How to Make Google Q&A Work to Your Advantage
As with reviews, ignoring or reacting to questions are not the best strategies. Instead, it is critical that you get out in front by engaging with consumers by both asking questions and providing answers.
GetFiveStars worked with a number of agencies and multi-location brands to determine the best approach to engage with Q&A productively and to understand what consumers are saying about any given location at scale.
Develop a strategy of engagement with Q&A that allows you to participate in the conversation constructively. The key to a successful strategy is minimizing the downside by monitoring and reporting TOS violations while maximizing the upside by seeding meaningful questions, becoming the authoritative source for answers and responding quickly to customer questions and concerns.
We created this simple process, which we summarized in five words: Plan, Post, Monitor, Respond and Report.
Create A Q&A Content Management Plan
It is entirely within Google’s guidelines for a business to ask and answer its own questions. The first step is to figure out what questions consumers are asking and which would be useful to facilitate the customer journey from search to your store.
The obvious candidates are concerns about parking, special hours of operation, appointments and other conveniences. After the obvious consider any questions a consumer might need answered before buying from you.
A a couple of good exercises or areas to research would be:
- What are common questions when consumers call you
- What are common questions from contact forms, Facebook messenger, etc.
- What are sub-services or offerings unique to your business
For more vertically-focused boutique businesses, it makes sense to clarify as much what you don’t do as what you do to qualify potential customers properly.
Post Your Own Questions and Answers
It’s perfectly acceptable and smart for a business to “seed” their own Questions & Answers. After you decide which questions and answers are most appropriate, take some time to write them out, review them to make sure they meet consumers’ needs and then get them posted.
Taking this action will give the early postings a chance to be up-voted more over time. It can also help limit the opportunity for mischief by providing great examples of the content and format of the feature.
Here are some additional tips for posting you may find helpful:
1 – Include questions for less well-known products and services. Once you have identified the low hanging fruit, brainstorm ideas for questions and answers about some of your less well-known products or services. “Does this bakery offer gluten-free choices?” is one example.
Do not treat this as a keyword spamming opportunity, however. It is not, but going niche can be helpful.
2 – Plan for scanning. The web itself is built on quick, “scanable” reads. Consumers are a busy lot, so be sure that questions are easy to read and answers are brief but accurate. Elaborate questions or answers will be ignored or bypassed in most situations.
3 – Write questions using your customers’ voice. These are meant to be accessible and easy to understand, not marketing pieces, so ask questions the way you think your customers would. If your tone is one of sales and marketing, it may fall short for the consumer.
4 – Make them useful to both parties, your business and the customer. Even though you write a question in the customers’ voice, answer it in yours. After all, the goal is to facilitate interactions between your target customer and your business.
5- Don’t overdo it. While there is no magic number, fewer questions and answers are better than more.
6 – Encourage up-voting. Ask loyal customers to up-vote your questions and answers to ensure they are the most popular and stay at the top of the list. Be very aware of your top rated question as it receive more visibility in the Local Knowledge Panel.
Actively Monitor Q&A For Updates And Up-votes.
As noted, Google is not yet offering GMB alerts or API monitoring, which means that you must conduct monitoring activities manually or look to GetFiveStars for its new monitoring solution.
GetFiveStars provides active email notifications of new questions and answers so that agencies and brands can easily monitor new “incoming” content. The Q&A feature also stores all questions and answers in a dashboard so that staff can easily respond or request removal.
Assign a staff member to monitor the Knowledge Panel in Google Search and Maps for new questions and respond as the business owner by logging into Google using your GMB account credentials.
No one can answer questions with as much authority as you, so screen questions and answers carefully and continue being part of the conversation.
Respond to Questions Quickly
Quickly responding to new questions will help keep others from posting incorrect answers, whether they intend to or not. All too frequently, Local Guides will answer with a simple yes or no and, often as not, inaccurately. That’s why becoming the authoritative source for right answers is essential.
It is also entirely within Google’s guidelines for a business to thumbs up (up-vote) their own questions and answers as well as the questions and answers posted by others (which is something you should do, particularly if the consumer’s response is a good one!)
It only takes ONE vote for a question to be eligible to show on the front page of your brand search or in local search results — and it just takes one vote for an answer to that question to do the same.
Thus, the system is vulnerable to gaming and competitors up-voting questions or answers that could negatively impact a business. The example below is not what any business would want showing in their Knowledge Panel results.
Learn How the Reporting Process Works
To be clear, we are talking about reporting questions and answers that violate Google’s terms of service (TOS), not a report of data from the feature.
