Google Q&A starts conversations and encourages meaningful exchanges of information between business owners and customers. Its utilization of user-generated content is a double-edged sword; any user can leave an answer to a question, whether their answer is accurate or not. Business owners need to properly manage their Google Q&A activity to reap the rewards of what is intended to be a useful feature.

Google Q&A: Best Practices

1. Monitor and answer every question

All questions should have an answer from the business owner so that potential customers can easily find the information that they need. Leaving it to the public to answer questions can lead to confusing or incorrect information being left on your listing. Answers from the owner are accurate and reliable, and other users aren’t likely to keep answering a question if the owner already has.

When answering questions, keep things brief but complete – make the answer easy to scan and understand, but don’t leave the consumer searching for more information. Answers have a limit of 1,000 characters, which should be more than enough.

Here are some additional tips for answering questions:

  • Avoid simply directing customers to a website that can answer their question. This creates more work for them and runs the risk of losing their engagement. If their core question has been answered, directing them to the website for additional information may be appropriate.
  • Don’t answer questions with a simple yes/no. There are people who get a lot of joy from messing with businesses online. For example, after you answer “yes” to “Do you have a gluten free menu?”, the person who asked the question may edit it to show you answering “yes” to “Is your chef actually a tiny rat?”. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s best not to take risks when it comes to your online reputation.
  • Answers are not allowed to include images, hyperlinks, or personal information. The phone number of the business is fine, but the email address is not.

2. Populate the Google Q&A page with FAQs

A key step in managing a Google Q&A page is to be proactive and answer questions before they are even asked. Ask and answer the most common FAQs as the business owner so users know they are accurate. By pre-populating a page with common FAQs, consumers don’t need to search for information and business owners can save time by not having to answer “Are you open on Christmas eve?” repeatedly. Ask questions in the voice of the customer, and be sure to start with questions that are actually frequently asked; otherwise, you aren’t saving time for anybody.

What questions are best to ask? This will vary between industries and even among similar businesses, but start with things like:

  • Hours of operation (don’t forget holiday hours!)
  • Parking
  • Accessibility

For a restaurant owner, mentioning gluten-free or vegetarian options is important. It all depends on the business, and nobody knows a business better than its owner.

3. Move on to questions that are less frequently asked

Once the Google Q&A page is populated with the most common FAQs, it may be valuable to add questions that are less frequently asked. Think long-term, cover all of your bases, and only ask the question if the answer provides real value to your customers. Examples of these may be whether you offer gift cards, questions about pricing, or if there’s a best route to reach your business.

4. Upvote important Q&As so they appear in the knowledge panel

Here’s where business owners can either make or break the effort they’ve put into their Q&A. Every user has the option to “like” a question or answer by clicking the thumbs up icon. The question/answer with the most upvotes will appear directly in the knowledge panel of the business’s listing. The remaining questions appear behind the “see all questions” link, in order of how many upvotes they have. Be sure to give all of your answers an upvote, especially those that are the most important or commonly asked. Some Google users will help out by giving an upvote to the owner’s accurate answers, but others will give their vote to the most entertaining answer they can find.

5. Flag Inappropriate Responses

If there are any questions or answers potentially harming a page, be sure to flag them as inappropriate. Both questions and answers can be flagged for any of the following reasons:

  • Off-topic
  • No longer applies
  • Advertising or spam
  • Hate, violent, or inappropriate
  • Incorrect information

In addition, Q&As including advertising, email addresses, or the phone number of anyone besides the business owner goes against Google’s policies.

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When used properly, Google Q&A can be an extremely useful tool for business owners to connect with customers, provide reliable information, and build a consistent brand image. If business owners do not properly monitor, ask, and answer questions, they risk having incorrect and potentially confusing information posted on their page by other Google users.