Google Local Guides write reviews, share photos, add or edit business information, and check facts on Google Maps. Joining the Local Guides program is quick and simple, so you can be earning points and benefits from your Google contributions in just minutes. Find out how to become a Local Guide and help make Google Maps a better place for business information.
It’s difficult to dispute that local search is more important than ever right now. There are countless stats that underpin this assertion, such as the fact that 46% of all Google searches are made with the intent of finding local information.
It’s also impossible to deny that user-generated content (UGC) is quickly growing in importance against this backdrop, with an expanding body of data suggesting that it is a critical tool in the decision-making process.
In this online landscape, Google Local Guides have taken on new relevance.
Let’s quickly go back a step though before diving into Google Local Guides, as the role of user-generated content in the customer journey and online user’s psyche is extremely relevant to the Local Guides concept as a whole.
According to research performed by Salesforce, user-generated content was already showing signs of its importance in 2016. It reported that pages with user-generated content enjoyed a range of performance benefits, including a 90% uplift in time spent on site, a 50% increase in engagement rates, a 73% improvement in email click-throughs and a 10% boost to conversions.
Fast-forward four years and the BazaarVoice 2020 Shopper Experience Index definitively concludes that more and more brands are empowering their customers to “advocate and sell on their behalf”. Significantly, the Experience Index says that consumers now control product pages, with user-generated content replacing traditional image carousels. Consumer product ratings, reviews, images uploaded by consumers and question and answers all play a pivotal role in purchase decisions.
It’s also important to remember that people trust people. Many consumers, especially the Millennial generation onwards, distrust advertising and brand-generated content. In fact, 84% of Millennials classify themselves as distrustful of traditional marketing. That leaves peers as the most trusted form of recommendation when it comes to everything from finding a restaurant and booking a hotel to finding a contractor or choosing a vet.
The Experience Index backs this up, with its findings revealing that there is a 159% increase in revenue from visitors who engage with reviews. Scientific research also cites empirical evidence that reviews have a significant impact on online sales; in the travel industry for example, just a 10% increase in user reviews led to a more than 5% increase in bookings.
Our own research has tracked this trend over the last decade. Year after year we find that the vast majority (over 8 in 10 people last year) read online reviews for a local business, while 89% of 35-54-year-olds trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
UGC and Google Local Guides
So, what does this have to do with Google Local Guides? The relevance and impact of UGC directly underpins the function of Google Local Guides.
Google says that Guides are people who “who write reviews, share photos, answer questions, add or edit places and check facts on Google Maps”. These are all examples of user-generated content. The search engine claims that millions of people around the world rely on the information shared by Guides to decide where to go and what to do.
This makes Google Local Guides important local influencers, able to help shape which local businesses are popular, thanks to the trust consumers naturally place in information shared by peers, rather than brands.
The Local Guides program is most closely linked with Google Maps, with points and rewards for Guides all geared around the contributions made to Maps.
Why Google Local Guides?
Google describes its Local Guides as a community. Members of the community are local consumers who go out and rate local businesses, take photos, share their experiences, leave reviews, answer questions based on their direct knowledge of those businesses, add places not listed on Maps, and check facts.
Participation is rewarded with points, badges, and perks. The rewards system tells us this work is meaningful to Google, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. Guides act as an army of fact-checkers and researchers with boots on the ground around the world. Guides hit the streets specifically searching for, noting down, and uploading local business information in real-time. They are a hive mind for the search engine, helping it to ensure its Maps product is more accurate, more up-to-date and superior to rival offerings. It’s not a stretch to say that the work Guides do in their towns and cities around the world powers the whole Maps ecosystem.
It should be noted here that the actions that Guides carry out aren’t restricted to those who register for the program. Even without signing up to be a Google Local Guide, you can perform many of the same functions. You can, for example, leave an unbiased review of a business on local search via Google Reviews. You can upload your own images of a local business, which will then show in local search and on that company’s Google My Business profile. You can also ask a question, suggest an edit on a local business listing and answer Google questions, such as whether a location is wheelchair accessible by clicking on the ‘share the latest info link’ in local search.
The difference is that as a Google Local Guide, your contributions will be linked to gamification, meaning the more you share, the greater the points and rewards you’ll receive.
How do I join the Google Local Guide program?
It’s very easy to join the Google Local Guides program. So easy in fact, you can sign up in a matter of minutes.
Sign in to your Google account and then navigate to the Local Guides signup page.
If you have location enabled on your device, you’ll see that your town will be pre-populated for you. If not, just add your location, confirm you’re over the age of 18, and agree to receive emails.
You’re now signed up and can begin to make contributions to Google Maps. You’ll find a welcome video on your dashboard and an option to leave your first review.
Just search for the place you wish to review and then click the ‘Contribute’ button to start earning points, badges, and rewards.
Once you’ve added the name of the local business you wish to review, you’ll be asked a series of questions by Google, based on the type of business under review.
If you’re reviewing a hotel, for example, you’ll be asked for an overall star rating and then information about the type of trip (business, vacation, solo, friends, family, etc.) you took. You’ll also be able to assign individual star ratings to rooms, location, and service, and upload images.
You can also now begin to make contributions directly to Google Maps. Just go to Maps and you’ll be able to fact check and verify information that other users have submitted about businesses nearby to your location and make edits to incorrect information.
If you turn on location history, Google will also give you suggestions for places to review and verify based on where you’ve been.
How do I unlock Google Local Guide points and badges?
As mentioned, Google Local Guides has a strong gamification aspect with each Guide rewarded for their contributions with points and badges. Those points and badges can be traded for rewards with Google partners. You’ll need to make contributions to Maps to begin earning points, and then increase your activity to earn badges.
- Score a local business by giving it a rating
- Review a local business
- Share photos
- Upload video
- Answer a question about a place you have visited on Maps
- Ask a question and/or provide an answer on the information panel in local search
- Edit information
- Add a missing place
- Check facts