Levi Williams-Clucas is a UK-based SEO specialist who works primarily in local SEO. Levi’s passion lies in helping local businesses get found online and she says there’s no better feeling than seeing a Google My Business listing she’s worked on appearing in that lauded Map Pack.
In this guide, Levi explains what Google Q&A is and how local businesses can use it to boost their visibility, convert searchers, and more.
Please note: This article refers to the Google My Business Q&A feature not the ‘Q&A on Google’ search feature, which is due to shut down by July 2021.
What is Google My Business Q&A?
The Google My Business Q&A feature enables searchers to ask and answer questions about a place, business or landmark via its Google My Business profile, and gives the business owner or representative the opportunity to respond to them there, too. An additional ‘upvote’ feature allows searchers to show others that a particular answer was the most helpful or most accurate.
Why was it introduced?
GMB Q&A was introduced in 2018 to help customers find out information about businesses that isn’t easily available outside of the website (or that isn’t on the website at all), and to allow the business owner to answer common questions that could otherwise go unanswered.
What does it look like?
Here’s what the Google My Business ‘Questions and answers’ feature looks like when searching in Maps:
And here’s what it looks like in a desktop search:
When does Q&A appear on your profile?
The Q&A section on your profile will appear all the time, even if you have no questions. In search results, the Q&A block appears as below if your profile has no questions:
The hyperlinked text, ‘Be the first to ask a question’, will appear underneath the Q&A subheading alongside a CTA to ‘Ask a question’.
How does Google My Business Q&A work?
Once someone has asked a question about your business, the business’s profile managers will get notified by email (there is speculation on whether this happens 100% of the time, however from my experience it does). Then it’s up to other searchers who come across the business’s GMB profile, or the business itself, to respond to the question.
Who can ask and answer questions in GMB Q&A?
Anyone can ask and answer a question on a GMB profile; all that’s needed is a Google account.
You might notice some account types asking questions more frequently than others, though. Local Guides—Google account owners that have demonstrated a higher level of local knowledge and regularly submit content to Google about their local area—tend to answer questions more frequently than others, including business owners.
This is because there are often benefits to providing these answers in the form of badges and points that contribute towards Google’s Local Guides program.
How can a business answer questions in Google My Business Q&A?
To answer questions as a business, the profile manager can simply go directly to the Q&A section within the GMB dashboard and answer as the business owner.
When the business owner replies to a question, it is very clearly marked for users to see, with a logo, company name and the text ‘(Owner)’.
Other searchers can also answer questions that have been left unanswered. This is done on the search interface in the same way as asking questions, by clicking the ‘Questions and Answers’ section.
Sadly, the fact that absolutely anyone with a Google account can answer questions can be the cause of distress for some business owners. This is especially true if the question isn’t answered honestly or kindly or if the initial question was rude.
What if I get a rude or offensive question or answer?
Should your business experience some bogus answers, or offensive, aggressive or detrimental questions, the business manager can use the ‘Report’ function to flag when a question or answer is not appropriate to Google Support.
You can choose between a range of reasons for reporting a question:
- Off-topic questions
- No longer applicable
- Advertising or spammy
- Hateful, violent, or inappropriate
- Incorrect information
- Other reasons
If your reported questions or answers don’t get removed, and they are potentially detrimental to the profile, you can always contact Google Support to help get them removed.
Are there any official guidelines for GMB Q&A?
There are no official guidelines on what can and can’t be posted on the Q&A feature on Google My Business. However, there are some tactics that I would recommend sticking to when using GMB Q&A:
- Try not to use it for short-term questions/answers:
Often for industries with frequently changing schedules like cinemas and gyms, users will ask ‘What’s on this week?’ or ‘What time is this session?’ within the Q&A panel. Try not to answer these specifically, and instead reply with a link to where users can go on the website for the latest information. This means users don’t get outdated information when they’re asking the same question at a later date.
- Don’t ask or answer offensive, rude or sensitive questions:
If someone has asked an inappropriate question, refrain from answering it and report it instead. Similarly, if someone has answered a question inappropriately or disclosed personal or sensitive information, be sure to report it rather than engaging.
- Answer questions as the business owner as often and as quickly as possible:
The quicker and more often the business owner answers questions within the Q&A panel, the less likely it is that unhelpful or inappropriate responses will be left.
How does GMB monitor and report on Q&A?
There is currently no reporting or dashboard available for this feature. It’s generally best to check questions and answers from the Maps app or integrate it into a Google Data Studio dashboard as part of your GMB reporting via their Data Studio API.
Is Q&A different on mobile and desktop?
Between mobile and desktop, the Q&A feature pretty much looks and feels the same.
