Google Local Guides (GLGs) can be a blessing to your business. Their reviews can help your website get some good visibility, and their photos can show off your best services and locations. But they can also be a curse, posting negative reviews and changing your basic info (name, address, phone, existence). Let’s talk about how to keep an eye on GLGs so they don’t negatively affect your listing (and your business!).
Note: I am a Google Local Guide Level 8, so I speak about GLGs from a knowledgeable position.
What are Google Local Guides?
The Google Local Guide program is Google’s platform for crowdsourced local business insight. At last count, there were 50 million GLGs worldwide.
When you join the program, you are asked to review places you dine, businesses you frequent, historical places, parks, and other places that appear in Google Maps. GLGs are also asked tons of basic questions, like storefront visibility, handicap access, whether stores sell certain things, and whether they provide certain services. These smaller messages come after reviews are left.
GLGs earn points that allow them to “level up” and earn badges. There are occasionally incentives, like movie tickets, or newspaper subscriptions, but the incentives are not much to speak of.
And leveling up takes a lot of work, so you have to really enjoy it to grab higher levels (there are 10 all together). Take a look at my current summary:
How are they a blessing?
GLGs can provide nice insight through their reviews and photos. For example, they can show the inside of a restaurant, or what a park looks like, or even show a video of what a salon looks like (things many of us want to see before we arrive at a location). They can also let the world know that businesses have moved, or have closed, or where never there. For example, I recently sent notice that two businesses that were on my local map didn’t exist. And I once sent the same notice to a listing in a bad area that said it was the Educational Testing Service (for the SATs!). It was sooooooo NOT the ETS. I actually went to a highly-rated restaurant the other night that had – I kid you not – over 900 Google reviews, and guess what? They were all good. As was mine! But seeing those 900 was what convinced my husband and me to give it a try. Who doesn’t love positive reviews these days?
How are they a curse?
GLGs can be a curse because they can provide incorrect information that will lead your listing to appear worse than it is, or just plain bad. GLGs are asked about hours, and location, and phone numbers, and business names, and the very existence of a business. Check out a listing I recently found for a client. It appears someone edited their hours:
I also know someone whose pet sitting business listing has photos uploaded to it of ducts. You read that right, ducts. Why are they there? Who knows, probably a mistake. But not something that properly represents a pet sitter, wouldn’t you say?
The words “suggest an edit” should worry you. Pretty much everything in a Google Business listing is up for editing.
I don’t want to be a negative Nelly here, but this is even an option with all listings:
Are businesses notified about proposed edits?
No, not for the most part. I’ve worked with clients whose Google My Business had been changed by someone and they never knew it til I showed them. I don’t know if Google plans to change this (they adjust things quite frequently), but it’s definitely something that should be modified.
What should I do to protect my business?
Keep an eye on your Google My Business listing, plain and simple. Check on it weekly or monthly. Make sure all the info is correct. Look at the photos. Answer all the reviews. And generally mind it. Don’t let others change your online presence. Keep control of it.
And always remember to note the Gmail account you used to open the Google My Business account; I’ve had a few people who misplaced this info, and that causes more problems.
Google Local Guides are reviewers whose edits can help your business (their blessing) or hurt it (their curse). Google does not currently alert listing owners to suggested changes, so if you don’t look at your listing frequently, changes can be made without your knowledge. The best way to keep control of your listing is to check in on it frequently and correct changes as needed.