Google might be a giant in the world of search engine, but they also have a reputation for being fun lovers. We are all familiar with their playful homepage animations to commemorate important international events; some of them being proper mini games.
April Fools is a favourite of theirs and they launched a worldwide one-day Pokémon hunt scattered through Google Maps a few years ago. It created a massive following which Google didn’t fail to capitalise on, and the following year on the same date, you could play Pacman overlaid on their maps which was equally successful.
The thing is, of all species of the animal kingdom, humans are inherently competitive and one of the very few ones that love to play well into adulthood with no educational purpose in mind, so creatively gamifying something we wouldn’t usually give much attention is a great way to get us engaged.
One of Google’s more recent side projects is Google Maps Local Guides, which is a light-hearted community built with the intention of improving the accuracy and level of contribution towards Google Maps.
What is Local Guides all about?
Local Guides is a pretty simple concept and is a platform developed to enhance the collection of crowd-sourced Google Maps information. Users are prompted to add photos of places and shops they have visited, write reviews, correct mistakes and answer questions. With each contribution they will earn points and eventually level up. From a user point of view, Local Guides, like Trip Advisor, is a gold mine of impartial advice with perspectives on everything and anything found on Google Maps.
There are currently five levels to attain as a local guide. At level 1, between 0 and 4 points, you are rewarded with a princely monthly newsletter and invitations to occasional Google-hosted workshops; at level 2, between 5 and 49 points, you get early access to new products and features and you can promote your own meet-up group.
At level 3, things start to get slightly more interesting as you will be given with a snazzy Local Guides badge next to your profile, indicating your quality and commitment to fair reviewing.
Now, level 4, at 200 points, you are offered 100GB of free Google Drive storage valid for a year (although this offer is soon to expire), while level 5 at 500 points makes you eligible to the Trusted Testing programme, with access to proprietary information, and the prospect of an invitation to the Local Guides Level 5 summit.
Meet our very own Level 5 Local Guide, Andrew
I’ve been contributing to Google Maps for a number of years now. At first it was just for clients, making sure that their listings were up to date and optimised for local SEO and that’s when I realised the value of maps listings to businesses.
I became interested in contributing outside of work to share my photos and provide fair reviews to the places I visited or services I used. I knew how much our clients valued reviews and I wanted to be an active contributor and give back to help guide the decisions of others and reward businesses who exceeded my expectations.
The local guides programme and great functionality of the contributions section in Google Maps made this process much easier and more addictive. I made it to level 5 late last year and am now chasing the ever elusive and quite possibly non-existent level 6 status!
How can I get started?
Open the Google Maps app and navigate to the “my contributions” section. This is where you can start to add your feedback and monitor your points status.
It won’t surprise you to hear that you can rise through the ranks much faster if you are running Android and use other Google products such as Google Photos and enable Location History in Google Maps. It allows Google to associate your photos to the locations where it thinks you have been and will make the review writing process much more efficient for you.
Another way to accumulate points is to contribute to venue details on Google Maps. Opening hours, addresses and website URLs for example are pieces of info that can change quickly on the ground but not in Google Maps. Correct it and you will be rewarded with a nice point boost, although it will first be held back while the information is being reviewed. This process can take some time in researching to ensure you are making accurate corrections – but your time investment will be doing your city a big favour: there are few things more frustrating than travelling to a business location only to find it is closed and the map opening hours were incorrect.
You can also collect points by answering yes/no questions about places you have visited. If we are honest, you need to answer a lot of them to make it worthwhile but it is so straightforward and it takes so little time that there is no reason not to do it. Questions can range from whether a restaurant has a wheelchair accessible entrance, to whether the venue in question is popular with trendy people. All of this information helps Google Maps give users a better, more personalised experience.
Why should I bother?
A lot of people wonder why anyone would bother with the somewhat laborious task of updating map details. However this process isn’t quite as lame as it sounds thanks to Google making the process easy and even fun via their app.
What’s more – in Andrew’s opinion (and we’re sure you will agree) Google Maps is a truly world changing product adding a lot of value to our lives for completely no cost! So giving back by submitting reviews and photos is a great way to express your gratitude for a tool which we rely on so much in our every day lives and costs us nothing.
We are all proud Kiwis and love showing off our awesome country to the rest of the world and the thousands of tourists which visit us each year. Most of these tourists will rely on some form of review tool to guide their travels, and quite often this will begin with google maps. Helping keep business details up to date and sharing your experiences through the app will increase the chances of these visitors having a great time and raving even more about our country and your city.
If you are a business owner, you will know the value of google maps in generating new business and guiding customers to your location or website – but sometimes Google Maps can be tricky! If you are having difficulties with the information or visibility of your business’ Google Maps listing, contact us on 09 360 2299 or send us an email and Andrew will surely be able to sort it out!