is Google Q&A?
In the fall of 2017, Google pushed “Questions & Answers” out on their Google Maps app (Android). In December, this feature rolled out to mobile and desktops. “Great,” you say. “But what does it do?”
As the name suggests, users can ask a business owner specific questions related to their services, products, or policies. Owners of that Google My Business listing can then respond to these questions.
How Does Google Q&A Affect My Business?
Customers ask questions; owners answer said questions. Easy-peasy, right?
Not quite, as anyone with a Google account can also answer these questions without having a direct connection to the business property. Even competitors can ask and answer questions on your Google property, which should be alarming to anyone whose rivals are snarky weasels.
If Google Reviews and customer testimonials on Yelp! weren’t enough to handle, this open Q&A forum poses an additional threat to a business’s reputation. Therefore, it is our recommendation that you remain constantly connected to this new facet of your Google listing by answering inquiries in a timely manner. (If you’re a car dealer in need of reputation management to handle Google Questions, ask one of our Google Local analysts for advice.)
Will Negative Google Answers or Comments Hurt my Page Rankings?
In theory, replies to questions posed on your brand’s Knowledge Panel shouldn’t affect your SEO efforts positively or negatively. That’s not to say they won’t impact how well you’re converting searchers into customers. As is the case with all reviews, an unpleasant comment in this Q&A section could deter potential customers from doing business with you, which could drop your rankings over the long haul.
On the other hand, being conversational and responding to user inquiries can have the opposite effect—a bump in rankings. Google likes nothing more than to see users have pleasant experiences with businesses, and they’ll reward those businesses in due time. In this case, that reward may come in the form of better SERP positioning.
What’s the Best Way to Handle Questions and Answers?
At Opportunity Max, we recommend that business owners make weekly tasks to check new responses and questions. During that task, owners should log into their GMB account and perform the following actions:
- Answer questions in detail, offering pertinent information and links to important pages. This is a great “excuse” to create an FAQ page on your site, too. FAQ pages can be updated regularly—new site content is always beneficial from an SEO perspective—and save time when replying to questions that have already been asked in the past.
- Report any inappropriate questions or answers per the Google guidelines, including those that appear to be spam or provide incorrect information.
- Mark accurate answers or positive comments with a “thumbs up” to potentially push it to the top of the list. This is an interesting gray area when it comes to user-generated answers: although they’re not as likely to be accurate, they are more likely to be favored as the “preferred answer” in Google’s eyes. Therefore, if there’s a particularly good response to a question or positive recommendation made, consider embracing that reply as your own.
- Publicly and privately reach out to customers who have had poor experiences. Although it may not be remedied or rectified, their issue is worth your time to investigate. If you do happen to satisfy their needs, you can then ask them to remove or amend their comment.
- Create/update an Excel document comprised of common questions and answers that can be referred to in the future. You can utilize this spreadsheet to formulate the FAQ page you’ll definitely write. (Right?)
Obviously, not all situations should be handled the same way. Sometimes you’ll receive questions that require a deftly created response or simple in-person conversation. Use your best judgment in these situations, and follow the old mantra: The customer is always right (aka. don’t cuss them out).
Which Questions are Shown at the Top?
If you see a teased question in your business’s Knowledge Panel, it’s probably the one with the most “thumbs ups.” That seems to be the ranking factor when determining the top comments and questions.
In Desktop view (see image below), you’ll want to click on the “See all questions ()” link to display them. So, do that.
Can I Remove Questions and Answers?
Unfortunately, there’s no way to directly remove an unsavory question or answer from your business listing. You can, however, report comments made by users if those responses don’t follow the Google guidelines. Major violations include:
- Advertising of another business
- Inclusion of links, email addresses, or phone numbers leading to another business
- Spam (obviously)
- Profanity or explicit material
- Unrelated topics
- Copyrighted content
- Personal and private information (“doxxing”)
- Hate speech
Luckily, about 20% of questions and responses may violate these Google guidelines, so having a decent grasp of the “yays” and “nays” outlined there may give you enough ammunition to fend off bad reviews and comments. And Google’s crack team of service reps have typically been removing improper responses within 12 to 48 hours.
How Often Will I Receive Questions?
A (very) recent study of 1,700 online listings confirmed that the typical Google Local property has received an average of 1.6 questions since August. Furthermore, about 35% of car dealers have one or more questions showing in their Knowledge Panels. As this new Google feature becomes more prominently displayed in Knowledge Panels, it’s likely that more questions and answers will be seen across all verticals, not just “big box” retailers and auto dealers.
Google has also been soliciting Local Guides to actively ask and answer questions on local business listings. If signed up as a Local Guide, users who have interacted with a business in the past will be asked to participate in the Q&A process, thus giving the entire feature a built-in platform that may very well have long legs.
What Types of Questions Can be Asked?
The majority of questions you’ll have a chance to answer will be related to policy, prices, and services offered. However, there are no limitations to what a user can ask (with the exception of those that violate the Google Q&A guidelines). You’re also bound to receive a handful of comments that impact your reputation, so be prepared to answer and address this ASAP.
Can I Set Q&A Notifications?
As of January 2018, the only way for a business to be notified of posed questions and posited answers is through the Google Maps app on an Android phone/tablet push notifications (or by looking at the Search Engine Results Page itself). We’re not huge fans of this restriction, but beggars can’t be choosers.
You can log into your Google My Business account on an Android device and turn on notifications in the “Settings” section. For more instructions on setting up Q&A notifications, read Google’s support thread.
In all, this Google update makes it clear that ignoring your customers’ questions is not an option. But is it here to stay or will it sputter to its death like so many other failed Google services? The jury, as they say, is still out. To ensure you’re taking full advantage of each opportunity given to you in-the-now, it’s imperative that you consider how to manage this Google My Business Q&A feature.
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