You may have noticed something new on your Google My Business  listing.
You do have one of those, right? They’re a highly visible, influential and most importantly, free way to list your business on the internet. It’s especially important for local small businesses.
The latest feature on Google My Business listings is the Q&A section. The new section was fully rolled out toward the end of 2017. Below all the primary information about your business in what’s known as the Knowledge Panel, you’ll eventually see the Q&A section.
If people have asked questions about your business through Google — good or bad — they’ll appear here. It’ll show if you’ve been asked and haven’t answered, and it will show customer answers to other customer questions.
And, according to reputation management expert Mike Blumenthal of GetFiveStars.com , the best thing your small business can do with this new section is get ahead of it. That means asking and answering questions about your small business.
Google Questions and Answers for Small Businesses
As noted, the Google Q&A section appears on your Knowledge Panel. That’s the Google My Business listing that appears on search pages. It’s got all the pertinent details on your business. If you’ve taken the time to sign up for a Google local business listing, you know the information that’s there. If not, you should check it out to make sure the information is accurate.
Under all those details, you’ll now see the Questions and Answers section. Google places one question there on your Knowledge Panel and you can click to see the rest of the questions that have been asked.
Blumenthal told Small Business Trends in an interview recently that Google allows you, the business owner, to ask and answer your own questions.
These questions could and should range from those about special directions to your store or special hours for holidays to those about certain products or brands you carry.
If you don’t ask these questions, someone else will. Right now, Google will populate the teaser section on your Knowledge Panel with those questions instead of yours.
You can’t trust some random visitor to ask the questions you want asked and answered.
Take, for example, this local business listing. This company hasn’t really taken advantage of the new Google My Business feature at all but here’s what people will see if they check out the questions that have been asked about this particular pizza shop. (We’ve blocked out the name to protect the innocent … they actually have great pizza!)
That’s not exactly the facade you want people seeing on your Google My Business listing, right?
Here’s an example  from Blumenthal’s “Big Guide” on the new Q&A section. You can see what this section will look like if you get ahead of the feature and use it to your advantage. (Image via GetFiveStars.com)
You can see that Barbara, the business owner, filled in her own questions and answered them, too.
In the one bad example provided, you can see how some business owners haven’t even taken control of their listings. This means they’re not answering customer questions.
Getting ahead of Google Q&A also involves staying on top of it. This means responding to the questions visitors have. Blumenthal’s company, GetFiveStars.com has a tool that helps manage this section and other sites on the web where your company could be and is being reviewed.
In lieu of having that tool, it’s important to promptly respond to the questions … even the tough ones! Just as you can’t control the questions people ask, you can’r control the answers given by members of the public. Only you can be sure to provide accurate answers to questions about your business.
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