Back in August, Google introduced a new feature called Questions & Answers to Google Maps. Google Questions & Answers lets local business owners and the public answer consumer questions adding another layer of data to the knowledge panel and local finder. In December this feature moved from mobile-only to include desktop display.
THE GOOD: Google Questions & Answers
You and other people can ask and answer questions giving Google Maps and Google Search users more customer-relevant information about your business.
THE BAD: Google Questions & Answers
You can’t opt out of or turn off the Question & Answer feature. If you aren’t answering questions, there’s a chance Search and Maps users will do it for you.
THE UGLY: Google Questions & Answers
Users can leave answers/comments without the restrictions of review, approval or monitoring. This unfiltered publishing leaves room for user-generated content that could be harmful to your reputation to appear with your Google business listing at a time when reputation management is vital to the success of local and small businesses.
5 Steps to Optimizing Google Questions & Answers
User-generated content on Google such as reviews and Questions & Answers have the potential to impact your online reputation. For business owners that means monitoring this feature should be part of your plan for monitoring reviews.
Some business such as restaurants and hotels will see more traffic in their Q&A section, but all businesses should take the opportunity to populate this feature to provide answers to the questions that customers frequently ask. Here is yet another online and very public channel to demonstrate your professionalism and the care you give your customers.
1. BE PROACTIVE AND START NOW.
Stay ahead of the competition and on top of anyone who’s visited your location and been asked by Google to answer a question. Come up with a list of questions that answer the issues your customers are asking and answer them populate this section. Think about the actual questions customers call and ask before visiting your location.
2. BE HELPFUL AND CONCISE.
Answer questions with only the needed information to be helpful. Note that you shouldn’t answer just yes or no to a question because the question asker can edit their question and then your “yes” might not make sense anymore. If they ask if you take Sunday appoints, then a good answer is “Yes, we do work on Sundays but only by appointment with limited services.”
3. INSTALL THE GOOGLE MAPS APP ON YOUR PHONE.
Log into Google Maps with the account you use to manage Google My Business, and make sure that notifications are turned on. Stay on top of your Q&A section with push notifications you’ll receive when you are logged in. Currently, there is no Google My Business dashboard section to monitor the Q&A feature.
4. ANSWER CUSTOMER QUESTIONS PROMPTLY.
Make sure you are checking in at least weekly on this section and answering any questions as soon as they pop up. If left unanswered or ignored for any period of time you risk having random previous customers (or competitors) answer the questions for you.
5. REPORT FALSE OR MALICIOUS ANSWERS.
You can’t hide spam or malicious postings, but you can report fake content to Google. I’ve seen where past customers have used this feature as yet another platform to complain about a negative experience, completely irrelevant to the “Does this place have restrooms?” question they posted under. If the comment shouldn’t be there, let Google know.
Make the Most Of the Google Questions & Answers Feature
Google’s Questions & Answers feature can be helpful in keeping your customers informed, but just like review monitoring this feature can’t be ignored and will require a little maintenance on your end to protect your reputation. The good news is that most local businesses are not yet using this feature. By being proactive and taking the time to optimize your Questions & Answers, you’ll be ahead of the competition.
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