Google Questions & Answers, commonly known as Google Q&A, is a feature on local search listings that prompts prospective customers to ask questions of a business. Anyone can ask a question, and the questions can be about anything, though I’ve found the vast majority indicate a genuine need for help to better understand a business.
Features like Google Q&A have a tendency to sneak up on providers and practice managers. They also have a tendency to cause some confusion outside of the local search community. I have carefully examined hundreds of questions prospective patients have asked of PatientPop customers and have observed a few trends all healthcare providers can use to market their practices more effectively online.
Why are Patients Asking Questions on Google?
Prospective patients want information about your practice, and they want a lot of it. Since they often start — and sometimes finish — their search for a provider on Google, you need to give them all the information you can in search results. Every little bit of information you give helps prospective patients decide whether to schedule an appointment at your practice.
Consider this: A prospective patient searches [crowns & bridges midtown], and your practice website appears in the local pack — along with two competitors. All three Google My Business listings have the practice name, contact information, and details about the practice, but only your listing has the answer to a question. Prospective patients will consume that additional information, and it might ultimately sway them to book an appointment with your practice, especially if it answers the same question they had.
What Are the Most Frequently Asked Questions?
First and foremost, patients are cost conscious. About 40% of questions I have seen are about insurance, co-pays, or cost of appointments and services.
I understand this because I am also a patient, and I’ve long felt frustrated with the lack of transparency in healthcare costs. How much does this service cost me? How much does it cost my insurance company? What’s the difference between paying cash and using my insurance?
The opacity of costs can be a frustrating experience. Google Q&A presents an opportunity to fill the information gap, which could leave current patients more satisfied and could increase the chances prospective patients will book an appointment with you.
As far as insurance goes, remember to keep an updated list of accepted insurance options on your website. If a prospective patient asks about a specific insurance, answer their question and also state that a full list of accepted insurance plans is on your site.
Healthcare Marketing Trends 2018: Social Questions and Answers
About 30% of people are looking for services or need expert advice. Google My Business now has an option to proactively post information about your services, so take advantage of it by describing exactly what services you offer.
For example, one person asked a PatientPop customer, “What is 3D body contouring?” The provider has detailed information about 3D body contouring on their website and was able to pare it down into a brief, yet helpful answer. The provider also prompted action by offering a free consultation to see whether the service would be a good fit for the prospective patient. This was an excellent way to get a new patient in the door and to market this service to other prospective patients.
Beyond services, your training and experience qualifies you to answer general medical questions like “Is weight gain a typical side effect of hormone replacement?,” in an authoritative way.
Some 20% of people inquire about basic business details. These patients want to know whether it is easy to park nearby, if the doctor speaks another language, and even when the office is open. Many of these questions can be answered directly in your listing Google My Business listing — but some people will ask these questions even if you’ve already answered them elsewhere. Be sure to respond in a timely manner so they feel you’re ready to provide help whenever they need it.
Are There Risks with Google Q&A?
About 5% of questions are not questions but rather reputation comments. Although a few are positive, most I have seen are negative. Approach this as you would a negative review: Respond promptly, succinctly, and carefully when warranted.
In some cases, your current patients could beat you to the punch, just as the below patient did. As you’ll see, a person who asked, “Why doesn’t anyone ever answer the phone?,” was met with the answer, “I don’t usually have that problem … Keep trying, they’re worth it.” That’s a better response than any business owner could provide.
How Do I Monitor Questions on Google?
Google recently launched email notifications for their Q&A feature. If you use Google Maps on Android, you can get notifications from Maps on your phone, too. To be sure you aren’t missing a question, make a habit of regularly searching for your practice on Google. After all, answering prospective patient questions on Google — or reporting questions that probably shouldn’t be in a public forum — is part of maintaining your online presence.
Looking for another way to engage prospective patients using your Google My Business listing? Check out my recent blog on Google Posts.