Technical SEO

What does Google Q&A feature mean for your business?

Last week we blogged about the launch of Google’s new Q&A addition for MyBusiness pages. Essentially, this new feature enables anyone to ask (and answer) questions on your business’ listing within mobile search results.

If you missed our first post, catch up here – but make sure you come back – in this post we look into what it means for your business and how you can make best use of it.

So, who is it for?

In short – everyone. The news of the launch being shared on Google’s Small Business blog might suggest that it’s a feature intended for small businesses, however, in the short space of time it has been live, we’ve seen adoption across medium to large brand pages too.

We have seen lots of engagement already. Some questions are very general, some are very specific and some are time-sensitive (see below examples for Waterloo Stn and Heathrow). But what is clear is that the Q&A feature instantly presents both challenges and opportunities for businesses, in monitoring, moderating and responding to questions while also channelling the potential fuel for content strategy.

Screen shot of Google question on Waterloo station

Screen shot of Google question on walking directions from an airport

Goodbye Google wormhole

We’re really excited about this addition to MyBusiness pages (whatever floats your boat, right?)

This is Google being clever again by bringing everything you’re possibly looking for straight to the search results. No more getting lost in a wormhole of community forums trying to ‘quickly’ find the answer.

Google’s own research found that when searching for answers, 82 percent of people turn to search engines (no surprise there), but often find it hard to locate up-to-date, accurate information.

Questions & Answers hears this frustration, and cuts out the middleman. You can ask your question directly within the business listing, read other responses, and await your reply.

The downside? As is the case with all community forums where anyone can engage, you may not always get a correct answer, or indeed a sensible one that you’d want associated with your brand:

Screen shot of irrelevant answer from Google questions

So what does it mean for your business?

As promised in our last post , we’ve been exploring how brands might use the new Q&A feature.

The first and most obvious questions are about monitoring and moderation, especially for larger businesses with the added complication of multiple premises and numerous My Business listings.

Access and digital literacy were other considerations that came up – with the feature being rolled out solely on mobile, would all business owners have the relevant skills and processes in place to respond efficiently?

And then there’s the question of whether this would be a necessity at all? With regular ‘expert’ Google users able to appoint themselves as ‘Local Guides’ to respond to questions, is the resource not already in place for brands, however indirect?

In contrast to the concerns, there are actually some real potential benefits it could bring to your business too.

Not just in enhancing your listings and brand impact in the results pages , but also for added insight into your audience’s search intent , which can in turn inform your search and content strategies ongoing.

Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons:

Monitoring

For small businesses, monitoring and moderation may not be a problem at all. The level and specificity of queries could be manageable for a small team to handle on mobiles and tablets throughout the working week.

But larger businesses with multiple sites and My Business listings may struggle to keep up. There’s also the question of who owns the listings and has access to logins – often the cause of many headaches across large multi-site corporations.

At present Questions & Answers is not moderated by the business owner, but users can report comments to Google for moderation.

Local Guides (self-appointed ‘expert’ Google users for their local areas) and other users will of course help too, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll give correct answers, however enthusiastic they are.

Local Guides will get notifications, as will the My Business page owner, when a question is asked. So, if you’re not on hand to reply straight away, chances are a Local Guide, or another Google user, will step in.

This looks to be engineered by Google to keep information updated and avoid questions going unanswered for too long.

Moderation

Dealing with negative questions, comments and unsuitable content should be approached as it would be on social media. While you can’t physically delete a user’s comment on Google Q&A, however unsuitable, a prompt, polite and helpful response usually puts out any immediate fires and turns negatives into positives for brand reputation.

As ever with social media and digital – the more responsive, reactive and switched on your brand can be, the better.

Access

Most businesses have good digital literacy these days so using mobile devices isn’t a problem for many, skills-wise.

It’s definitely a time-thing though, as taking time away from the business to answer what could be multiple, specific queries on mobile could be detrimental to workflow.

This could be a task for the marketing team to delegate at set times within the day or week. Just like with social media monitoring, plan Google My Business moderation into your action plans to allocate sufficient time and resource.

  • Get your logins and page access in order now, and set aside time for team members to check and respond to questions where necessary.
  • Draw up a crib sheet of suggested answers for your FAQs and add any new ones that come in for easy access.

Positives (Now for the exciting part).

Once you’ve waded through the initial operational concerns, this Q&A function can actually bring a host of benefits to your brand’s digital strategy.

Improved brand visibility

The additional content on your My Business mobile search results can only be a good thing for your brand. Let’s cast our mind back to when click to call functionality was introduced – its success was due to the fact it reduced the steps (or clicks) that the user had to take to get the information they wanted. Having questions, and answers, visible in the search results can also do just that, especially if you keep it updated and respond promptly with helpful info and links to your site.

Fuel for content and search strategy

Having visibility of the types of questions people are asking about your brand will give you another area of insight that can help you inform your overall search and content strategy.

We think this will be a really valuable asset to your research and discovery phases of your digital activity. Whilst some questions may seem unimportant or uninteresting to many, what they may show is a lack of relevant content on your site, hidden pages or gaps in your strategy that you didn’t know about.

You can then use this insight to inform your ongoing content and search strategies. This can be as simple as adding regularly asked questions to your FAQs, right through to a full content marketing campaign to meet this audience need.

  • Keep your My Business listing up to date with info, photos, contact details and also Q&As for improved search visibility.
  • Take note of common questions coming in and perform a content audit on your current site to identify gaps.
  • Use the insight gained from your Q&A research and content audit to create content and inform your ongoing digital strategy.

Need more help optimising your Google MyBusiness listing? Download our full guide to Google MyBusiness