We know that in any crowdsourced social environment, users will typically mirror the sentiment that is already there. If there is a negative vibe, others will likely reflect that in their comments. Likewise, if the attitude is positive, users will generally follow that lead.
It is not only essential to get out front by writing and posting your Q&A but also by staying on top of the content and reporting anything that violates Google’s TOS.
With active monitoring provided by GetFiveStars, you can take action quickly to get irrelevant and inappropriate questions and answers removed.
We provide quick access to any question via our dashboard and the ability to notate that you have “reported” questions that have violated Google’s terms. When a question is removed, we also note that in the GetFiveStars dashboard.
To remove unseemly questions or answers:
- Read Google’s Terms of Service and guidelines for content
- Familiarize yourself with how to flag them for Google’s attention
Google’s TOS prohibit:
- Deliberately fake or off-topic content
- Defamatory language
- Personal attacks
Google can take things down flagged as incorrect automatically. For example, if someone answers a question and includes a phone number, email address, URL or certain proscribed words, Google will detect and remove it.
In our research, we found that as many as 23% of all questions in the dental segment violated Google’s guidelines and needed to be reported. Here is an example of one that violated the TOS and was reported and removed.
‘Why are there still drug addicts and theives still working in this building and why is sandra covering for them? We found out.everybody in the building with thee exception of 1 or 2 people is on something. It doesn’t bother us that you all get high when you’re off the clock but during work hours? You know better. Instead of try being friends Sandra needs to be a better manager and get rid of the problems. Erasing our reviews in attempts to hide will not work or be tolerated.?’
If automated or human Google curation fails, you can take the next step. That involves waiting at least a week, providing clear documentation and links about the problem and articulating why they should come down, and then post on the Google My Business community forum3.
There, top contributors can review the question and escalate for further Google review and take down if appropriate.
Drawbacks To The Plan, Post, Monitor, Respond And Report Process
Given the lack of a Google My Business posting API, some organizations with many locations will struggle with the posting aspect of this plan. As the number of locations increases, it will become more and more difficult to post questions and answers to all of your locations. You can outsource certain aspects of the plan — such as posting of questions and answers — to an agency, to make this easier.
Minimally, even if you make the decision not to post your own questions, monitoring, responding and reporting are critical activities that allow your locations to stay ahead of the conversation occurring on the Knowledge Panel.
You cannot opt out of Google Questions & Answers, so the best strategy for you as a multi-location business owner or agency is to get out in front and embrace it. Like Google Reviews, this new feature gives you yet another free channel where you can interact with your customers.
Announcing The GetFiveStars Google Q&A Monitoring Feature
To take the hassle out of managing Google Q&A and turn it from a brand hazard into a business-building asset, GetFiveStars developed a platform as part of our Pro, Pro Plus and Executive Plans that help agencies, brands and multi-location businesses easily monitor, report and productively engage with the new Google Questions & Answers.
This feature includes:
Automatic set up. If you have a GetFiveStars Pro Plan or above account and are already monitoring Google Reviews, we will start tracking your Google Questions & Answers automatically as well. For new accounts, as soon as your your locations we will automatically start looking for Google Q & A content.
Find your report by going to REPORTS in the menu and then clicking on GOOGLE Q&A REPORT in the drop down menu.
Google Q&A dashboard. This feature gives you the ability to see all of your locations’ questions and answers in one place. This is a HUGE win for multi-location businesses and digital marketing agencies who need to get all of this information in one place.
You can see how many questions you have, how many answers, how many are open or closed (see status feature below) and the details of all the content.
Email alerts. Whenever we find a new question or answer on any of your locations’ Knowledge Panel, we will alert you via email so that you can respond. We even let you know when Google removes questions you report… right in your inbox.
Status column for management. Each Question has it’s own status setting. When a new Q & A is found, it’s added to the report as an “Open” item. You are able to make items open, closed and reported so you can keep track of what has be managed or what needs to be.
Filtering. You will be able to filter in numerous ways, to focus on the particular locations, labels, statuses or questions of concern.
Multi-location workflow. Staying on top of Questions & Answers is easy with our optimized multi-location workflow that allows you to respond quickly to legitimate questions, report those that violate Google’s TOS and indicate to others in your workgroup that the job has been accomplished.
If you already have your location(s) on a Pro Plan you can start using this new feature today by going to REPORTS and selecting Q&A REPORT. To upgrade your location to the Pro Plan, go to ACCOUNT, then select ACCOUNT OWNER DETAILS and scroll down to the Plan section where you can change your plans per location.