Deep Dive: Answering Q&A Online with Brandon Schmidt
Carrie Hill

With the new markup features available for questions and answers, and the importance of managing the Q&A within your Google Business Listing, making the most out of this customer/client-driven content is becoming more important.

Join Carrie Hill and Brandon Schmidt of YDOP in Lancaster, PA as they discuss some of the ways Q&A information can be shared – from Video to GMB content to different ways to utilize it on your website – there’s a lot of tips and tactics to be gleaned, so listen & watch along!

Carrie: Hey, everybody, welcome to Deep Dive. I’m Carrie Hill with Local University and I’m super excited to have Brandon Schmidt with me from YDOP, And you guys are located in Philly…

Brandon: Philly suburbs, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Carrie: Lancaster, that’s right.

Brandon: Yes. So, we got all the Amish rolling around here.

Carrie: Right. Right. Very cool. And you’re the Director of Digital Strategy there and you’re dangling your toes in the R&D department, we were talking in the pre-talk about that, which was one of my favorite parts of agency life, for sure. And it’s my favorite part of non-agency life as well. I spend too much time on it. So, this Deep Dive came about…impetus was because of an article that you wrote for Local U about writing and repurposing Q&A content, which I think is super-hot right now. Really valuable not only for search engines to grab but for users as well, which I think is really neat. I think content creation keeps evolving. And I was talking on Twitter with some people, I’ve …two clients I have, I’ve given them a moratorium on blog posts. I’m like, “Stop writing blog posts, and fix some of the old stuff you have on your site and make it better and more useful and more evergreen and updated and nice.” And I think FAQ content is a really big part of that. I think we’re…with the new FAQ markup, we’re looking at it in a different light. It’s different than it used to be, it used to be, “Oh, that’s the FAQ page,” right?

Brandon: Yes.

Carrie: So, what started you down the path of thinking about Q&A and repurposing it?

Brandon: Yes. So, like you said, the FAQ page schema is all the rage right now, everyone’s talking about it because Google is allowing us to get a lot more content visible on the SERP. But, at our agency, we’ve been talking about FAQ content for years. I started out as a content writer here at YDOP and we had always figured that, the questions that our clients are answering on a daily basis, that’s like the best start and the best source of content ideas for the website. and if you can answer some of those questions, you can really set yourself apart and you can create more informed customers. The people who are looking for these answers and if you’re not going to give it, then someone else will. And so, we figured, let’s start to give those things, Yes, FAQ page is always going to be a popular way to do it. But there’s other ways to do it, video, FAQs, or just answering those questions on a service page or a location page or something like that. you’re still giving them what they are looking for and if you can do it in a variety of ways on your site or, as I mentioned, the article on the Google business listing, I think you’re really going to win.

Carrie: One of my favorite ways of adding and marking up FAQ content is to actually put it on the page that’s related to the question. So, for example, plumbing, HPC plumbing contractor, you could have one whole page of FAQs. Or you could have a page of plumbing, a page of heating and a page air conditioning, or you could add those FAQs to the page all about their plumbing services, or specific plumbing services. And it just enhances the usability and relevance of that content on that specific page that you want to rank. Like, I guess I’d be okay if a user landed on the FAQ page and then I had to convert them some way, whether it’s via phone number of form or something on that page. But if they needed a hot water heater and they saw, some FAQ content in the surf or they landed on a page about hot water heaters, and I could answer all their questions right there, and I’ve got my phone number in a form right there on the page for them to fill out, I think that’s a way better user experience than getting them on this question-answer page that then you have to move them into your funnel. That’s like one extra step we don’t want them to have to take.

Brandon: Yes, Yes. I also think that different types of questions and answers have different roles on the website. So if it’s higher up in the funnel, you might have your sales page or your, service or, information page, you have those questions on there. But if it’s more of a, customer question, or what sets us…makes us different than our competitors, then you might have a different page for that, it might be a natural sales page, or it might be the FAQ page.

