Words On Wednesday

2015-11-18 Google Local Guides Update

Google has recently released a huge update to the Local Guides program and I’m pretty stoked about it.

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Local Guides, for those of you who haven’t heard of it, is a program in which Google rewards people who regularly publish detailed and helpful reviews on businesses to Google Maps. Previously, users were ranked into 4 categories, depending on how many businesses they had reviewed. Some of the benefits for the highest ranks were yearly gifts for continued, high-quality reviews, and a badge beside your name on your reviews indicating that you are an active local guide.

I reviewed 200 businesses, enough to get me into the highest rank, and then began to slow down quite a bit. I don’t regularly go to new places, there wasn’t a good way to know what businesses I had and hadn’t already reviewed, and being in the highest tier gave me nothing new to strive for. If I went to a new place and had a particularly good or bad experience, I would write a review for the business. Otherwise, I didn’t really bother.

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Over the past few days, Google has announced and rolled out several updates to the Local Guides program, as well as doled out rewards to some users. First and most beneficial to me, level 4 Local Guides received an offer for 1TB of Google Drive storage for 2 years. Considering how heavily I use Google Drive and the fact that my 100GB of promotional storage expires this Christmas, that was fantastic news. Not that I predict I’ll be using anywhere near 1TB for a very long time, but I won’t turn down a $240 offer just for writing reviews.

The next big news was a shift in how ranks are determined. Instead of number of reviews, rank is now based on “points.” These points can be obtained by: adding a new business to Google Maps, editing an existing business, writing a review about a business, posting a picture of a business, or answering questions about a business. This allows users to obtain up to 5 points per business for completing all available tasks.

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Lastly of importance to me, Google introduced a new rank to Local Guides. Rank 5 can be reached by obtaining 500 points. Oh look, a new goal. I decided I should get back on reviewing businesses, both to obtain the new rank and to help out other consumers who may be undecided on working with a business. I previously didn’t care much about taking pictures or answering questions about businesses, when I only gained ranks by publishing reviews. Not only that, but Google introduced a “To-Do” list populated from a user’s location history that suggests businesses to review if you were close to them and have not yet reviewed them. That solves my problem of not knowing what to review.

Over the past week, I’ve spent my lunch break nearly every day going around the downtown area to take pictures of businesses, both those I have reviewed previously and those I haven’t. When I get a spare moment, I’ll write a review on a business from my To-Do list. I’ll look through businesses I’ve already reviewed to answer questions about them. These updates to Maps and the Local Guide program really make it tremendously easy to share your experience about a place and publish information for other consumers to see. One improvement I would like to see is knowing what businesses I have and haven’t answered questions for, as well as a better interface for accessing these questions. Other than going to the Maps entry for a business that I’ve already reviewed from mobile, I don’t know how to trigger questions.

My goal this time is to not slack off my reviews when I hit rank 5 (which is definitely a “when” rather than an “if”). I want to be able to help out other consumers, I want to stay active to reap the rewards from Google, and I want to have a good reputation for putting out reliable information. I definitely enjoy the reviewing process, and I’d like to be seen as dependable and unbiased.

Keep an eye out for new photos and reviews from me over the coming weeks. My plan is to generate a picture and a review for nearly every business in the Spartanburg area. I’m even willing to interview business owners for a piece on my blog if they want a spotlight. This is my hub city, and I want people to know it.

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