The Q&A feature launched at the end of 2017 brings a whole new social media dimension to Google My Business! The Partoo teams are here to tell you a little more about it...
Google Q&A is a crowdsourced FAQ feature, meaning that users can ask questions that are then immediately visible on the corresponding Google My Business listing and on Google Maps. Google's aim is to provide consumers with more specific information, which could directly influence their decision to call or visit the point of sale in question. E.g.: “Does this restaurant offer vegetarian pizza?”
The owner of the listing is also permitted to ask and answer questions, and we will come back to this later on to help you implement an effective strategy in this respect. Users can vote for the questions and answers they like best, which influences the order in which they appear on the listing. Last but by no means least, although this is not currently the case, it is highly likely that the text that appears in the questions will eventually affect your local SEO!
How does the notification system work when an Internet user asks a question?
Unfortunately, Google does not currently allow owners to be notified when a question is posted on their listing. Furthermore, the Q&A feature has not (yet) been integrated into the Google My Business API.
Google is, however, doing everything possible to encourage user responses and interactivity with this feature; those who have asked a question are notified when a response is received, and Local Guides who have recently posted photos or edited information are also notified when a question is posted, which explains why the majority of responses are currently posted by Local Guides!
In the United States and more recently in France, this has led to a significant increase in instances of interaction through this feature, since an establishment that already has a question posted has a very high likelihood of getting a second one, and so on. Some brands already have 50 questions per point of sale, and that's just the beginning!
These are our tips for managing this new feature
We believe that it is best not to adopt a ‘reactive’ approach by answering all questions, which would create a lot of extra work and is something your customers will do for you, but rather to adopt a ‘proactive’ approach by guiding the discussions on your listings!
We have, in fact, observed that the majority of questions asked by Internet users have either a positive or a negative slant. Furthermore, as is the case in all social environments, the orientations of the first questions and answers always influence the interactions that follow.
If the questions that come up on your listings, and the ‘likes’ they get, have a positive slant, there will be less temptation to put a negative slant on later questions. That said, the situation can easily get out of hand if your customers start asking questions with a negative tone.
What problems might this feature cause?
The Google Q&A feature is more consumer-focused and less about business needs. From the point-of-sale manager’s perspective, having to log in to Google My Business on a regular basis to check the questions, never mind answer them, is very time-consuming!
Given that it is crowdsourced, Google Q&A can enable trolls and competitors to criticise the services offered or complain, meaning that incorrect answers and spam can be voted and ranked higher than correct answers from the listing’s owner and loyal customers! Since so few votes have yet been cast, people looking to harm your establishment could have a significant impact on your online reputation.
For the time being, the owner of the establishment does not have the option of deleting a question, even if it has a very negative tone. The good news, however, is that moderation times are very short, with Google acting upon most report requests within 24 hours, although it is likely that this time frame will increase significantly in the coming months as the number of requests increases.
How should I respond to these new features?
As is the case with criticism, ignoring or reacting are not the best strategies to adopt. It is essential, instead, that you set yourself apart by engaging with your customers, i.e. by asking questions and providing answers!
It is entirely within Google's guidelines for a company to ask and answer its own questions. The first step is to determine what questions consumers are asking and which ones would be useful in facilitating the customer journey. The obvious candidates are concerns about parking, transport links, bookings, etc., bearing in mind that the questions asked will often be very specific to your industry!
Keep your questions short, accessible and easy to understand by asking them in your customers' voice, but answer them in your own! Local Guides will all too often answer with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and often inaccurately, which is why becoming a source of authority for accurate answers is essential.
Make sure the right answers rank higher!
If any of the answers are from the business itself and the latter is logged in to the same e-mail address as their Google My Business account, Google will display messages to let people know they are from the business owner, but this will not make them more likely to rank higher than any others!
It is important to note, then, that it is also entirely within Google's guidelines for a business to like its own questions and answers, as well as questions and answers posted by others, which you should do, especially if the consumer's answer is a good one! Sometimes it takes just ONE vote for a question to appear on the first page of your Google listing, or for an answer to be the first of ten or more that might appear!
As you can see, this Q&A feature gives Google something of a social media dimension, just like the Google Posts a few months ago!
If you have any questions relating to this topic or about managing Q&A for large point-of-sale networks, feel free to share them with us in the chat room in the bottom right-hand corner