What You Need to Know
In August 2017, Google quietly launched Questions and Answers. It was initially rolled out only to users of the Google Maps app for Android, before a wider release to all desktop users in December. The feature allows local business owners and the public to answer consumer questions on Google Maps, adding another layer of data to Google’s local knowledge panel.
Questions and Answers is a useful tool that gives businesses the opportunity to place answers to FAQs directly within the SERPs, as well as enabling them to learn more about their customers’ needs and wishes. However, many questions are currently going unanswered. Here’s what you need to know to get started:
Potential customers are already asking questions…
According to a recent study by online reputation management tool Get Five Stars, 25% of all locations on Google Maps currently have questions from customers and leads.
… And other users are answering them (in a way you might not like)
Non-management of Questions and Answers can lead to potential issues for brands. A time-sensitive question going ignored could lead to missed opportunities for sales. Relying on crowd-sourced answers is also a risk, as even customers with the best intentions may unknowingly offer up the wrong information.
At the moment, Google’s Local Guides are answering the majority of questions, as Google sends alerts to these users when questions get asked in their area. Local guides earn 3 points for every question they reply to, which can go towards exclusive benefits such as 3 free months of Google Play Music. The problem with these incentivised replies, however, is that there are no quality control checks, which have led to an abundance of non-informative answers such as “I don’t know” or “You should call the business and ask”.
It’s also worth noting that customers who have already reviewed your business are prompted to respond to new questions – even those who might not have had a great experience!
You can get inappropriate Questions and Answers removed
Fortunately, business owners are able to report any questions or answers that violate Google’s guidelines and get them removed. The guidelines are the same ones that Google use for Google Maps reviews and prohibited topics include spam and fake questions or answers, off-topic content and conflicts of interest.
You can add your own questions
In addition to answering questions about their brand, business owners can also pro-actively populate the feature with known FAQs and their own expert answers. Doing this now makes it more likely that these questions will get upvoted as helpful over time and therefore appear at the top of the feature above less relevant user-generated Questions and Answers.
For best practice, aim for around 5 genuinely commonly asked questions (don’t go overboard!) in clear, succinct and non-promotional language. Make sure you are logged into the Google account associated with your Google Maps listings when both adding and answering questions so that the reply is labelled with “Owner”, in order to demonstrate transparency and build trust.
Notifications are another matter though
Currently there isn’t an area within the Google My Business dashboard for new question notifications. However, you can enable email alerts for Questions and Answers within the Settings section of the dashboard. Note that this must be enabled for each individual manager who wants to receive notifications, rather than for the business as a whole. Android device users can also receive push notifications through the Google Maps app.
How to Answer Questions
- Do a Google search for your brand and look at your local knowledge panel on the right side of the results.
- Scroll to the “Questions & answers” section below your business location details.
- Click the “See all questions” link to view your questions.
- Click the “Answer” link to reply. Make sure you are signed into your brand’s Google account so that it appears as an official answer!
- To add your own FAQs, click the “Ask a question” button, and then answer using the steps above.