Google suggested answers just increased the practical value of your Google reviews significantly.
If you've been paying attention to your Google My Business (GMB) listing lately, then you know about the GMB Q&A.
When someone searches for your business on Google, and finds you via a branded search, in the local pack, or in Google maps, and finds your GMP listing, they'll see an 'Ask a Question' button.
This button allows people to ask your business a question publicly, and it appears right on the GMB listing for future searchers to find.
The crazy thing is that anyone can answer these questions. Owner, friend, local guide, stranger, troll?
So you can imagine how important it can be for a brand's reputation to pay attention to the Q&As rolling into your GMB knowledge panel.
But with a new subtle feature twist by Google a couple weeks ago, things just got exponentially more interesting when it comes to review management.
And what, do you ask, does this have to do with Google reviews?
Because as you type a question, Google pulls up reviews to answer it.
Seriously, try it yourself. It's rolled out everywhere at this point.
Go to Google, type in your favorite local watering hole, click that 'Ask a question' button on the knowledge panel, and ask about their parking situation or the food.
For people who don't want to actually speak to an employee or search through hundreds of reviews, they can easily find out what they want to know instantly. From their perspective, it's an easier way for them to get their info that the business may not have thought to provide.
Seeing that this salon can not only dye my hair, but do a good job, I no longer need to post my question at all. Time saved, decision made.
Of course, just getting any old review isn't going to get you that double bang for your buck. You need to get reviews with content which correlate to questions customers might ask.
But before we talk about that, let's dive into how this feature might look for some common local industries with actual real life examples of the Google auto-suggested answers in action.
Doctors & Dentists (Healthcare Industry)
Remember, that you don't have control over what's suggested. It's all based on your written review content.
But if everything is looking shiny and smily, here's what a positive Google Q&A auto-suggested answer might look like for a doctor or a dentist:
What a glowing review! She sounds like quite the catch.
On the other side of the coin, you might have a great reputation with a lot of 5 star reviews (or not), but if one person wrote a bad review about your wait times, and that's what's asked in the Q&A, it's likely to be surfaced here.
Here's what that not-so-positive experience might look like:
Worth noting: This kind of response is almost more damning than just having terrible reviews. This tells your patients you're not delivering on a key top-of-mind issue that's going to influence whether they schedule an appointment or not. The one thing they cared enough about to start crafting a question on Google Q&A.
If I cared about having a doctor that doesn't do cursory exams before racing out the door (and I do), I would never, ever go to the second place.
Here are the questions your patients might ask:
Note: There won't always be a direct correspondence between reviews and some questions. It's interesting to see what might surface in these situations, and honestly, the auto-suggested answers might not always benefit the business. Hopefully in that case, they do submit a question to give your business an opportunity to answer.
Take a look at this example (we don't see 'kids' in the question at all, yet that seems to be what Google has attached itself to in this case):
I have no idea how Google looked at that question and came to the conclusion that it needed to show me anything about how good this dentist was with kids.
It just goes to show that while Google may be extremely intent-driven these days, it isn't perfect at making accurate determinations of what, exactly, that intent might be.
Lawyers (Legal Industry)
For legal professionals, you are your reputation. To maintain an immaculate digital portrait, this feature needs to be on your radar.
This feature doesn't allow you to completely set your Q&A monitoring on autopilot. You should not ignore your Q&As simply because reviews answer many of them for you.
Sometimes you will get a highly specific question (which is a great opportunity to showcase your expertise), like this lawyer did:
I thought the attorney's answer was a good one. It acknowledged the question while giving the person who wrote the question another step to take. A reason to call the office.
If this attorney wants to kick it up a notch, he could also head over to his website and create a blog post around this very topic. See how a question like this highlights an SEO and content opportunity by creating a page explaining how reopening cases works specifically in Louisiana.
After all, at least one of his potential clients is interested in the answer to the question. Probably, others will be too.
It also helps your GMB profile look even more attractive.
Looks pretty inviting, right?
It demonstrates responsiveness. If you're responsive enough to answer a question from some random guy on the Internet who pops by your GMB profile, then you're probably the type of lawyer who is going to answer your phone. Big points.
