We're used to Google having the answers for everything, so Google Q&A feels like a natural progression of the search company's offerings. But not all Google answers are created equal.
When you type a question or phrase into Google Search, Google uses natural language understanding (NLU) to scour the web for relevant sites. The People Also Ask section works in a similar way, presenting a rich snippet drawn from other sites, based on keywords in your query.
However, unlike other Google features, Google Q&A gets its answers not from the web but from users' responses. It's a great way to share information with your customers — but it can also be a sort of "Wild West," potentially one that's leading your customers astray.
Curious? Here's how Google Q&A works, why you should care, and what you should do.
What is Google Q&A?
If you don't already know, Google Q&A is part of a Google Business Profile (GBP). That's the section that comes up when you Google the name of a business. You can also access the GBP by searching for a particular type of business (e.g. "coffee shops near me") and selecting the business from the list of results.
In addition to the Q&A, the GBP also includes information such as location, opening hours, popular times, photos, and reviews. It's a highly visible calling card for your business, so you need to make sure it's as accurate as possible.
The snag is that anyone can ask or answer a question on Google Q&A. Yes, really. And since the content is user generated and not moderated by Google, incorrect or even malicious information can stay on your profile for months, if not years, if you don't monitor it. Google also incentivizes users to answer questions through its points system, but the points are based on quantity not quality. Someone can write a wrong answer — or total nonsense — and still collect points.
In short, Google Q&A is a quick and useful way for customers to get answers to commonly asked questions about businesses. However, if you don't take control of those answers, it might actually lead you to lose business.
Why you need to pay attention to Google Q&A
You already have a beautifully designed, informative website where customers can find out what they need to know about your business. Why should you also have to worry about Google Q&A?
For starters, your listings (including your GBP) are where many potential customers will interact with your business for the first time. Your beautifully designed website will be listed on your GBP. But if your customers spot negative information under the Q&A section, it could deter them from clicking through.
It's also a matter of trust. People expect to find reliable answers on Google (rightly or wrongly). Although each answer under the Q&A is attributed to a Google user, it's not necessarily obvious that this information hasn't been independently verified or updated. If a customer reads on the Q&A that your business is open from 10am to 5:30pm, only to arrive at 5:05pm and find out the hours have been updated to a 5pm close, they won't blame Google or that random Q&A user: They'll blame you. And they might not bother coming back tomorrow.
Out-of-date information isn't the worst case scenario. Since there are millions of GBPs, and Google doesn't moderate them, people can get away with writing whatever they want, until someone reports them.
The question doesn't even need to be a question. Maliciously or otherwise, people sometimes use the question function to write short reviews of their experience. On the answer side, they might just respond with "I don't know," which doesn't help your customers, but still earns the user points with Google. Users can also recommend competitors in their answers, as long as it's not advertising. For example, if someone asks whether your business offers a particular service, someone else might inaccurately respond that you don't, but they should try your competitor around the corner.
If you're not keeping an eye on your Google Q&A, you're trusting people on the internet to act in good faith and with all the necessary information. So yes, it's important to be actively involved.
How to master Google Q&A
The most important step in using Google Q&A is answering every question. If you don't, someone else will, possibly incorrectly. As a representative of the business, your answers will be marked as verified, which helps build trust with potential customers. They appreciate knowing that the answer comes directly from the business.
Top tip: Write your answers in a way that includes the original question. Users can edit their questions after posting and even after they've been answered, and you don't want your words to be twisted. But don't add phone numbers, email addresses, links, or spammy sales copy in your answers. All of these go against Google's Q&A policy, and if you're caught and reported, your answer will be deleted.
One thing that can save you time is using a listings management tool that allows you to sync your Q&A with your FAQs. You'll be able to export questions and answers you've covered in your FAQs to your Q&A, without having to write them out again. And the tool can flag when a new question comes up.
GoogIe Q&A is one more way for customers to find out about your business, which is ultimately a good thing. As with everything on your GBP, the more information you provide, the more conversions you'll generate. It's worth keeping on top of, and there are tools that make it as painless as possible.