How businesses can optimize for Google’s new Question & Answer feature

Back in August, Google introduced a new feature called Questions & Answers, or Q&A, in Google Maps. 

This feature allows you and other people to ask and answer questions about your business.

Like reviews and other user-generated content, this update could have an impact on your business’ reputation, so it’s important that you take an active role in managing your Q&As.

Here’s what you need to know to make the most of this feature.

What does Google’s Q&A feature mean for businesses?

Google’s Q&A feature lets anyone ask questions about your business. These questions show up on your Google Maps page. You can answer these questions yourself, or other people can answer them. As the business owner, you can also preemptively ask and answer questions that you think might be useful to customers.

Examples of what the Q&A section looks like in Google Maps. Source: onlineownership.com

The new Q&A feature is undoubtedly handy for customers – who hasn’t wished they could ask questions about a business or venue before actually going there?

For business owners, though, keeping up with Q&As means adding one more thing to the to-do list. There’s no way to opt out of questions and answers if you have a Google My Business listing.

While you could choose to ignore the feature, that’s not a good idea – it’s best to represent your own business online whenever you can, instead of letting others do it for you.

Will this feature be good for your business? Maybe. Like reviews, Google’s Q&As have the potential to build your reputation online. A variety of questions and thorough, high-quality answers on your page can boost your business’ professionalism and trustworthiness in the eyes of customers.

But it remains to be seen whether this will actually bring more customers to you, or just prevent you from falling behind your competitors who make good use of Q&As.

There are some potential downsides to this feature. Like any other crowd-sourced information, Google’s Q&As are vulnerable to spamming and abuse. You obviously don’t want spam on any page associated with your business, even if it’s not your fault it’s there.

And if your competitors have a mean streak, it’s not out of the question that they might try to sabotage your business by planting false or harmful information in your Q&As.  

Another, more subtle downside of the feature is that it could decrease traffic to your website. If customers can get all the information they need straight from Google, they might not bother clicking through to your site. Time will tell whether this will become an issue for businesses.

The good news? You’ve still got plenty of time to optimize for Google’s Q&As. The feature isn’t even available on all devices yet. When it launched in August, it was available for Android devices only. It now shows up on iOS devices as well, but still isn’t available for desktop users.

Start working on your Q&As now, and you’ll be ahead of all your competitors who wait to start using the feature.

How can you optimize for Google’s Q&As?

1. Commit to tackling this new challenge

You can’t avoid or opt out of the Q&A feature, so you might as well take a hands-on approach to it. If you don’t manage your Q&As, somebody else will.  

2. Come up with a list of questions and answers

If customers haven’t asked many questions about your business yet, beat them to the punch. Write up a list of questions and post helpful, relevant answers to those questions yourself. Make sure you’re signed into your Google My Business account when you do this, so that Google will mark your answers as being from the business owner.

Posting your own Q&As lets you establish official answers to frequently asked questions before anyone else has the chance to provide potentially incorrect information.

3. Don’t be afraid to get specific

If there’s something you want people to know about your business or services, go ahead and include it in Q&A form. For instance, if your restaurant can modify any order to be vegan, that would be a good thing to include in your Q&As, even if it’s not a frequently asked question.

As long as everything you post is relevant and potentially helpful to someone, there’s generally no harm in providing a lot of information.

4. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes

As you write your Q&As, aim for helpfulness and clarity. Think about what questions you might have if you were a customer who’d never been to your business before. Phrase your questions and answers in plain English, and avoid any technical jargon that casual visitors might not be familiar with.

5. Don’t post anything spammy or unhelpful

This probably goes without saying, but keep all your questions and answers professional, helpful, and to-the-point. The Q&A feature is not a promotional tool for businesses – it’s designed to help customers. Don’t stuff your questions or answers with keywords, and don’t post Q&As that are just thinly veiled advertisements for your business.

6. Stay on top of your Q&A section

As long as you’re logged into the Google Maps app, you’ll get a push notification whenever someone asks a question about your business. Answer these questions as soon as possible. Don’t put them off, or someone else will probably answer them for you.

If you provide quick, complete, and helpful answers, other people will be less likely to chime in with less accurate or helpful information.

The Google Maps app sends you push notifications when someone asks a question about your business. Source: Search Engine Land

The Q&A feature uses an upvoting system, which makes it especially important to get your answers in quickly. Earlier answers will have more time to collect upvotes, meaning they’ll be more likely to be displayed.

7. Report any malicious content in your Q&A section

Unfortunately, you can’t hide spam, irrelevant questions and answers, or malicious postings in your Q&A yourself. The best thing to do is to report this content to Google immediately. Keep a close eye on your questions and answers so you can catch and address any problems right away.

One tip for preventing Q&A mischief: never answer a question with just a “yes” or “no.” Users can edit the questions they asked after the fact, making it look like you said “yes” or “no” to a completely different question. Provide a complete, detailed answer to prevent this from happening.

The takeaway

Google’s new Q&A feature is still in the process of rolling out for all devices, and its full effect has yet to be seen. For now, the best thing to do is to be proactive.

Take the initiative in asking and answering frequently asked questions about your business, and monitor your Q&A section to make sure it’s up-to-date and full of helpful information.

What do you think of Google’s Q&A feature? Has it helped your business? Share your thoughts in the comments!

 

Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer for AgencyAnalyticsan all-in-one reporting platform for agencies. You can connect with Amanda on Twitter and LinkedIn, or check out her content services at amandadisilvestro.com.

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