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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Google Q&A

If you haven’t already heard, Google Plus will slowly cease to exist before eventually being deleted completely by August of 2019. While this service has already been on a downward spiral for quite some time, another feature of Google’s that is still as relevant as ever is its Questions and Answers tool.

We wrote about Google Q&A early in 2018, specifically talking about its strengths and weaknesses for local businesses, particularly veterinary hospitals. To briefly summarize Google Questions and Answers, this service works as an open-forum FAQ for your hospital which is displayed on your Google Knowledge panel. People online can ask—and answer—questions about your practice which anyone can see.

There are many pros and cons to this tool—with smart usage, it can turn into a very strong marketing outlet. But if you neglect or dismiss it, you risk leaving your reputation on the line (more on that later). For those that do wish to take advantage of it, the very first step you need to take is to claim your Google Business listing if you haven’t already.

As we stated in our 2018 Veterinary Marketing Benchmark report, 92 percent of veterinary hospitals have claimed their Google Listing, but only 5.3 percent of these hospitals are actively engaging with the Google Q&A feature. At iVET360, our research has shown that this needs to change, and that EVERY hospital that has a claimed listing NEEDS to be active on Google Q&A.

Why are we encouraging this? For one, we see that the average veterinary hospital is receiving approximately three questions for their listing. However, by not being engaged, they are potentially allowing false information to float around on the internet—and as we all know, some people do believe everything they see online.

Ultimately, Google Questions and Answers comes down to if you are using it and how you are using it—if you are engaged, you can basically use it as free marketing. If you are unaware or dismissive of Google Questions and Answers, well, the floodgates are open, and a lot of different scenarios can occur.

See below, please—and brace yourselves.

The Good

First off, let’s focus on the positives. Here is good usage of Google Q&A:

Google Questions & Answers Usage Good 2
As you can see, the responder’s name not only has a blue checkmark for verification (as in, this hospital went through the process to claim their Google listing) but it also has the words “Owner” after the hospital name. Their thoughtful response addresses the question with a call to action, and clients are comfortable knowing that it is coming directly from the hospital. This is good Google Q&A.

For more reference, here is even more good usage:

Google Questions & Answers Usage Good 4
Once again, the blue checkmark on the above example makes an appearance, as well as the distinction of “Owner” after the hospital name. This practice responds in a succinct manner, encouraging this client with a call to action to contact the hospital while enticing them by talking about favorable rates. This is more good Google Q&A.

But wait, there’s more.

Google Questions & Answers Usage Good 3
This detailed answer talks about the hospital’s AAHA Accreditation as well as goes into more depth about the procedure, which can seem scary to pet owners. Take note of their thorough response, which was written to help quell any anxiety. Also, observe how they include a call to action right in the first sentence: “call for a quote or come in for an exam.” Someone even gave the response a thumbs up, which affects visibility.

Here is one final example of good Google Q&A:

Google Questions & Answers Usage Good
Veterinary care doesn’t just relate to the care of cats and dogs, and this hospital provides an excellent, descriptive answer complete with examples of certain pocket pets, reptiles and amphibians that they can treat. This response is professional, straightforward and does a good job of answering the question.

The Bad

Now, let’s move on to the bad, because you can’t have good without the bad. Here are some examples of bad usage of Google Q&A:

Google Questions & Answers Usage Bad 4
Here, this hospital is clearly unaware of their Google Q&A presence. Someone has asked a routine question for a phone number however a random respondent has turned this simple prompt into a negative review. When a potential client is searching for this veterinary hospital on Google, this review (if you want to call it that) is there for everyone to see on the internet, and the hospital is either oblivious to this transaction, or unsure of how to address it. This is bad Google Q&A.

It can get worse, however. See below for some really, really bad Google Q&A.

