Google recently launched yet another initiative to bolster Google Maps. While still the undisputed leader in search, if we’ve learned anything from the Mystery of the Missing Mall, it’s that Google’s not quite as all-seeing and all-knowing as we often think. Plus, while Apple Maps was initially underwhelming—like issuing a corporate apology bad—it’s become much more robust. Apple Maps is now integrated with local business reviews from Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Booking.com, and it’s rumored that an Apple version of Google’s Street View is headed our way. Especially because iPhone and other Apple device users have to choose to use Google Maps (because of course, Apple Maps is the default), Google apparently sees the need to step up their map offerings.
Enter Google Local Guides. Google is offering prizes and perks to users who are willing to sign up to be Local Guides—basically, “power reviewers” who will add to Google’s local map offerings. The prizes start out at a pretty low level (exclusive contests just for Google Guides), but ramp up all the way to getting a terabyte of free storage on Google Drive, which is not too shabby. Those who already geek out on all things Google might also be enticed by the possibility of receiving early access to new products and features from the search giant, and the elite Google Guides will get invites to an exclusive summit at the Google HQ in Mountain View.
Google’s pitch to local guides is all giving users warm, fuzzy feelings (hey, you’re an insider, you know your area really well, it would be awesome if you could give people the inside scoop on the latest and greatest places in your city). In addition to all the prizes, they offer the possibility of organizing meet-ups with other Local Guides and attending Google events where you can bask in the greatness of being a local search insider.
But is it all about making people feel good and doling out free cloud storage? Not by a long shot. This is actually a way to get an army of Google users to do a whole lot of work on behalf of the search behemoth—Google might not be able to find that mall, but a Carlsbad Local Guide could. The idea that you’re earning points and prizes makes it feel less like you’re doing poorly paid work for Google. Google might say “it’s all about that warm feeling you get from helping others discover new, enriching experiences,” but let’s not kid ourselves, it’s definitely very much about helping improve the accuracy of their local listings.
The easiest way to see this is to review their tips for Local Guides. They’re not just looking for guides to give reviews (which they ask to avoid bias and use only constructive criticism so that “business owners can use your feedback to improve their services”). Guides can also—and this is important—update and edit listings, and even add new ones. Say our hypothetical Carlsbad Local Guide wanted to make the listings for La Costa Town Square accurate. Per Google, he or she could totally do that: “Maybe you’ll find a place so new it’s not even on the map—and you can put it there.” That Guide may fancy him or herself the ultimate insider, but really, it’s just helping Google improve the accuracy of their maps. Perhaps the place where this is most explicit is their “Be a Good Citizen” advice: “Business moved across town? A wrong phone number or misplaced pin? The world changes fast, but with your help we can keep the map fresh for everyone.”
Don’t get us wrong. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Accurate local listings, especially your Google My Business listing, are vital if you’re a small business. Getting reviews is important, but you shouldn’t have to worry about wooing your Google Local Guide. Instead, make it as easy as possible for your existing clients and customers—the folks who already love you—to give you a good review. A QR code or a short URL that will direct customers to a page on your site that has links to your profiles on different review sites is a good way to let your fans skip a step (or two) to starting a review.
Do you need help setting up your Google My Business listing, or making sure your business shows up—with correct, consistent info—on directory sites? At Higher Power SEO we’re all about helping put your business on the map. Call us today at 760-881-4736 to learn more about our local SEO services.