Carrie: Sure. Never thought of that. Have you ever marked up those sales questions? Like, why would…why should you hire X? And here’s the answer. That’d be interesting. I don’t know what it would do but it’d be interesting.

Brandon: Yes, Yes. So, we’re still getting the FAQ schema markup out to all of our clients, so we still haven’t marked up everything. One client that we have seen a lot of successful in FAQ in general, one of my favorite clients, mainly because they’re just awesome. They move houses and buildings, they just pick them up and move them somewhere else. It’s really visual and awesome. And a lot of people have questions on, “Well, how do you do that? And how much does it cost? And, how do you, actually do this?” And so, we have created an entire section on their website that, is way better than just an FAQ page. It becomes a whole FAQ section and you can include video in that, you can also include, “Here’s how we are different than our competitors. Our competitors use this outdated technology, and we invented this technology to make it a lot more efficient and you’re never going to have any issues,” you know. So, I think, you might not always say the words like how we are different than our competitors, but if you were comparing two websites or two different companies and you’re giving it a lot more detail as what makes you different, it helps them make the decision.

Carrie: Not only that, I think if you’re really detailed about your…in your descriptions of how you do things and why you do them that way, it becomes almost like that extra piece that explains the price point. Like I would pay more for a product or a service if I understood exactly what you’re going to do versus a competitor looks like, “Yes, we’ll move that house, it’ll be X, Y, Z,” but they don’t give me any details. I want to know like, do I have to pack everything in my house up and move it out? Or do I…could you just pick it up and move it? Or how does it work, you know? So, I pay more if I knew more.

Brandon: Yep. Absolutely. And that is, by far… we have, a lot of clients and we’re always asking these questions, “What is your sales team answering? What are your customer service? what’s your receptionist?” what are those questions that they always answer? And, so we want to write that content, and we also bring some content ideas to our clients. And one of those things that always is a touchy subject is the idea of price, because they don’t want to publish the price on there and yet, there’s still content that can be written about it. In the instance of the company that moves houses and buildings, they…everything is custom, because every building’s different and every structure is different and the path and all. But yet, they ranked number one for house moving cost, because…and those, related terms, because we’ve written content about what goes into pricing that. so if you’re a plumber at Plumber Perth, you may not want to get into a price war with your competitors or let your competitors know what your pricing is.

But if you explain, like, “Here’s the types of things that we can do and here’s the pricing structure for that,” or you explain, the reason why other places are a little cheaper is because they subcontract or because they, they’re cutting corners in some way. And so, you highlight your difference, which again, justifies maybe a different price point.

Carrie: Create those content value propositions so that the price point isn’t quite…the price point becomes not as much of the focus, the service or the product you’re getting for the price becomes the focus, I think. I encourage my clients that don’t want to publish their pricing, so give a range or give, like, put it on the dollar sign scale. Are you $1 sign? Or are you $4 sign? Like, just give people some gut feeling indication, it might be completely wrong because they don’t know. But at least give them some idea of what to expect when they call you so that you… they have a thing in their mind that says, “Oh, this isn’t going to be that expensive” and you call them and say, “So, how much does it cost for a new hot water heater?” And they come look at me like, “Oh, that’s $4,000,” and you’re like, “The hot water heaters like, 700 bucks at Lowe’s.” So, I think, using that content to set that expectation before you even talk to them as they’re moving into your funnel is a super great way to use Q&A content, for sure.

Brandon: And one more thing on the price, we’ve seen a lot of success with…we work with clients that do home remodeling or, some sort of home renovation. And if we have content on their site about like a product gallery, or project gallery, or feature projects, we’ll get…we’ll have them put a range on there, so we have one client that build stacks. And, we described everything that goes into this specific deck and the roof that they put on and the material and all and we say a project like this cost X number of dollars, you know. So that they can start selecting, “Oh, I want that type of project. Oh, I’m starting to budget in my head how much it’s going to cost.”

Carrie: That’s a great point, like, use those past projects to set pricing expectation for future projects. And, everybody’s going to have, “Yes, I don’t want stairs there, I want them over here.” Okay, that changes the price a little bit. My house is shaped differently, so that’s going to change the price. And people understand that but they feel so much better about contacting our clients or reaching out, because they have some idea of what they’re going to be told. And that doubt talk in the back of their head, like, “Oh, you can’t have that, that’s too expensive” you want to stop that so that they at least reach out and you can have a conversation with them, I think that’s great.

So, the article talks about FAQ content and, of course, we’ve talked about putting it on your website, answering question and answer FAQs. Putting them in your Google My Business…or Google business listing question and answers, which I think is great. And a lot of people are not seeding an answering their own questions in there. And I think that’s so important, especially now that they have the suggested answers, like when you start typing a question, you’re suggesting answers. I think if you can cut that conversation off and just say, “Yes, we have an answer for that,” super-great way to repurpose your FAQ content.

Brandon: Yes, Yes, definitely. And now that suggested answer is also pulling in our Google posts and reviews, you want to help guide the conversation in all those different platforms. So if… I would recommend that if you do seed with some of the questions for the Q&A platform, you also create some posts around it so that you’re highlighting in a few different ways what makes you different and why people should choose you.

Carrie: Do you think…I haven’t really talked to anybody about this and I’m not sure it makes that big a difference. But so you have FAQ content on your website, there’s a question and an answer, right? If you see that question into your Google business profile, question and answer and the same question and answer in your Google post, is that all duplicate content or does Google not care about that? What do you think?

Brandon: That’s an interesting test. It sounds like… Yes. And if it is duplicate content, which would Google value most?

Carrie: So, if you had a Q&A that was a question-answer in a post that was a question-answer, what would come up in that suggested answer first? The Q&A or the post? Or would it swap back and forth? That’s an interesting test. That’s something I’d be interested to see if there’s any benefit to making writing that all unique? Or if you could just write it once and copy and paste it into multiple places. I think that would be really valuable for clients that do their own for sure that writers that don’t want to rewrite the same thing over and over again. That’s something we’ll have to test, we’ll have to test that.

Brandon: Yes. I do think, though, that…when I’m thinking of, frequently asked questions sections on a website, or even the Q&A, I think there’s a…I think on GMB, it’s a little different but the idea behind like, you want to lead them to the next step, guide them to the next step. So, if you have an FAQ page, I would never want the answer to just be, “Yes, we have it,” or, “Yes, we do this.” You want to explain yourself a little bit and hopefully send a link to a relevant page or a contact page, whatever that next logical step is.

Carrie: Like a vague description that then links to a more detailed description on the next step page or something like that, where you lead them into the funnel, not just give them all the 411 right there and then now, what do you want me to do?

Brandon: Yes, it’s something like with a, like featured snippets, you don’t want it just to be answered right there, you want to have enough so to actually send them to your site. So, on the FAQ, you’re marking up with schema, you can include links in there. So, I would want to include, some information that gives enough of a satisfactory answer so that, that they want to click on it, but then, send them to a link to send them to another page where they can get even more information or actually, sign up or, contact you.

Carrie: Have you done the markup? So you can do FAQ schema. So, multiple question and answers on one page, but you can also do the question and answer where it’s one question with multiple answers on a page. Have you done both of those? Have you done one that links to the other?

Brandon: Yes, we have not done the second one mainly because of the types of clients we have either not enough traffic, or we just don’t have that setup. Because I’m pretty certain that Google’s guidelines mean that they’re saying that the answers need to be user-generated answers. like a Quora type of thing.

Carrie: Or Stack Overflow or something like that, Yes. Interesting. I was just curious if there was any way you could create FAQ but then link that to a more in-depth question and answer page. I guess you could and have it be user-generated answers but it would have to be like you said, a big traffic site or just wouldn’t be worth the effort. You’d have to have a lot of people submitting answers to make it worthwhile, I imagine.

Brandon: Yes. So I mean, if you have a website that has a community aspect to it, then that could be an option.

Carrie: Interesting, interesting. So, okay, we’ve talked about posts, we’ve talked about Q&A, we’ve talked about FAQ pages. You talked a little bit about video, you were talking about the house moving client, I bet that would be a really powerful video FAQ opportunity there.

Brandon: Yes, it’s a very visual thing, especially with time-lapse, seeing, because they…some of these structures are, 500 tons, and they’re just rotating them and moving them down the street and it’s very cool.

Carrie: So, I grew up in Northern Minnesota and when I was a little girl, I’m talking four maybe, my grandpa moved to house, like a big 2-storey big house, from Akin to Merrifield which is, like, 30 miles. I mean, can you imagine back in, like, late ’70s, just screeching house down the road. They had to have people come lift power lines as they went down the road, it was like this big process. Can you imagine having like vintage video of that, that you could like, show the differences? That’d be so cool. But anyway, that just brought that to my mind thinking about the visual aspect of that, that’d be pretty cool. And another thing you mentioned in the article is reviews, tell me how you can bring your FAQ into review…your Q&A into reviews.

Brandon: Yes. So, I think it’s a smaller part to play than some of these other ones, there’s definitely a lot more opportunities there. But, I think, if you’re asking for reviews, and if you’re prompting people for reviews, you can say, “How was your service? Or what did you think about this type of treatment or this,” your team, you know. People tend to start answering those things, like, “I wasn’t sure how my experience was going to be, and then I hired them and it was a great experience,” you know. So, I think there’s some ways you might be able to prompt them a little bit so that when it shows up… Because if you’re searching on GMB and you do the…Google is going to bring up the suggested answers and reviews will show up in there. So, I think…

Carrie: So, if you talk to them in the language you want them to pair it back in their reviews. So, you can say, instead of saying, “Hey, can you give us a review,” you can say, “Hey, can you review our plumbing services or hot water heater repair service,” so that they say back, “Joe came to replace my hot water heater,” and that content shows up in the review. I think that’s a great tactic. There’s been a lot more talk about review, content, and relevance to query within those reviews. And some people say it has no weight at all and some people say it might have a little bit of weight. I think that whether it has any ranking weight, I think that consumers who can relate to that review content, “Oh, these people had a really good experience with their hot water heater repair, and I need my hot water heater repaired.” That connection, I think, helps sell those businesses because people can put themselves in those shoes, right?

Brandon: Absolutely. And I also think that the review part is really important for physical businesses, brick and mortar locations, tourist destinations, sports stadiums. places where people are go in and want to know the information, is it wheelchair accessible? do they have free Wi-Fi? How’s the parking? Is there free parking? Those are things you can bring out in those reviews and that’s the stuff that people are looking for and if you can bring it out in the reviews, then it will show up.

Carrie: Well, and if you need that reach, you can craft your ask. So, “We’d love to have a review or hear your thoughts on how parking was when you came to course field for the ball game.” And people would say, “Parking sucked, I had to park eight blocks away….”

Brandon: “$50.”

Carrie: “…sucked.” That was my experience, they better not send me that email. But I’m saying you can craft, like I said, craft the ask so that you get the information you’re looking for. But I think that’s, a really valuable tactic that big agencies get like the big guys, have the budget that they can do all that but even small guys or people who don’t have an agency can learn from that and say they’re using a platform like GatherUp and they’re, doing their own asks. They can craft their ask to say, “Hey, this is Sue in the office and I’d really like to know how you felt about X, Y, Z and can you share your thoughts with me?” And they know Sue in the office because Sue answered the phone when they called and, they can create that personal experience that I think helps them over those giant chains where you’re just a, a number and a cog in a wheel thing.

Brandon: Yes, Yes, definitely, definitely. And of course, these questions by getting the answer whether it’s user-generated content, like reviews, or if it’s, getting the answer from the sales team, from the customer service team, from, the receptionist and all, it’s giving a marketer, it’s given an agency a little more insight into the business. so for us, we work a lot with a marketing manager, or VP level or owner, depending on the size of the organization. And so, sometimes we get like a filtered view, or we have to get it translated through them. But if we’re getting content and ideas and information from people that are at the front of the line, it gives me as a marketer a little more insight into what works and what doesn’t work for that business. Of course, none of this can cover over a bad experience or those bad customer service, or just a bad company. So, that’s maybe some insights, if they’re not willing to talk about the park, and it’s because the park is really bad, and maybe they just need to fix that.