Here’s how the desktop example we looked at above works on mobile:
The only difference is that on mobile, Q&As do not appear in the SERP. They will instead only appear when the user clicks on the profile and scrolls down the page.
Google Q&A doesn’t appear for searches in the Maps app on mobile.
In what order do questions and answers appear?
From experience, questions appear by the ‘most helpful’ first, i.e. the questions/answers with the most ‘thumbs up’ votes. However, they also often appear in order of being asked, or whether they’ve been answered or not. This seems to be entirely down to Google’s algorithm to decide for you. In theory, there is no way of influencing this.
Why is GMB Q&A important for local businesses?
Niche information is less likely to be known as widely about small or local businesses as their national or global counterparts. So, at every opportunity, local businesses should use these features that help to address parts of the business that are not as commonly known in an easy and digestible way. GMB’s Q&A feature provides the perfect opportunity for this.
General Benefits of GMB Q&A
GMB Q&A can be very valuable to local businesses if handled properly. These can be the make-or-break factors for customers looking to use your business for a service or product. They can provide answers in an easy-to-understand format that might have otherwise put customers off if the information couldn’t be found.
The Q&A feature can also highlight questions to answer on other platforms. If you find your business gets asked very often about opening hours or dietary requirement flexibility, you can use this information to make your social media channels and website more accessible for your customers, and in turn, provide a better experience.
Other general benefits of this feature include improving trust in the business customer, providing helpful information in the language of the customer rather than the brand, signaling relevance and credibility in the industry, and even contributing towards rankings and conversions, as we’ll get onto in a moment.
Is Google Q&A a ranking factor?
Whilst GMB has been found to not be much of a ranking factor directly, the impact of having a well-filled and accurate Q&A feature could be beneficial to rankings in other ways. If your customers are content with answers provided, they’re more likely to click through, purchase, and leave a review on your profile, or engage with it at the very least.
Based on how we know reviews, in particular, can boost trust signals pointing to a brand or website, we can only assume that it’s an ‘every little helps’ feature that can only be beneficial to have, even if it has no direct, immediate impact on your search performance.
Is Google Q&A a conversion factor?
In my (and many others’) opinion, yes. There is evidence to suggest that businesses with questions that have been answered simply, in a friendly manner by the business owner improve conversion based on the increased likelihood of engagement if a customer has a critical question answered for them with ease.
In Whitespark’s Local Search Ranking Factors survey, a comprehensive Q&A was considered a top ten conversion factor.
I would be more likely to convert with a business like a restaurant if a question I had, that was critical to my visiting the restaurant, was answered before I’d had to ask it. For example, whether or not they serve dairy-free options.
Alongside this, regularly answering questions on your profile helps signal to Google that the listing is updated regularly and that the information is fresh, which is believed to improve the visibility of the profile and therefore can contribute to improved conversion.
How local businesses can use Google My Business Q&A
Local businesses can use the Q&A feature in a number of ways: to help improve visibility, to improve conversion rates on profiles, answer important FAQs on the business, to provide helpful information for customers easily and quickly, and to improve trust in the business.
The GMB platform as a whole should be regularly updated and refreshed with new content, questions, and business information to maintain and improve visibility in the local area, and the Q&A feature is no different.
Here are some further tips on making the most of this feature:
- Check in on your profile’s questions regularly. If you’re going to use the Q&A feature to benefit your profile, be sure to maintain and manage it regularly and check questions and answers as often as possible. Not only does this reduce potential brand damage from inappropriate questions and answers by allowing you to report them quickly, but it also promotes the profile as one that is consistently updated and maintained, which is important in Google’s eyes.
- Use the upvote function. If someone gets to a question before the business owner, and the answer is right, use the upvote function to signal to users that the answer has been approved and is helpful. Upvotes can also benefit Local Guides, which still hold a lot of sway in the Google search landscape, so it’s good to keep them on-side if at all possible.
- Take note of common questions and use them to improve your website, GMB, and social content:
GMB Q&A can generate quite a bit of UGC (user-generated content) that can help to guide business owners on what people are commonly asking. This is a great way to discover additional opportunities for expanding website content, and provides ideas to use in other channels like social posts and email. In addition to these, these can be used to inspire your Google My Business attributes.
- Use Q&A to answer FAQs:
Business owners can ask and answer questions on their own profiles, so the Q&A feature is a great place to ask FAQs that you know are important to your customers. Asking and answering these FAQs can help customers make decisions much more quickly about whether your business is what they’re looking for.
Google My Business’s Q&A is just one of the many helpful and important features that local businesses can use to boost their visibility in their area or industry.
What’s your favorite way to use Google My Business Q&A? Drop us a line in the comments below!