Also, paying attention to your own Q&As, rather than letting Google My Business reviews do all of the talking matters, because reviews aren't the only ones doing the talking.
Anyone with a Google account can "answer quick questions," if they "know this place." Even if they don't, Google isn't exactly requiring you to upload a receipt or invoice to prove it. You don't want someone leaving an answer that makes you look bad. Most people won't answer a question that's already been answered, though some brand advocates will jump in if they see an obviously wrong answer.
Finally, this visible feature is important, because the Q&As themselves can serve as a kind of review.
This answer is a scathing indictment of this lawyer's services. As with negative reviews, the attorney would have been well-served by posting an answer of his own. Instead, there it sits, making this law firm look like a bunch of heartless sharks (whether there's a reasonable explanation or not).
The kinds of questions clients ask will depend, in part, on the type of lawyer you are. But in general, here are some you can expect:
Get more tips on legal industry review management, and what clients are thinking about when they start investigating your services.
Carpenters, Plumbers, Roofers, and Many More (Home Services Industry)
The home services industry is a little different, because you'll often see customers asking you what this or that home problem might indicate.
They want to know how serious it is or what you'll do about it so they can look up how much that will cost. In this case, you're not necessarily competing against a competitor as much as whether they can choose to do nothing.
In some rare cases, they're hoping they can go to YouTube and figure it out how to fix it for themselves. In many, less rare cases, everyone really hopes they don't.
These sorts of queries are still valuable, even when the suggested reviews don't answer the question directly.
Sure, the suggested answers didn't tell me what my theoretical power loss meant, but they did answer my real question: Can I get this fixed fast for a price that won't break the bank? If I call this dude, will he do a good job?
And ok, the people who ask their how-to handyman questions at you don't know this is what they're subconsciously asking. But you do.
The questions you may get, either openly or in disguise are:
You can check out this article to get more insight into how these questions should inform your home services review management strategy.
Hotels, Motels, and Bed and Breakfasts (Hospitality Industry)
If it's rare to find any questions at all on a doctor's GMB, or a lawyer's, it's rare to not find questions at a hotel.
Guests want to know about all the little "fiddly bits" that might not be advertised on your website. Things like whether you have in-room fridges. Or what the parking is like (especially in larger cities). Whether there's a free shuttle that goes to and from the airport.
Here's me asking about one of my biggest hotel pet peeves:
It's not easy...getting dry in a tiny towel.
Look, I like big towels and I cannot lie. And very, very few hotels have the kind of luxurious, fluffy, giant towels that I picture when I picture awesome towels.
Google interpreted this as me wanting to know if the showers and/or bathtubs were awesome. Since I in fact do want to know this, and consider a great bath or shower the closest thing to Heaven we can get on this earth, I would probably be happy to book this hotel, and just bring my own giant towel.
Bottom line: You can expect questions to run the gamut, and you never know what you're going to get. You can expect them to fall into a couple of predictable categories though:
To get more insights on what your guests care about and how you should manage the review process, check out this article covering hospitality review management.
The Restaurant Industry
Ok, I'll level with you. There are only a handful of things I ever want to know about a restaurant.
If I can't look at your website to determine what's going to annoy me (especially where you fail to join our century), I'll look elsewhere.
Namely, what food is available, how much it costs, and seriously, can I just get someone to bring it to my house/hotel/Airbnb?
But it turns out a whole lot of people want to know a whole lot of things about restaurants that I never would have even thought about.
The first option I clicked on had no less than 32 Q&As!
The questions were all over the map. So I'm just going to tell you everything I saw that didn't match one of the questions above. Because people also wanted to know all those things.
Note: A lot of times on this one you really are going to have to let the reviews speak for themselves. You can answer parking, and dress codes, and whether you're cool with dogs. But don't leap in to tell people how good your food is. We know you think your food is good. We already know that, because you want $22 in exchange for giving us some of it.
In fact, as it turns out, when you're running a restaurant the local Google community is happy to answer all the rest, too, which means you can focus on getting some awesome reviews to fill up that suggested answers column.
Realtors (Real Estate Industry)
Like contractors, realtors will get technical questions.
And here is a realtor who missed an opportunity:
If you've read Realty Industry Review Management, you know that successful realtors aren't selling, "Hey, I can help you find a house." Successful realtors are selling expertise.
