Google Q&A: What is it and why should you care (Updated 2023)By Erika Polishchuk
The image a business conveys online, particularly with its Google listing, plays a critical role in how customers perceive the business and whether or not they choose to visit. A business’s image is heavily influenced by user-generated content including reviews, comments, photos, and Google Q&A. In this brave new world, anyone can post content about a business. This can have lots of benefits but businesses, but can also lead to brand inconsistency or a damaged reputation.
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Google Q&A should be regularly monitored by businesses. It isn’t going away anytime soon and still plays an important role in online reputation management in 2023.
What is Q&A when it comes to Google?
Get to know your customers and help your customers get to know you.
Google Q&A is a simple tool that allows Google users to ask and answer questions about a business online. It is yet another way to provide customers with useful information, right in the knowledge panel of a Google Business Profile (GBP) listing.
Potential customers are able to ask any question they want, and Google users have the opportunity to provide meaningful, or completely bogus, answers. The information that potential customers find can have a strong impact on their decision to call or visit a business.
Here’s how it works:
- Both consumers and the business owner can ask questions AND answer questions. Each individual user is only able to answer a question once.
- Anyone can “like” a question or answer by clicking the thumbs-up icon.
- The question/answer with the most likes will show up on the front page of the GBP listing, directly in the knowledge panel (see the example below).
- All other questions and answers will be shown behind the “see all questions” link, in order of how many likes they have received.
- Questions and answers can’t be downvoted, but they can be reported for any of the following reasons: off-topic, no longer applies, advertising or spam, hate, violent or inappropriate, or incorrect information.
Why you still need to care about Google questions and answers in 2023
User-generated content comes with risks and potential benefits for online reputation
Eighty-four percent of GBP searches are discovery searches (BrightLocal): consumers searching for product or industry categories, rather than a specific business. The majority of a business’s Google listing visitors are there unintentionally and likely have not formed an impression of the company yet. This means that consumers are now judging the business solely on the information that is visible in the knowledge panel, including Google Q&As. Consumers are using this feature more and more, proving that Q&A can have a significant impact on their decisions.
Remember how I mentioned that any Google user can answer questions on a business listing? Not only do users have the power to respond to questions, but Local Guides are rewarded with points for answering them, regardless of whether their answer is right, wrong, or straight-up ridiculous.
Like so many other things in the world of digital marketing, this can be a bit of a double-edged sword. Businesses can benefit greatly from user-generated content in Google QA. Customers who are fans can share their knowledge and evangelize on behalf of a brand in their answers. However, customers can also share negative experiences, or even lie, in their Google QA answers.
Having a positive online reputation is more important than ever for businesses. Google Q&A provides a helpful lens into and tool for manipulating online reputation, so ignoring it in 2023 is a dangerous move.
Local guides are rewarded for answering questions
Have you ever seen a question in the Google Q and A panel, clicked on it to see the answers, and been disappointed to see seemingly pointless answers like “I don’t know” or “who cares?” If you don’t know the incentives behind Google questions and answers, you can be forgiven for wondering why anyone would bother answering “I don’t know” when a user inquires about whether a business has free wifi.
It turns out that the explanation is pretty simple: Local Guides earn points for every contribution they make to Google Maps and Google Business Profile. Anyone can become a Local Guide, and the more points guides earn, the more badges they can display on their profile. There aren’t material benefits to the program, but the gamified approach to encouraging reviews and engagement is enough to motivate many Local Guides to contribute low-value content in order to earn more badges.
As if that wasn’t enough, Google notifies Local Guides when someone asks a question about a business they’ve visited, reviewed, or even posted a photo of. Question notification emails have just become available for business owners, but if you aren’t actively tracking your questions, the last person who reviewed your business is more up-to-date on new questions than you.
For prospective customers reading the Google Q and A section, low-value responses can potentially turn them away from patronizing a business. In our example about the user inquiring about wifi, the “I don’t know” answer might compel them to just seek out an alternative business where they’re confident they can get wifi.
Leaving the answering of questions solely up to the public opens businesses up to these kinds of risks that can accumulate and dampen profits. Unanswered questions, or poorly answered questions, are a liability. Only by actively managing their Google QA sections can businesses ensure their customers get the best information.
But let’s look at the bright side: in addition to helping businesses avoid these few risks, Google Q&A management can provide a lot of benefits to your clients.
How to optimize for Google QA
When properly managed, Google Q&A offers an opportunity to showcase that a business is
- Highly engaged with its customers
- Open and transparent
- Appreciative of customer feedback
All of these things send a decidedly positive reputation cue to prospective customers. Spending a bit of time regularly to optimize the Google Q and A section can result in a meaningful boost to the bottom line resulting from more customers feeling confident enough to make a purchase.
