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.
Check out their explanation of the program:
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.
But first, let’s take a look at the framework of the Google Local Guides Program.
How to Sign up for the Google Local Guides Program
All you need to sign up as a Local Guide is a free Google account. The Local Guide program does not require any money to sign up.
First create your google account, if you don’t already have one.
Make sure your city is correct, and sign up.
Now you can begin earning points and making the world a better place.
How to Earn Points and Level Up
The Local Guides Program incentivizes users to move up levels by accumulating points via simple actions. As you move up levels, you earn a variety of benefits.
Now that you have your Google Local Guides Account set up you can start earning points:
There are 5 levels and 5 different ways to earn points.
1. Upload Photos
Who’s got a flair for photography? Scratch your inner photographer by uploading useful and vibrant photos to the locations you visit. According to users on the Local Guides’ subreddit, some Local Guides have had their photos viewed millions of times.
If you take an excellent photo, your image could end up being the primary image on a local business google listing.
Pro-Tip:For creative local search firms, having your photo featured on a prospective client’s business listing would be an excellent opportunity to establish your authority as a local search expert and get your foot in the door.
2. Share Reviews
Small Businesses are significantly impacted by Google reviews. Earn Local Guide points by letting others know about the pros and cons of the places you visit. Remember when writing reviews to address specific aspects of the business for the sake for being helpful.
Pro-Tip: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.
3. Add New Places
You’d be surprised how many businesses still have not been listed on Google Maps. Many times, the business owner doesn’t even think to claim their listing. They may not understand how search engines work at all, and the value of being of being listed.
Pro-tip:If you add a business, via the Google Local Guide program, reach out to the small business and let them know! They may be confused, but simply putting them on the map (literally), and explaining how a listing will help new customers find them can lead to a win and a new client.
4. Fix Information
Adding a business to the map can have the most important impact on small businesses, but if their business information hasn’t been updated or is incorrect, they could be upsetting their customers. Put on your good samaritan hat, and save future customers from any misinformation that could ruin their opinion of the business.
Pro-Tip:Check for hours of operation on the business listing (including Holidays). Frequently businesses forego this info or never update it. Simply editing the hours of operations could surprise the business owner and reveal your digital marketing skills.
5. Answer Questions
While questions appear pretty infrequently, if there’s one there, answer it to help others and retrieve your points.
Levels and Points Breakdown
Google Local Guides provides a beautiful framework for a loyalty program. If you frequently are out and about, taking photos and writing quality reviews are an easy way to level-up.
As you move up levels, you earn some very interesting Google-related benefits that will aid you in positioning yourself as a local search expert.
Why Sign Up for Google Local Guides?
Now let’s get to the goodies that you can earn as you level up.
The three main benefits that result in being an active Google Local Guide are:
For example, Droid-Life shared these screenshots of the new travel app that Google is currently working on:
Google Local Guide Meetups
Meetups are a great way to get people in your community together, whether you’re goal is networking or just making new friends. Level 2 Guides are always adding new events and meetups. Check out the calendar and find an event that works for you.
Once you’re a level 2 local guide, Google allows you to promote your own meetups. Google also provides a few resources(Name Badges, Stickers, and Bingo Cards) that you can use to enhance the meetup:
Get your Google Local Guide stickers, name badges, and Bingo cards here.
Google Local Guide Communities
If you do have questions, there are a couple of online communities that you can join.
Google obviously provides their own G+ Community, available only to local guides:
You can also find a smaller community on reddit. On reddit and the local G+ community, you’ll see Guides post about their experience moving up to the next level, special contests and promotions, and Google insights.
My Local Guide Meetup Experience In Philadelphia with Lily
This past Saturday was Google Local Guide’s meetup day. A day when Guides were encouraged to organize a gathering in the community. I hopped onto their events map and found that there was a ‘photowalk’ scheduled in Clark Park.
I drove up there and met Lily, the event organizer. Sadly, Lily and I were the only two people who showed up, but it was a great experience!
We walked around the park, shared stories, and took a few photos of the park to queue up for Google. Lily is a special ed teacher in the Philadelphia area.
I asked her what motivated her to be a Local Guide and organize this meetup. She said her husband was working that day and she liked taking photos and talking to people.
You don’t have to be a local search expert to join the program! Normal everyday folks sign up to meet people and make the world a more informative place.
I don’t claim to be a great photographer, but I had fun taking pictures of the statues and the bluegrass band.
We strolled through the farmer’s market and flea market, remarking on the old typewriters and cast iron skillets. I’m happy that I went to the meetup, and once I get to level 2 in the Local Guides Program, I’ll be scheduling my own.
While we don’t need to be a local search expert to join the Google Local Guides program, there are a variety of ways to engage our local community and network with prospective clients.
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!