Finding businesses through Google Maps isn’t enough for the search behemoth. To expand the functionality of Maps, Google recently added another feature — a question and answer section. This new feature allows customers to ask business questions and the business owner (and soon the public) can provide answers. Currently, this feature is only available on Android phones.
What are Questions & Answers?
Here’s where you will find this new feature. For example, when you’re in Google Maps and click on the bar at the bottom of the home page map that says “Explore food & drinks nearby,” and then you click on “Best Coffee,” and hit the first listing. Currently, you have the business information: a link to direct calling, the business website, address, phone number, hours, photos, the map, and reviews.
Although that seems like a lot of information, Google loves more data, so they added Q & A’s. They will show up immediately below the initial information. This section will allow Google to offer additional FAQ type content that answers the most frequently asked long tail questions about the business.
Business owners can then answer the questions, and they can anticipate FAQs by adding commonly asked questions and their answers. Soon, the public will also be able to answer posted questions.
Business owners and users can both thumb up content to boost ranking in the questions, and can flag content that is incorrect or spam.
Why is Google adding this?
In its announcement of Questions and Answers, Google said, “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.”
These are examples they gave of potential questions:
- What dishes should I try?
- What should I see/do?
- How much seating is there for large groups?
- 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 to this place?
- Do I need reservations for a Friday night?
Initially, this feature is only available for merchants. The next phase of the rollout will be to add it to local guides, in others words, the public.
How will a business owner know a question has been asked?
Because Questions and Answers will run through the Google Maps app and not the actual business listings dashboard, business owners will need to have the Google Maps app enabled. Then the owner and manager will receive a push notification from Google Maps on Android if a question is asked or answered by a user.
What about spam or malicious content?
While it seems like Questions and Answers would be good for a business/practice, once it is open to the public, there is the potential for spam. Google says that moderation will be much like in the reviews section, meaning it is mostly automated with some human oversight. But there have been complaints about how Google manages issues such as spam or malicious negative reviews, so the question here is how effective will that moderation be.
Currently, it will be up to the business/practice owner to do the monitoring. This will entail going into the Maps app and checking to see if the questions are meaningful and if they need to answer a question. Or, more sinister, has a user answered a question with purposely incorrect information that needs to be flagged.
Will my practice be eligible for Questions and Answers? Can I opt out?
All reviewable places, i.e., basically all businesses, will be included in this feature on Google Maps. So, it will be up to the practice owner or manager to monitor the questions through the Maps app. As is Google’s way, a business will not be able to opt out of this feature.
Remember, at this time Questions and Answers will only come up on Android Google Maps listings. Google wasn’t specific on when iPhones would be added.
If you have questions about this new Google Maps feature, contact your Advice Media representative.