About Our Google Q&A Research

Google Q&A Research from ThriveHive


Here’s a high-level overview of our findings across 43,549 profiles:

  • 63,122 questions asked
  • 47,039 questions answered
  • 38,897 questions answered by Local Guides
  • 5,616 questions answered by Business Owners

Our Key Takeaways

Google Q&A is seriously underutilized by business owners.

Perhaps not a surprise, but we found that 91% of questions from prospective customers have yet to be answered by business owners.

91% of questions from prospective customers have yet to be answered by business owners.

Google’s Local Guides program has been wildly successful in crowdsourcing answers to questions.

If you’re not familiar with the Local Guide program, it’s essentially Google’s version

of Yelp’s Elite program, where active Google Maps users are rewarded with points and various other perks for helping Google build richer profiles of local businesses.

We found that three-fifths of all questions (61.6%) had at least one answer from a Local Guide. But perhaps even more interestingly, 82.6% of all questions answered had at least one answer provided by a Local Guide.

Business owners should keep in mind that answers from Local Guides or the general public may or may not be accurate! So be sure to respond to each question to ensure your customers receive correct information about you.

Many consumers seem to have an expectation of immediate responses to their questions.

As we reviewed the questions themselves, we found a surprising number related to “are you open today?” “can I make a reservation?” or other time-sensitive information. This speaks to the demand from consumers for more real-time messaging–a neglected feature we expect Google to encourage among business owners soon.

These ‘immediate’ question types were particularly prevalent in relation to holidays. Google has been prompting verified businesses to specify holiday hours for several years. But in many cases, customers are still asking those questions via Google Q&A.

Common business attributes make for common questions.

Google has also been adding attributes — many of them sourced from Local Guides — to Google My Business profiles for the past couple of years, but as with holiday hours, consumers still ask about these frequently.

Prices, parking options, delivery options, gift certificate availability — all were common questions across many different categories.

As a business owner, a good practice might be that as you see Google suggesting attributes for your business, consider asking and answering a question about that attribute on your profile at the same time.

Customers want to know about specific product or service offerings.

Auto repair shop: Do you do emissions tests?
Bakeries and pizza restaurants: are there gluten-free options?
Golf courses: Do the carts have GPS?

These are the kinds of specifics that customers want to know.

This is a great takeaway for business owners: Q&A gives you the opportunity to showcase the products and services that make you stand out with potential customers. Think about what makes you unique or what some of your top-selling items are, and highlight those in Q&A to attract more customers interested in those items.

George Costanza uses Google Q&A.

Either that, or a lot of Seinfeld fans do. We found that the most commonly asked question of modeling agencies is “Do you have a hand division?” 😂


Study Methodology

We examined the Business Profiles of each business in our Perch app customer base (63,122 questions and 47,039 answers). To satisfy our own curiosity, we paid particular attention to questions that had been asked or answered by Business Owners or Local Guides–though our results are based on data for all Q&A, not just these two special user types.

Our Data Science team then processed question text into word counts. Since some words are more relevant to question content than others (e.g. the word “and” versus the word “appointment”), word counts were adjusted to increase the value of relevant words over non-relevant words (i.e. term frequency-inverse document frequency weighting). Questions that had similar values for these adjusted word counts were then grouped together using a process called K-Means clustering.  

Within each group, one question was identified as “canonical” based on how well it represented the group.  The final list of canonical questions had specific holidays and products replaced with general tags (i.e. “holiday” and “product”) based on a publicly available dataset (i.e. Ontonotes).

Get the full details about our analysis in this write-up by our lead data scientist.

Other potentially-interesting metrics we looked at:

  • Percentage of questions answered by Local Guides
  • Percentage of questions answered by Business Owners
  • Average number of likes/upvotes for each top-ranked question

Each of these metrics is available on a per-category basis. Dive into those results by searching your Google My Business category here.

Caveats

Please keep in mind as you review these takeaways that:

  • The dataset of Perch businesses skews a little more towards food and beverage than a general audience. It may also skew a little Southern, as the word “y’all” was often used in questions.
  • The dataset of Perch businesses certainly skews more mom-and-pop than Enterprise.
  • Our ability to cluster related questions will improve as we begin to pull in a larger and larger dataset.

Despite those limitations, this study builds on two earlier, smaller-scale studies from GatherUp’s Mike Blumenthal and Moz’s Miriam Ellis. We hope it increases the knowledge among the local business marketing community about how to build compelling, engaging Business Profiles for your customers.


Next Steps for This Research

We look forward to expanding this study over time as we’re able to analyze data across even more categories and business profiles. Additional areas of exploration that already have us excited:

  • Are there certain categories in which businesses can particularly set themselves apart from the competition with their responsiveness to questions?
  • A category comparison view of the data showing how two or more categories stack up against each other.
  • A geographic view of the data showing how Q&A usage by searchers, Local Guides, and business owners might vary across various regions or metro areas.

More great resources on Google Q&A

Mike Blumenthal’s 5-Step Plan (GatherUp)

Miriam Ellis’ Q&A Case Study (Moz)