Update: See my post 11 Tips to Optimize the New Google Questions & Answers to help plan your approach.
Google has announced and started to roll out Questions & Answers, a crowd sourced and business sourced Q & A product for local Knowledge Panels places listings. Tim Capper has a great summary as well that is worth the read.
Essentially the product is designed to allow Google to offer additional FAQ type content via the Knowledge Panel that answers consumers most frequent and “long tail” questions about a Place.
The product is initially rolling out on Android Google Maps only. At some point in the near future it will be available on all mobile browsers as well.
Here is Google’s description of the product that was provided during a preview of the product:
Questions and Answers allow business owners to answer questions directly from potential customers. Merchants can also anticipate FAQ’s by adding commonly asked questions and their answers.
Merchants and other users can both thumb up content to boost its ranking and flag content that is incorrect or spam.
Users have many place-specific questions that are going unanswered right now. By allowing them to ask the business owner and each other, we can help them make decisions more quickly.
Example questions our users have about places:
- “What dishes should I try?”
- “What should I definitely do/see?”
- “How much seating is there for large groups or special events?”
- “Is there space to park a baby stroller?”
- “What’s the lighting like inside?”
- “Is delivery or take-out offered?”
- “Which credit cards are accepted?”
- “Is this a good date night restaurant?”
- “Are service animals allowed?”
- “Can I bring my kids here?”
- “Where should I look for parking?”
- “Do I need reservations for a Friday night?”
- “Are there coupons?”
What does it look like?
Great in concept for Google and perhaps the consumer, but the devil is for sure in the details as to whether it will be good for the business.
Google has said that moderation will be much like reviews in being mostly automated with some human curation. If the product fails the failure is likely to be in the moderation and more importantly, spam moderation details.
If antagonistic competitors figure out the moderation rules, I see it as very likely that passive aggressive negative information could easily be posted. Will staff in India be able to understand the subtlety?
And of course there is always the “lets turn everything into an ugly promotional tool” mindset that many have that could pollute the waters with incredibly spammy content.
As the product is currently designed (it feels given the very limited release and limited interfaces more like a beta,) it puts the difficult task of monitoring directly on the shoulder of the business owner. They need to continually goto their Android Maps app and check to see if the questions are meaningful and if they need to answer the question or whether the consumer answer is adequate.
Posts and Websites “felt” very business friendly. This on the other hand will feel like a poke in the eye to most businesses. Being required to regularly go back and check the crowd sourced status of a listing due to fear of the “crowd” might be off base, is one more task that appears to offer little of value to the business and will take additional (and very limited)time.
Like reviews, I don’t doubt though that effectively embraced and managed it can help a business. I am just not sure most of them will see it that way.
On a more strategic level for Google, this product is one more piece of content that will be residing within the Knowledge Panel for the business… first NAP and photos, then reviews, reviews from the web, then Posts and now “Places Q & A”.
Like Google Destinations in the travel industry, it is an effort to create ever more granular content that will keep consumers within Google’s subtly “walled garden” and further limit the likelihood of their visiting your website.
Short haul it could increase conversions, if properly handled, and that would be a good thing… until the gate keeper starts charging more for the privilege or sends the traffic elsewhere.
Here is a FAQ with details that we know about Questions & Answers (assembled with the help of the many TCs in Google’s My Business Forum).
Q: Places? That sounds like back to future. Continue reading Google Rolling Out Questions & Answers