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Google Local Guides: What is it and How Can it Benefit

Launched in 2004, Yelp streamlined the way we research goods and services. By entering a keyword and a location, we could easily access details, reviews, and star ratings for local businesses. As it grew over more than a decade, it negated the need to scour the internet in an effort to find businesses that best suit our needs.

It also changed a lot of businesses for the better. Under scrutiny, more brick and mortars began offering amenities like cleaner restrooms and free Wi-Fi. Humbler, low-budget establishments with superior customer service got their due through glowing reviews.

Google or Yelp!

Does Google hope to unseat Yelp as the average citizen’s everyday Sherpa? Google Local Guide offers points to people in exchange for location details, photos, and reviews. The question for reviewers and seekers is the same: is it more convenient to just use Google?

For those who already regularly use Maps, the appeal is straightforward. Viewing info and ratings on Maps can eliminate a step or two from the mobile search process. Let’s say someone catches sight of a restaurant on Maps as they navigate an area. From there, they might open their trusty Yelp app to glean more info. But with Local Guide, Maps becomes a one-stop shop for leaving the house and hitting up new businesses.

Rather than just giving Yelp a run for its money, Google’s most dedicated Guides feel that they’re enriching one of our most oft-used technological resources – Google Maps. More than a billion people use the Maps app monthly, and they do so in a world that’s constantly changing. Business hours, accessibility, and general offerings are always in flux, but Guides are on a mission to keep everyone current.

Ultimately, Guides help make sure information is up to date; a service that Google surely had in mind when Local Guide was conceptualized. Crowdsourcing the meat and potatoes of your service means you can save on staffing. Meanwhile, people are attracted to making their voices heard, and other perks.

Much like Yelp’s Elite reviewers, Google has incentivized being a Guide. In fact, earlier this year they increased the number of levels Guides can work up to.

Google’s Upgraded Point System

Previously, once a Guide accrued 500 points, that was it. With the latest expansion of this system, Local Guides can now traverse 10 levels and earn up to 100,000 points. When they hit Level 4 with 250 points, they get their first badge. Google promises that proactive Guides will be rewarded for their work with “early access to Google features and special perks from partners.”

Some perks involve other Google products and services, like free month-long access to Play Music and deep discounts on movie rentals from the Play store.

One issue that may arise from users’ reliance on Maps as a way to see reviews is the insufficiency that comes from reviewing platforms that are newer than others. An established business may have spent years amassing favorable reviews on Yelp. They’re faced with the fact that increased incentives from Google Local Guide are now attracting more reviews elsewhere, namely, right there on Maps.

Now, if they receive a lower rating on Google, a potential customer may see that low rating on Maps as they explore a local area. They may not even bother looking into that business further, simply rejecting it outright.

Having people come by business ratings easier is considered great for patrons, but it can be a nail-biter for owners.

In the end, for business owners, crowdsourcing ratings carries similar caveats regardless of platform. Misinformation, vendettas, and bad days are sure to occur. The new challenge, however, may be managing all of this across multiple platforms as companies lure in more reviewers.

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