Google rolled out its new Questions and Answers feature in Maps for all mobile browsers Wednesday.
It works exactly like it sounds: On business listings in Maps, users now have the option to ask questions. Business owners and other users can respond to these queries directly. All users can “upvote” questions and responses they find helpful.
Google originally launched this only to Android users in mid-August, announced in a blog post by Lisa Wang, associate product manager of Google Maps. They expanded access to all mobile browsers Aug. 23, as noted by SEO specialist Sergey Alakov.
How should small businesses use Q&As?
Marissa Nordahl, community manager for Google My Business, offered the following advice for business owners:
- Treat the feature as you would a Q&A section on your website. What questions do you hear from customers over and over again? The answers being easily accessible in Maps means prospective customers can be assured you’re ready to meet their needs … from offering shuttle service to serving gluten-free pizza crust.
- Build rapport and trust with prospective customers by answering their questions. Both Wang’s and Nordahl’s posts assure business owners they’ll receive a push notification about new questions. Respond to queries promptly and avoid jargon or verbose answers; large blocks of text will alienate users.
- Reward active members of your community who contribute helpful answers to questions about your business by upvoting their responses. Just as it’s essential to have advocates looking out for your reputation on review sites, it’ll be just as important here.
Is this just another thing I have to check?
There’s no shortage of social media and review sites on which users can post their opinions about your business — and, yes, this is another one you need to add to the list. The Q&A section is located just below your business information, meaning anyone checking you out in Maps is likely to see it. Google has outlined policies for it, but only time will tell how effective the moderation system is.
If Google has its way, business owners nationwide will have no choice but to engage with Google products actively to keep tabs on their reputation. There’s no dedicated section within the GMB portal (in-app or on desktop) to monitor questions yet, so business owners will need to be diligent in keeping an eye out for notifications.
Like with reviews, a proactive approach will be your key to success. The earlier you establish a useful and thorough Q&A section, the more likely it is you’ll receive up votes from the early adopters — and, thus, limit opportunities for trolling and spam.
What does this Q&A launch mean for Google?
Most users search Google to answer questions, so this Q&A feature fits their objective to help users find answers easily. This move, though, is another in a series recent launches meant to keep users engaged within Maps and the Knowledge Panel and, by extension, make these products more social. For example, Google has also launched Posts and Messaging within GMB this summer.
Facebook has long focused on becoming the framework over which communities are built, so Google’s efforts to compete should come as no surprise. It remains to be seen whether Google can succeed where others — such as Foursquare/Swarm, Seamless, GrubHub, Foodspotting and even Yelp’s tips — have struggled to foster engagement over business tips.