So, what does Google Q and A optimization look like for your SMB clients? Here are a few tips for how to handle this aspect of GBP optimization.
- Monitor and answer questions promptly: Regularly manage the Google Q&A section of your Google Business Profile (GBP) listing and respond to questions as quickly as possible. This shows that you are actively engaged and helps build trust with potential customers. Just think of how significant the difference in experience would be between getting an answer right away and getting one a week later. The first scenario would clearly be far more positive.
- Provide accurate and helpful answers: When answering questions, make sure to provide clear and accurate information. Avoid using overly promotional language or making false claims. Regardless of what your brand voice is, keep things professional and clear in Google QA answers.
- Use keywords: Incorporating relevant keywords into your answers to help improve the visibility of your business in search results for those terms. There’s no need to keyword stuff Google Q&A answers, but incorporating those words when appropriate can be a helpful optimization.
- Encourage customer participation: Encourage your customers to ask questions on your GMB listing and to provide feedback on your responses. This can help to build a sense of community and openness around your business and improve your overall reputation.
- Use images and videos: Including images and videos in your responses can help to make your answers more engaging and informative. This can also help to showcase your products or services in a visually appealing way. Google Q and A answers with media are naturally more eye-catching, encouraging potential customers to linger on your GBP listing, and to hopefully click through to your website.
- Monitor and manage reviews: Responding to reviews, both positive and negative, can also help to improve your business's reputation and visibility in search results. Since Google reviews appear right below the Google QA panel, it’s important to pay attention to both.
- Avoid answering short-term questions directly: It may seem counterintuitive to recommend not answering a question directly in Google Q and A, but hear us out. The Google questions and answers that appear on a GBP listing are, for the most part, there for good. There is only a limited number of scenarios in which they can be removed. This means that a Google QA from today is likely to be read by customers a year or more from now. Questions with answers that are likely to change are best answered by directing customers to where they can find the most up-to-date information. For example, if someone asks if a sale is on, it’s best to post a link to the sale page rather than to provide the details of the sale, which will soon be obsolete.
Offering reputation management solutions can help your SMB clients send the right message online, all while providing a repeatable, reliable revenue source for your agency.
What can Google Q&A do for your clients?
Amplify your image. Build a trusted brand.
Google Q&A helps businesses to:
- Create meaningful communication with current and potential customers
- Have an effortless exchange of requests, advice, and help between business owners and consumers
- Highlight a business’s most important FAQs to save time for both owners and customers
- Avoid confusing or wrong information about a business
- Capture data about customer needs and desires
- Boost rankings in search results
One of the main benefits of Google Q&A is, of course, that it can help businesses build trust with potential customers. By promptly answering questions and providing accurate information, businesses can demonstrate their expertise and show that they care about their customers' needs. This can help to establish a positive reputation and encourage more people to visit the business. But the benefits of Google QA extend well beyond this trust-building benefit.
Google Q&A can also help businesses improve their search engine optimization efforts. By incorporating relevant keywords into their answers, businesses can increase their chances of appearing in search results when people search for related topics. This can help to drive more traffic to their GMB listing and website, potentially leading to more conversions and sales. In addition to the effect of using keywords in answers, simply having an active GBP listing sends a signal to Google’s algorithm that people are interested in that business, and that it should appear in relevant SERPs.
Finally, Google Q&A can provide SMBs with valuable insights into their customers' needs and preferences. By monitoring the types of questions that people are asking, businesses can gain a better understanding of what information is most important to their audience. This can help to inform their marketing and content strategies and enable them to provide better products and services that meet their customers' needs.
Get started with Google Q&A
It's easy with Vendasta's Reputation Management.
In a nutshell, Google Q&A enables businesses and their clients to post accurate information up-front, right where potential customers make their decisions.
User-generated content always carries risks, however, and there may be negative consequences if other users post pointless or incorrect information. Google Q&A isn’t going away, and business owners need to be diligent in monitoring their listings and staying informed in order to make the most of it. To learn all about Google Q&A Best Practices, check out our next blog.
Google Q&A management is available as part of Vendasta’s Reputation Management solution. Users can be promptly alerted of new questions, provide answers to frequently asked questions as well as newly posted questions, and gather actionable analytical data about their GBP profile and other listings. The best part? This can all be done from a single dashboard, so only one login is required to manage Q&A and reviews across the web.
If you want to offer truly full-service reputation management, our team of white-label reputation management experts can fulfill tasks such as answering Google questions and answers under your agency’s name, leaving your team time to focus on what matters: growing your agency.