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Understanding Google My Business & Local Search

11 Tips to Optimize the New Google Questions & Answers

The new Google Places Questions & Answers offers a lot of potential for both helping and hurting a business. Here are some thoughts on how your business should approach this new and untried feature in the local Knowledge Panel.

1- Get out in front of them.
Crowd sourcing can be intimidating to the typical business but it’s best if you approach this, like reviews and photos, proactively. Having good Q & A’s posted will somewhat limit the opportunity for mischief.

Used with minor revisions and permission of brett jordan under a Creative Commons License. Some rights reserved

2- Start now.
Write out some questions that you can post to your listing. Review them to make sure they meet consumer’s needs and get them posted. This will give the early postings a chance to be upvoted more over time.

3- Make sure that they really are Frequently Asked Questions1.
I have advised several clients to listen to incoming phone calls and list out the actual questions that callers ask before they come into the store. This will save you and them time which is one of the things that purchase funnel optimization is about. The obvious candidates here are the very real concerns about parking, special hours, appointments and other conveniences.

4- Think long tail as well.
Once you have identified the low hanging fruit, brainstorm some of the less frequently asked questions (but asked) about some of your less well known services.  “Does this bakery offer gluten free choices?” I am NOT saying to treat this as a keyword spamming opportunity. It isn’t but going niche can be helpful.

5- Plan for scanning.
Consumers are a busy lot and you want to be sure that both the questions are easy to read and the answer are brief but accurate. Be brief and too the point. These need to be short answers to real questions.

6- Write them using your customers voice.
These are meant to be accessible and easy to understand, not marketing pieces.

7- Make them useful to both parties; your business and the customer.
Obviously the goal here to facilitate interactions between the right kind of customer and your business.

8- Control yourself and don’t over do it.
Its best if there are fewer rather than more. (I am not yet sure what that means but…)

9- Plan for disaster.
This is a crowd sourced environment after all and we all know that weird and unpleasant things can arise. Write down a plan so that in the heat of the moment you don’t do something stupid. Usually the first step is to take a breath and call a trusted advisor (to talk you off of the cliff).

10- Monitor your Knowledge Panel for new questions.
If they are legit be the first to answer. Use your GMB login and the answer will be noted as from the business owner. This is likely going to be a problem for multi location chains as their is no API or in dashboard notification but it is necessary. Hopefully Google will prioritize the development of tools to deal with this both proactively and at scale.

11- Learn the process for removing unseemly questions and/or answers.
This involves:

  1. Reading the TOS of service and guidelines for content.
  2. Familiarizing yourself with how to flag them for Google’s attention.
  3. Understanding how the forum works so that if automated or human Google curation fails you, you can take the next step. That involves waiting at least a week, providing clear documentation and links about the problem, and articulating why they should come down. It helps to @ one or two top contributors via the forum to be sure that it gets their attention.

Like reviews, there is no way to hide from this. You are better off being proactive and getting ahead of it. It may be hard but take a deep breath and start planning now.

Fortunately Google is rolling this out slowly and on a single platform (Android Google Maps only). It will take some time for consumers (and worse competitors) to become aware of it. Be ready.

I am sure that I missed a few points. What would you add to the list?

1 – Credit to 10 Tips for Creating a Killer FAQ Page where I “stole” many of these ideas.