Google Maps has a “Questions and Answers” section for local businesses, a feature rolled out for the first time in mid-2017. The feature was initially available only on the Google Maps Android App and desktop version of the site but is now available in the Google Local Pack.
As a local business, you may not realize it but many people are already asking questions through this feature.
Initially, Google Questions & Answers was designed to be crowdsourced. When the feature first launched we looked up the ten closest pizza restaurants to our office in downtown Chicago and seven of them had questions submitted.
However, not many of them had official answers from the local businesses themselves. Most of the questions were answered by “local guides” who get incentives from Google to answer questions.
In some cases, we have seen the public answer each other’s questions with negative remarks or criticisms. This may not be the ideal situation for a business who wants to control their public image and what public information is available about their business.
Now, when we search for pizza restaurants, the Google Question & Answer results are much more advanced. The number of answers has tripled across the board, owner engagement is higher and Google now highlights Critic Reviews.
How to Manage Your Google Questions and Answers
There are two ways to manage questions for your business.
The first way is through your Google My Business account.
Sign in to your account, navigate to “Settings” and turn on notifications for “Questions and answers”.
The second way is through the Google Maps app.
Sign in with the Google account used for your Google My Business Listing. Once you are signed in, go to your settings and click to receive push notifications on your Android phone or tablet.
How to Use Google Questions and Answers to Your Advantage
This one sounds obvious, but one of the best things about Google Questions and Answers is that not many local businesses have taken notice of the new feature yet.
This is great news, because if you have the answers to questions that your competitors do not have, people will be more likely to choose your business.
Be proactive by submitting your own frequently asked questions
No one knows what customers regularly ask more than the business itself.
Anticipate their questions by submitting them and responding to them yourself. For example, if you run a local coffee shop, go ahead and submit a question about free wifi – you know someone is going to ask!
Stay on top of your questions
Users have the ability to ask any questions they want and anyone with a Google account can answer them.
Whether it is Local Guides, happy customers, disgruntled customers, or competitors responding – there are no limitations how questions can be answered.
By getting there first you will be able to set the record straight.
Have your employees, customers, and friends upvote answers
If your questions and answers have a lot of upvotes, Google will make them more visible on your Google Maps Listing.
Never answer a question with one word
Users have the ability to edit their questions after they are answered, which can sometimes lead to this wonderful feature being taken advantage of by bad users.
The more thorough and descriptive you can be in your answers, the less likely you will be targeted by a competitor or a spammer.
Report bad questions
Google has been pretty good at removing questions that violate their guidelines. So, if you see questions that are inappropriate or irrelevant, be sure to report them immediately.
Know that this feature is important to Google and is constantly changing
Expect frequent updates and stay on top of changes and how you can use them to your advantage.
Treat your Google My Business listing like the first point of contact for customers
Keep your listing up-to-date with new images, information, hours, products, and contact information.
Use the new “Posts” section to communicate sales or specials. Let customers know if you are closed on holidays.
Managing this information carefully will answer users questions before they need to ask.