Google Questions & Answers Usage Bad 3
In this instance, an everyday question about a rabbit neuter has morphed into . . . something else. This response is rife with scare tactics and rabbit mortality rates and then it goes on to essentially promote another hospital. This is bad Google Q&A for so many reasons, but we’ll keep it simple by stating that this could all have been prevented by the hospital had they been active on Google Q&A.

Another example shown below isn’t necessarily damaging, but it’s still bad for everyone involved.

Google Questions & Answers Usage Bad
Here is a question about a common procedure—a cat spay. The response does absolutely nothing. Again, because people tend to believe anything they read on the internet, someone casually looking at this response may think that it came directly from the hospital. But who knows? We don’t know. You could call the hospital and ask and we’re sure they’d tell you, but really, we don’t know.

Finally, see below for our last example of bad Google Q&A:

Google Questions & Answers Usage Bad 2
Remember, anyone can see this content whenever they want. This hospital has their name attached to the above responses. The thread starts with a question about avian medicine, then very quickly zig zags to futility. Both answers are obviously contradictory and may lead a potential client to not even bother calling them and instead check elsewhere to find a vet for their feathered friend.

The Ugly

Whenever you are thinking of the good and the bad of anything, you always need to consider the ugly. Here is where Google Q&A can get ugly:

Google Questions & Answers Usage Ugly 2
What started off as a routine (and legitimate) prompt turned into a joke (see third response). The response here trivializes this entire veterinary hospital’s ethos, and leaves everyone, including the client, the bearded dragon and the practice in a losing scenario. While the response may have been amusing, veterinary care as a whole is a serious enterprise, not a joke. This is ugly Google Q&A.

Jokes are jokes, but ugliness also comes in other forms. See below for more.

Google Questions & Answers Usage Ugly 5
This ugly response attacks the reputation of the hospital in a nonsensical manner, and in this digital age where reviews are extremely easy to access, they now have to focus their attention on reputation management.

Here, the trend continues of innocuous questions becoming peppered with ugly, fruitless responses:

Google Questions & Answers Usage Ugly 4
None of the responses are helpful at all, and it’s interesting to note that these people actually took the time out of their day to essentially leave the questioner back to where she started. The very last response is sarcastic and unnecessary and does not help with the hospital’s digital presence.

While we know that the goal of a veterinary hospital is to heal animals, it’s also important to remember that this industry is a business, which means that things can get real unpleasant real fast:

Google Questions & Answers Usage Ugly 3
Regardless of what happened that made someone ask the question, the phrase “callously profit driven” is an ugly sequence of words which isn’t good when associated with a veterinary hospital. The response is positive, however the damage has been done. An official answer from the veterinarian to set things straight would be the best course of action here to assuage this ugly scene.

This final example shows the ugliness in two different threads, which appear to be unbeknownst to the hospital:

Google Questions & Answers Usage Ugly
The first question and answer sequence is ugly because someone else is referring the person to a different business, and also because they are asking about emergency visits, meaning time was probably a factor. This could have been remedied by the hospital coming up with their own question and answer regarding emergency services.

The next scenario does not address the question and instead includes someone’s own personal opinion about declawing. Again, this ugliness could have been avoided had the hospital been active on Google Q&A.


The Good scenarios in our above examples illustrate perfect usage of Google Questions and Answers and they all serve as a model for how to efficiently—and smartly—use this tool. The latter two scenarios, well, just take a look at all of them again. Not only are they all Bad and Ugly, they could have all been avoided had each hospital (you guessed it) just been active on Google Questions and Answers.

At iVET360, we are industry leaders when it comes to veterinary marketing. Our specialists work closely with Google to maximize the online presence of animal hospitals while also staying on top of things like Google Questions and Answers, the Google Knowledge Panel and much more.

If your practice isn’t already actively using the (mostly free) tools that Google has available, we encourage you to contact us. As a veterinary services company that operates on a no-contract basis, our experts can help your practice with not only marketing, but analytics and HR and training, too.

For additional information and more details about our suite of services, contact us today.