So like lawyers, you really ought to stay on top of your Q&As, especially when they ask questions like this.
But will reviews answer these types of questions for you?
Out of curiosity, I repeated this person's question on a different profile. The realtor above didn't have enough reviews to suggest anything.
Again, I didn't get a direct answer to such a specific question, but look what I did get.
"Adrienne helped and guided us through the entire process of buying a home."
Therefore, Adrienne is an expert. And the rest of what that reviewer had to say didn't hurt either.
Other questions you might get:
You can actually answer or not, but you want your reviews to at least backup your answer.
Car Dealerships (Automotive Industry)
I didn't expect to find a lot of questions published on car dealer GMBs, but I was wrong. I found 11 on the first one I tried.
But it turns out that wasn't exactly a positive.
Car dealers had best be prepared to get in there and start answering questions just like they answer reviews. It seems like most people ask rhetorical questions like these two above.
Even if a few people jump to your defense, it doesn't look great for you to remain radio silent.
Reviews can be helpful to your cause or destructive...
So...it smells like feet but they'll at least get me out of there fast?
You can't really help this. People have really strong opinions about car dealerships. It comes with selling a product that costs a nerve wracking $10,000 or more. Something that people also tend to be pretty passionate about.
What you can do is make sure you are doing everything in your power to get as many positive reviews as possible.
Because when I see this...
...I'm inclined to think that the dirty feet reviewer either caught them on a bad day, or had a smelly customer sitting nearby, which isn't the dealership's fault. If you can keep a 4.5 rating after getting over 1,000 reviews in a notoriously unforgiving industry, then my guess is your doing an excellent job. Hats off to you, Toyota of New Orleans. Here is a complimentary backlink.
As for all the other dealerships that did not catch my backlink Mardi Gras beads today, all you can really do is this.
Focus on the big four things customers care about:
Making Google Q&A Auto-Suggested Answers Work For You
You need to do two things if you're going to make Google Q&A work for you.
If you're not in one of the above-listed industries, go through the same process I went through to determine your strategy.
Let's come full circle to salons for a moment, because that was the example I started with, but you can do this with any industry. If you have a hair salon, you can develop a strategy by:
1. Looking at the kinds of questions being asked both on your GMB and on competitor GMBs.
2. Think about the most common questions you get both in person and on the Internet.
3. Choose a GMB profile with lots of reviews.
4. Click on "ask a question" and type something in. Like..."Do you do walk-in appointments?"
5. Don't post the question. Just observe the reviews that come up.
6. Think about what customers really care about when they're choosing a hair salon, and why they decide to stay. My guess is a lot of it is about how you make people feel. If you make your clients feel like a supermodel you're going to get a lot more repeat business than if you make them feel like Uggo the Clown. But you know your industry, so think on it for a little bit.
7. Ask yourself whether you are better off answering these questions, or whether you're better off asking the community to do it.
8. Highlight a few qualities you want reviewers to think about and mention to optimize for the questions that seem to be common, either offline or on.
9. Move on to the advice below.
Encourage Q&A-Helpful Responses
In the past, I've talked about how you can gently nudge your customers into leaving helpful reviews just by phrasing the request the right way. It's not a matter of forcing or manipulating a response, so much as it's a matter of bringing the qualities you most want to highlight to the top of mind.
So if you know you get a lot of questions about price, for example (and really, who doesn't) then you can say something like, "If you felt like we gave you great service at a fair price today, please leave a review." Chances are, whomever you ask will remember that point, and think: oh yeah, the price was pretty fair and the service was great. And then they'll mention both in your review.
Keep one final thought in mind: this doesn't work for you if you don't have enough reviews. Too few reviews means fewer chances for Google to try to guess which reviews are relevant enough to show you. Ten or twelve won't cut it. You want 25 or more, and that's just the bare minimum. But then...that much is true if you want your GMB profile to do anything at all for you.
So if you're not working hard to get reviews, ask yourself a question or two. Ask why. Then ask how you can change it. Because they aren't going away. In fact, you're probably going to see Google looking for even more ways to showcase and use reviews in the future.
Don't get left behind.