“Unrealized potential” – If there was one phrase that could sum up Google My Business’s Questions & Answers (or GMB Q&A) feature, then this was it. Ever since this local feature was rolled out in 2017, it never really got the attention it deserved and continues to be underutilized by most businesses (yeah, even by big brands and digital marketing pundits). Therefore, through this article, we attempt to explain how your business can best utilize the opportunity that the GMB Q&A presents, and get NOTICED by potential customers, while your competition continues to IGNORE it.
So, what’s the big deal about Google My Business Q&A?
Well, before getting into that, lets first start by understanding what Google My Business’s Questions & Answers feature really is. Back in 2017, the Google My Business team first announced this local Questions & Answers feature within Google Maps on Android. Soon, it got added to search results – in Google’s local Knowledge Panel.
The GMB Q&A is intended to be crowdsourced – real people asking questions that otherwise had no direct answers available on search, and real people answering them. It’s pretty much like Yelp’s Ask the Community and Amazon’s Customer questions & answers. The Q&A lets Google crowdsource information about local businesses that may not be available within the structured attributes of Google My Business. Some of the common questions that you can see:
- Is there an ample parking space near the store?
- Does this hotel provide airport shuttle?
- Does the restaurant offer eggless pastries?
Now answering the question – why Google Q&A is indeed a “big deal” for businesses? While the local questions and answers are crowdsourced, the biggest pie is for the businesses to take – it offers an opportunity to businesses to answer questions that the real people – a.k.a potential customers are asking about them. So, for a question like – “Does this hotel provide airport shuttle?”, a business could now respond with – “Yeah, the hotel provides airport shuttle every 30 minutes, and guess what, it’s completely free.”.
But the benefits do not stop here. A business can use Google Q&A to populate Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) with answers, thus delivering a superior experience to Google users.
When Google Q&A was first launched, it came with some really interesting features:
Big deal, right? Yeah, but adoption by businesses was surprisingly low, even after a year from GMB Q&A’s launch.
Where did Google go wrong with GMB Q&A?
While experts have differing views, there are two major factors that contributed to the muted response that GMB Q&A received – (i) lack of awareness among small businesses (many of them weren’t even aware that the feature existed) and (ii) lack of convenience for large businesses.
While making the Q&A feature consumer-centric, Google missed offering businesses an efficient way to manage the questions. Notifications were sent to the GMB listing owners’ accounts using Google Maps on Android and search dashboard on mobile. Large enterprises having multiple locations managed by various teams found it hard to keep track of questions from these push notifications. Mostly, the notifications were missed, and the businesses didn’t even know when a question was posted. In fact, numerous business complained that they never even received a notification! The result – the otherwise cool feature, got completely ignored and forgotten even while Google users were posting questions.
What businesses missed out on, by ignoring GMB Q&A?
Within 6 months of launch, 25% of google maps locations already had questions posted in GMB Q&A! The number has since exponentially grown. However, a random check of some Google My Business listings (even of prominent brands) will show how ignorant businesses have been about the feature. Studies claim that only about 10% of the questions posted have answers from business owners. This is what happens when a business owner doesn’t respond to questions asked:
The above question received 4 answers, none of which were from the business owner. The featured answer that’s most prominently displayed is by a Local Guide who says ‘no’. If you expand the “3 more answers”, it reveals answers that vary from ‘yes’, ‘no’ and “not sure”.
Well, did the business really offer airport shuttle? Guess we will never get to know (unless the business notices and decides to respond). And the damage? High among Google users viewing this location on Google Maps or Knowledge panel and wanting to avail the shuttle services.
One small step by Google, one giant leap for businesses?
Fast forward to November 2018 – Google finally responded. Their new GMB API version 4.3 had something that could ultimately make GMB Q&A usable for large, multi-location businesses. The API now allowed businesses to directly fetch new questions posted on the GMB business profile as well as push answers to it.
What this meant was – large enterprises no longer had to rely on the not-so-reliable push notifications alone and could directly retrieve, create, edit, delete GMB questions and answers for all locations (edit and delete from GMB API when connected to the same user) while also tracking metrics like total upvotes.
Latest News: On 10th September 2019, Google released a new update for GMB API that allows real-time Google Q&A notification via API whenever a new question is posted.
Therefore, no questions or answers missed anymore. This made GMB Q&A suddenly lucrative.
Does GMB Q&A help in SEO?
Frankly, it doesn’t seem so, at least as of now. Google is trying to up its game – switching from displaying search results to helping businesses convert without the need of a website. When it comes to immediate conversion from search, reputation has a big role to play. That’s why Google has been enriching its Knowledge Panel with user-generated content – adding Google Reviews, Questions & Answers, Reviews from the web, enabling comments in Posts. GMB Q&A is essentially a reputation building, conversion-oriented feature and you should treat it as a means to deliver superior user experience, not as a tool to rank high on search pages.
Also, Google seems to focus on the Questions and Answers format everywhere – GMB listing, SERP’s rich results and more. This does smell of “Voice Search relevancy” to us. We won’t be surprised if these questions are used by Google to build its inventory of Voice Search queries and responses soon.
Google My Business Q&A: The BIG opportunity awaits you
To portray a powerful brand story over the web, you need to think beyond your website. Consistency in user experience across website, listings, Knowledge Panels is essential today. Therefore, in order to champion your Google My Business listing, do the following with the Q&A:-
Make GMB Questions and Answers your FAQ base:
Build GMB Q&A as an FAQ base instead of waiting for questions to be asked.
Ensure that the potential customer gets an answer to the question without waiting for long.
Upvote favorable questions and answers:
Upvote quality questions and answers to ensure that the Knowledge Panel reflects a good impression of your brand
Report malicious content:
Often will you come across content that is ill-willed. If you encounter one, act quick and report it to Google.
Listen to what users are saying about your business and your competitors:
It’s important to listen to what your potential customers are asking or thinking about you and your competition. This not only helps you maintain quality question, but it also helps improve your content marketing initiatives. Also, the questions asked can be the basis for your voice search preparation.
Build efficient systems:
While GMB Q&As are important to your business, you would not want to spend too many resources to manage it. So, you should build efficient systems to edit, manage and publish your Q&As through engines such as Milestone’s FAQ Manager that integrate with GMB API.
Finally, you can’t ignore a question. If you do, Local Guides or a common Google user will answer it (which might not always be in the best of your interest). In the end, what brand story would you wish to portray?: