Google Helpouts Bring Human Element To Q&A, Search

Google has opened a how-to site selling expert advice on topics from leaky pipes to makeup applications to math problems in live streaming sessions on computers and smartphones. Helpouts, the service, opened for business Tuesday -- connecting more than 1,000 merchants, instructors and Web sites with consumers looking for information and help.

The service -- Google's latest attempt to play a role in helping people manage their lives -- is reminiscent of a feature that rolled out a couple of years ago, using its community to answer questions and provide feedback and help.

In this case, Helpouts will rely on businesses to fill the gaps in Google's search engine query results to build a community of experts.

Think of Helpouts as a question-and-answer site. It will initially connect consumers to experts in a few categories from well-known brands like Sephora, One Medical, Weight Watchers, Redbeacon and Rosetta Stone. The platform also enables the business and client to share their computer screen, collaboratively edit a presentation, and record the session.

Although content continues to become more important in Google search results, a spokesperson for the company said Helpouts will not contribute to search engine query ranking factors on for companies participating in the program. Google will screen all participating companies.

Michael Ellis, proprietor of Information Systems International, had his interview with Google last week. He tells us in a comment under Google vice president of engineering Udi Manber's post. "I haven't made my Helpout video yet, but I plan to do so," he writes. "Still refining my ideas of what would be effective and 'sellable.'"

Healthcare service professionals are required to have a valid license and credential in good standing and must agree to a screening process. In most cases, that process is performed by HireRight, a third party contracted by Google.

A page on the Helpout site explains how businesses should consider keyword optimization to help consumers find them in Helpout search results. Six main components will help consumers find the listing: photo, title, description, qualifications, price and introduction video. Marketers will need to optimize the listing similar to Web site pages. Think of the words consumers are likely to search for and use those words in the listing title and description. The title is particularly important because it should convey the main purpose of the listing.

The Helpouts application is offered for smartphones running on Google's Android software. The service is not yet available for Apple iPhone or other mobile devices running on different software. Google may also integrate the new service with its YouTube video site, which offers a variety of how-to clips for free.

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