More threads by Garrett Sussman

Mar 15, 2016
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Become the Neighborhood Expert Your Community Deserves: Google Local Guides


Nothing says digital authority these days more than something Google related. In early 2015, they released the Google Local Guides program. The goal was to provide a gamified opportunity for anyone to contribute business locations, information, photos, answer questions, and write reviews while acquiring points, leveling up, and earning sweet rewards.

And while the average consultant or local digital marketing agency might not realize the opportunity before them, we do.

While contributing useful info and making the digital world a better place, we can also plant seeds for our business. We can establish our local authority with Google Local Guide Meetups. We can also let business owners know that we helped them with their listing by correcting business info or getting a one of our photos to represent their business.

Google provides a variety of resources to help us get the word out and make the meetups a fun experience for everyone who shows up.

Additionally, just the practice of uploading reviews, pictures and business information will help us keep ourselves up to date on local search related features and practices.

And don’t forget, at level 4, Local Guides earn 1TB of Google Drive storage!

Have you signed up for Google Local Guides?

Are there any ways that you think a local SEO firm can benefit from the program that I didn't mention in the blog post?


I think this could generate a lot of data for Google since the points are based on a location level and not a review/action level. Great share I'm going to sign up today. At the very least it is something to do between/during errands!
haha cheers! Thank you for the reply! It's pretty fun (at least taking photos and of course writing reviews!)

That's a great point about the data Google will be collecting. In a lot of ways, I look at this 'project' similar to when they first started out with adding street view to google maps. Having correct data will only continue to increase the value of Google over other search engines and future location based apps.

Funny story, I remember back in 2005 when I was living in New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina happened and I wasn't able to get back into the city for 3 months. I remember Google Earth had just been released, and I would sit at my computer refreshing to see if I could see my house or if it was covered in water. One of my first real life use cases for all that Google Maps would offer in the future.

Spoiler alert: The house was definitely surrounded by water (but not covered).
Thanks for posting Garrett. I've pondered the SEO benefits before. I've been a local guide for a while now. I have made so many map maker edits historically (one of the ways to earn points), that I was automatically given the status when they launched the program. I can't remember exactly, but I don't think I even applied :)

As with Yelp elite reviewers, I think there could be a strategy for SMB's around identifying and building relationships with local guides in their local area. Certainly knowing which of your customers are local guides would be beneficial because they are more likely to leave a review, and it has more authority.
Very cool Colan, automatic status! Thank you for the reply.

I do think there's a lot of potential for small businesses and agencies alike to host meetups via the program. It'll be interesting to see whether Google continues to evolve the program and invest resources.
I've been signed up and done a couple of reviews. I'm using it to get local businesses on the map and then if they need any further help..............:)
I do try to be clear that I'm working WITH Google, not officially FOR Google.
Haven't done any meet-ups yet, maybe once I get a few more businesses on the map.
Definitely worth being a part of.
Thank you for the comment jwypick!

That's a great point. I could imagine people not familiar with the program might assume you actually work for google. Definitely important to distinguish that's not the case.

Let us know when you host a meetup! I'd love to know how it goes.
Hi Garrett

This line in your post interested me: In order for your reviews to earn points, they do need to have some substance to them. If you’re only leaving star ratings or one word reviews, the Local Guide Program may dock you points.

I was wondering where you had seen that information? Because I know a lot of people who only leave the bare minimum in their reviews and have reached Level 4 or higher with apparently no adverse effects.

To answer your question regarding ways a local SEO firm can benefit from the program - I think it's about helping the small businesses around you. As already mentioned in your post and on this thread, adding unlisted businesses or tidying up listings can be a great help in getting your name out as a local SEO firm.

Some other ideas:
Maybe you could help your clients identify the best 'selfie' spot in their store / restaurant / cafe where guides can take a photo, with some identifying marks in the background(!) that can then be uploaded to the Maps listing.

Put a copy of the menu in a spot that's easy to photograph - I recall Colan and I talking in another thread about how Google specifically calls out menus as a good photo option, but trying to take a photo of one in real life is appalling, believe me I've tried! And even if people don't take one for the Guides program, it's nice to take a photo in order to send it to a friend when recommending the place later :)

Make a nice Review link for your clients (use Pleper or to create it and then brand it using a tiny URL) that they can add to their cards, receipts, invoices etc - makes it much easier to review them on the spot.

Why not (and yes this is a bit silly) try recording as many questions as possible re a certain client's business, and then provide the 'answers' to those questions somewhere in the business' marketing materials? Even the website might be a good spot - that way really dedicated Guides could find the answers there and still get the points :)
Hey Priya,

Thanks for the reply! I really really love your ideas about the restaurant menu photo, as well as the 'selfie' concept. When it comes down to it, the hardest part for most people implementing these ideas is having to turn on your extroversion switch. Not easy for everyone to step out of their comfort zone like that, but most business owners are pretty nice.

As for the points being removed, there are no specific guidelines anywhere, which makes it tricky. It seems to be a reaction to Local Guides trying to game the system so they can earn the 1TB storage space and Google has been reacting to that strategy. I found anecdotal evidence in the Local Guides Subreddit from these threads:

Like most aspects of Google, the reasons for points being removed are not explicit. Could be that some are private or that they broke one of the guidelines for writing reviews, or are filtered as spam:

I'd hope they get it sorted, since it's frustrating for the user, but that's Google!
I realized after reading this thread that I had already signed up for this program, but haven't really been using it. I went out a couple of times this week to eat, so that was an easy way to get to level 2 lol.

The 1TB of storage space is definitely appealing, but what other things will Google Guides offer? I saw the potential for beta access and meetup kind of things. Are there other benefits you've seen people get from participating in this program?
Hey Eric,

Thanks for the reply. Sorry for the delayed response! As far as I've seen so far, the TB and early access to beta features are the most appealing features of the program. Some level 4 or 5 guides receive some random gifts and contests from Google from time to time, like T-shirts.

There's also a Level 3 Private Community you gain access to.

I think the program is still very much in its nascent stage, but hopefully they continue to improve it.

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