Local Guides: How Google is fighting it's competitors and ruining its platform. - S K U A - Serving Glasgow, the Highlands and the Islands

Google’s Local Guides – the need to know.

The Local Guides system is now an established part of the Google Maps ecosystem, they came to the system in 2016 and have become a major part of how maps work. But what are they, who are they, how they benefit the system and maybe utilising them in your digital strategy is still a slight mystery, to some anyway. 

The local guides help “flesh out” the information on places with reviews.

The local guides system was thought up to bring a bit more depth to Google’s reviewing system, with competition from Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Facebook Places becoming too serious to ignore.  As the first two of these have a strong supportive community behind their reviewing system, Google needed a way to combat this.

Local Guides are now an integral part of the reviewing platform, with Google not only highlighting the reviews from people who sign up to the platform but also offering other perks, such as: a cool badge on maps, free/discounted stuff from select maps partners, and some other goodies from the search giant itself. 

Who are local guides? Are they Google employees?

Anyone who uses Google, in any form, can become a local guide. There isn’t a set criteria, all a wannabe local guide needs to do is opt in and regularly review and update content on Maps. 

Local Guides are in no way affiliated to Google Maps and should not be mistaken for Google Employees, they certainly won’t be able to help with your Google My Business listing or any other Google query you have! They’re purely there to help Google add some character and local knowledge to its Mapping platform.  It is seen as a great way to help tourists, or even locals, find the best places to eat, shop, go to the cinema, or find the best spots to learn about a city.

Guides receive points for everything they do on the platform, and the points give them a certain level of badge that is displayed next to their name on reviews. The more spikes on the badge, the longer you’ve been reviewing and, well we hope this is what Google is aiming for, the more trusted your review will be. All the badge levels, and the points required to get them are shown above.

Can local businesses take advantage of a Local Guide visit?

In a word: No. Because Local Guides are just regular people, there isn’t any way to know if they are visiting you. But if you do have a local guide review then the best advice we can give is to respond to it, good or bad. As Local Guide reviews are highlighted by Google then whatever they’ve written, you can defend yourself, or thank them (depending on the review) and show how proactive you are. 

Although if you are worried about your digital presence enough to worry about a Local Guide review, and we think you should be constantly on top of these things, then you should be proactively responding to all reviews your business is getting. Not just the ones from people with a badge. 

The problem we see with Local Guides

A lot of people are joining in on the local guide bandwagon and if everyone has the opportunity to join the programme, at some point there will be more local guides than regular map users so who will you be able to trust as a reviewer?

The points system is also flawed. If you are rewarded for reviews, photos, ratings and feedback you give to a Maps listing, then more people are likely to give short reviews with no helpful information and no substance. This causes issues not just for Google, the business (for SEO), but also those searching for a good place on the platform – for some businesses it has ended up with short reviews that don’t tell us anything and does not help anyone.

Ultimately, we believe that a business should be looking after their digital Maps presence regardless of whether there are fancy badged people reviewing your business. We’re also not sure on the long-term feasibility of the Local Guides system and think it’s almost certainly likely to change in the future for a better version.