But the questions that they’re answering on a regular basis, that they’re coming in contact with customers with, they already have the pitch, they already have it… they’ve practiced it hundreds and hundreds of times. If you can boil down that essence and then distribute it on the different digital platforms, it’s going to help.

Carrie: Well, I think that that’s really great…that’s a good point. And I use that customer service sales team also as a source for keyword research. I’ve stopped doing like, plug this keyword into this tool, and it spits out this big list of keywords with these numbers that don’t really mean anything keyword research. I want to know when your customer calls and they asked for this thing, what do they call it? What do they ask for? What are the words they use? Like, for example, I had a prospect call and she’s like, “I’ve optimized for all these terms but I’ve noticed that my customers are calling and they’re using outdated terminology that we aren’t supposed to use anymore. But they don’t know that the terminology is new and updated, so what do I do?” And I’m like, “Well, you got to optimize for what they’re looking for and then hopefully educate them into the new terminology, but you’re not going to have that opportunity if they can’t find you, right?”

So, one example I love to use is my mother and father in law, they’re passed now, but they were from the East Coast, New York City, Brockton, Massachusetts area. And they’d never heard of a hot water heater in their life, that was a boiler. And I never heard of a boiler, like a boiler is a pan on the stove with some water in it. I had no idea. So, I think that, using the terminology that your customers are using is so important. And sometimes that’s not in a keyword tool, it’s not…if you’re talking to the VP level, they are talking in their world speak. And you have to talk to the customer service and the salespeople so that you can get the right vocabulary to put on the website for sure.

Brandon: Absolutely, absolutely. And then that determines based on the location, you know. So, if you are a marketing, company or agency that, works exclusively with plumbers, you have to be able to highlight the different terminology in the different locations that you’re serving.

Carrie: Well, and who’s their base audience, right? If their area is predominantly older people or baby boomers are older, they’re probably going to use older terminology for things than the younger millennial new homeowner crowd is going to use. So, there’s so many pieces that can play into keyword research, I think tools only give us half the story, got to talk to the people on the ground. So, I think that using…like, combining that what you know about those keywords and using that resource of your customer service, your, phone…whoever answers the phone, the sales team and what are people asking for and how can I turn that into content that targets them? I think that’s a great, great process to go through to create this Q&A content in various formats.

Brandon: Yes, Yes. And that helps map the user journey, you know. So, if someone’s searching for boiler or if they’re using outdated terminology for anything really, if you’re directing them from that, you can follow the script that the sales staff uses to say, “Okay, this is what you’re looking for, but did you know that there’s a newer version of that” whatever, the model or brand or whatever, “There’s a newer version of that and here’s why it’s a lot better.”

Carrie: Right, for sure. Well, awesome. I think we’ll wrap it up. We’re almost at 30 minutes already, time goes so fast when we do these.

Brandon: And we hardly nerd it out over schema.

Carrie: I know, I didn’t even get to go all schema nerd on you. Thank you for joining me so much, Brandon.

Brandon: My pleasure.

Carrie: I really appreciate you coming on Deep Dive with me. If you haven’t already read the article, we’ll definitely link it from this post. It’s great content if you’re a small business marketer, if you’re a small business owner doing your own marketing, if you’re an agency that’s looking for a great process to handle Q&A and FAQ, Brandon’s laid it all out for you right there. So, good luck and have a great rest of your week, Brandon, thanks for joining me.

Brandon: Thanks. Have a good day.

Carrie comes to Sterling Sky with SEO experience that dates back to 2005! She has a passion for figuring out what works for each and every client and picking apart the problems that arise in our “it depends” relationship with Google. She has also been organizing and nurturing the LocalU Conference Series since 2017 – through to today – across a hectic few years of pandemic and back into in-person conferences again.