Google Questions and Answers for Doctors
Posted on Nov 24, 2020 by Marilyn Bunderson
Google’s Questions & Answers feature for GMB listings can build trust with your patients and prospective patients as well as help you get seen in online search.
Google Questions and Answers feature for GMB listings has been around for a couple of years now. If you’ve been ignoring it, the time is right to take notice. Your online image is important; it’s worth your time to curate your image and control the content searchers find on your Google My Business (GMB) listing. And that includes responding appropriately to questions.
The Questions and Answers feature allows patients and prospective patients to ask questions that anyone can answer. Sometimes that’s fine, but sometimes, medical consumers really do need an answer from someone who knows what they’re talking about. Unfortunately, most of their questions are going unanswered.
I took a look at the top three listings that showed up in ten cities across the nation when I searched for an orthopedic surgeon. Out of the 30 listings I checked into, 21 had questions. A total of 76 questions were asked by medical consumers, which is approximately 3.6 questions per listing. Here’s where it gets interesting. Only eight answers were provided by the listing owners (doctors or staff). Twenty-three answers were provided by Local Guides or other random people who had visited the listing. That means most of the questions were left unanswered.
I’ve compiled a top 10 list of reasons to pay attention to Google Questions and Answers on your GMB listing:
1. Have the final say.
If you don’t answer the questions, someone else could. Anyone can answer Google questions, but an answer from the business owner—the doctor or staff—will carry more weight. Google Questions and Answers can be responded to by Local Guides (who have earned the title from Google) or by random visitors to your GMB listing (aka other patients). Don’t rely on user-generated content to give your patients the information they are looking for, because that may or may not turn out well. Take a look at this response from a doctor listing. Note, I came across several similar responses in the quick search I mentioned above.
Not only did the person not answer the question, they gave a negative impression of the office that could well be a situation taken out of context. If someone has responded with some negativity to a question on your GMB page, you need to respond to the question to give people something else to look at: the correct response.
2. Make sure you have correct information on your GMB listing.
In addition to negative comments, visitors may give a wrong answer. When they see a question, some helpful people try to respond even when they don’t know the answer. (I’m not sure why they do this.) And in some cases, I’ve seen answers provided by visitors who are talking about a different practice or doctor like in the example below.
I looked at the doctors on their website. I don’t see a Dr. Strong. Either the commenter is sending this person to a different practice altogether, or they have the name wrong. And if you look at the other answers you have three different doctors suggested. Someone from this practice should handle the response in the way that’s best for the practice.
3. Build trust with your patients.
Answering quickly will show your patients and potential patients that you are responsive to their needs. They will begin to build a trusting relationship before they even step through your doors. Occasionally, a patient will ask a question that is not HIPAA compliant. Your answers need to be HIPAA compliant even if their question isn’t, but if a patient asks a sensitive question publicly, you can simply tell them to call the office for the answer.
4. Avoid having questioners get diagnosed by drive-by commenters.
When someone sees a question, and the situation is similar to something they’ve experienced, they will often provide a helpful response. And whether their “diagnosis” is a good guess or not, it’s probably best to keep things in the hands of trained professionals. When you answer questions promptly, it may keep someone else from providing their untrained assessment, but if not, at least you have an authoritative voice in there.
Note that the proper response in the example below would be to have them make an appointment or call the office to discuss their issues.
5. Become a source of knowledge.
If your patients can come to you for some basic information they can find on your GMB listing and your website, they will likely come to you for their care. You can be a source of knowledge by using Google Posts, Google Services, website articles, and even your Google Questions and Answers feature. A great way to do that is to create your own questions and answers. (See #6.)
6. Preempt frequently asked questions by creating your own questions and answers.
Some of the most frequently asked questions across the board are about insurance: Do you accept Medicare? Do you accept Blue Cross? Etc. You can also cover some more specific general questions about your specialty, the way patients make a virtual appointment, or where surgeries are performed. When you set up your own FAQs, you take charge of the conversation. It’s an effortless way to exchange information.
This one’s pretty funny. Why bother answering if you don’t know? I assume it’s just a kind person who doesn’t want to leave them hanging. And to be fair, calling the office is a good option. But if you had an FAQ set up that talked about coverage, this question wouldn’t even need to be asked.
7. Respond to questions right away so your patients don’t feel ignored.
Your bedside manner extends to social media these days, so make sure your patients and potential patients get the answers they are looking for. The good news here is that you don’t have to answer personally. Your staff can answer the questions for you. Leaving questions unanswered could make it look like you don’t care.
8. Understand the needs of your patients better by seeing the types of questions they’re asking.
If the same question pops up repeatedly, you need to make the information more readily available. In addition, you’ll understand what kind of questions your patients have, and that could lead to some fine tuning to meet their needs and expectations and improve patient experience.
9. Boost your search rankings.
When you set up your own Google Questions and Answers and when you take the time to answer questions, you have the opportunity to use words potential patients will use as search terms. In addition, the answer you provide may be just what someone is looking for online. In either case, you will show up more readily when medical consumers search for care online.
It’s true that answering questions won’t improve your search rankings as much as making sure you have plenty of good reviews, but every little bit helps. Get your reviews in shape and optimize your listing. And when you do, don’t neglect this GMB feature our internet-loving medical consumers use with increasing frequency.
10. Find a platform that makes it easy to answer the questions all in one place.
Medical practices often have multiple GMB listings to manage. Large practices may have dozens. Managing everything from a single location simplifies the process exponentially. Find a platform that allows you to manage your reviews, make changes to your GMB listings, create Google Posts, and answer Google Questions and Answers from one spot.
Manage Your Google Questions and Answers
Ignoring Google Questions and Answers doesn’t help, I promise. Those questions will just sit there unanswered or be answered by someone else. But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Keep in mind that most of the listings I looked into only had a few questions each, and they were likely spread over the last two or three years. But DO answer them.
And if someone asks an inappropriate question or if someone responds inappropriately, you can’t take the question down, but you can flag it for Google to take down. If the question or the response breaks their rules, they will remove it.
If you have any questions about Google Questions and Answers, or if you want to get started automating your patient acquisition, call us today at 512-682-9117.
Read more about this feature in The Guide to Google’s GMB Questions and Answers Feature for Medical Practices.
Posted in Automated Practice Marketing