I have a growing hatred of Google’s “Questions and Answers” feature for Google My Business. Let me tell you why. We (both SEO folk and general web users) do a lot for Google I think. Granted, they do a lot for us – but they have some of the brightest minds on the planet teamed with machine learning and near-unlimited computing power. Some people using Google don’t even know if a zoo is a zoo. I’m not kidding. Read on.

1. It’s Google wanting us to do their job for them. Again

So we’re over here either making information more accessible to them – putting it online in the first place, marking it up as they want, ensuring Google can discover it – or, we review things, let them use our location data, identify areas of images for them…these lists could go on and on. Now with Q&A on GMB – we’re having to either provide answers to some pretty silly questions, police and report dodgy questions or promote good questions. I don’t think we should have to.

2. All questions are shown instantly, regardless of quality

That sentence just sounds like a bad idea, right? Surely there should be a level of ‘sign off’ or approval from the business owner? Otherwise we end up with a slew of poorly written questions that don’t make sense, or that Google could find an answer to if it more accurately tied up website content with the local listing. Here’s a great example of something that doesn’t work (but which I see all too often) in the Q&A section – a question about a very specific time, item or event. Instantly out of date – but now the business listing owner needs to know it’s there and remove it (it’s the Italian restaurant in Manchester International Airport in case you’re wondering).

Nothing I’ve seen recently illustrates this quite as well as this example though. Chester Zoo (in case you don’t know it) is one of the UK’s largest zoos. It’s pretty famous, had it’s own TV show for a while, and – it’s called Chester ZOO. Yet, Google seems happy that someone felt the need to ask this little beauty…

I hate that so much. What a waste of internet. What’s worse…someone has replied, possibly in a bid to keep their ‘Local Guide’ status 🙁 Thanks Sue, top job.

Whilst I would imagine it’s mainly smaller businesses who aren’t monitoring the questions being asked, even larger organisations like in the example above, are falling foul of it. It’s likely even worse for some of the bigger companies with hundreds of stores or locations.

3. I can even post a ‘review’, write something abusive or post a competitor’s URL

I guess these *might* get removed by the system at some point (let me know if you’ve seen that or know it to be the case), but I was certainly able to just post a URL on the Nando’s listing for my town (it’s not an active link, but it’s not great). Sorry Nando’s…

4. There’s only one way a business can respond to (or remove) these questions

In the Google My Business account. Of course. Yes….

Errr, nope. 

You firstly only get a notification of a new question if you have the Google Maps app on an Android device. I imagine this is part of the reason why so many questions don’t have an answer from the business – only ‘Local Guides’.

Secondly, you can’t even see these questions in the Google My Business account – never mind respond to them. You can only see and respond to them in the SERP knowledge graph panel.

So imagine you’re Nando’s. Some dude has just posted a crappy URL in the Q&A section of one of your local listings (sooo sorry). You have 330+ listings to keep an eye on…but not in the designated area for managing local listings. Instead you now also have to keep Google Maps on your Android device logged into a central account for all locations, or search for each location on a regular basis. Fun.

And whilst you can’t ‘delete’ any single question within GMB or from the SERP in an obvious manner (there’s no ‘delete’ button per se), you can remove the question by reporting it. Click the three dot menu to the right of the question, choose one of the options that pops up and it’s gone instantly. But again we’re being made to do a tonne of work here – cleaning up a mess that’s only getting worse.

5. Finally, you can edit your question – even after someone’s answered it. Yep, really.

This is the final nail in the coffin for me. WTAF. If this information (which from some significant amount of time looking at it, I’ve seen range from the stupid, “is this zoo a zoo?” to the much more serious, “Is this food Halal?” or, “Do you have wheelchair access?”) can be twisted and turned on its head, it’s worse than useless. It’s damaging or dangerous. Here’s another question I asked of Nando’s in Bury, which I then answered from a different, obfuscated, Google account:

And then I logged back into the other account and edited the question…

I rest my case. I may have missed a few bits along the way and there’s plenty of other really, really crappy questions out there (send them to me on twitter please) – but I hope this shows just how bad the current implementation of Q&A on GMB is.

In closing, I do think the ‘Answer quick questions’ feature is decent. You get that between the info and the main Q&A offering:

It feels far closer to the ‘machine learning’ stuff they’re using elsewhere. Most people will answer honestly or give the correct answer, and those that don’t are weeded out. Google’s also controlling the questions here – and providing a way for you to ‘accept’ the addition of this onto your listing in GMB. Hurrah!