Are Google Local Guides Ruining Business Reputations with Fake Reviews?

Published on September 3rd, 2018


What is a Google Local guides Program? As most of you would know that Google local guides is a global community of explorers and Google users who write reviews, add and share pictures of locations they visit on Google map and answer questions of people about local places. Local Guides program was earlier called City Experts Program until Feb 16, 2015, when it changed to Local Guides. The local guides program is focused on improving Google maps by editing facts about local places and adding places if it is missing.

What does the global community get by adding reviews or sharing pictures on Google map? Google offers different points for different activities on the map. For instance, if a local guide adds a review for a place (it can be a temple, restaurant, business etc) it earns 10 points and if the review added is over 200 characters, they get 10 bonus points. Similarly, if a local guide adds a place on Google map, 15 points are earned per place added. If location information is edited and approved, 5 points are earned. The best part is the more you earn points, the higher level you reach. Local guides can achieve Level 1 to Level 10 based on the number of points earned; level 10 is achieved when a local guide earns over 100,000 points. Besides the level of achievements, there are other Google local guides benefits and annual gift for active guides who review or add places regularly. For instance, Google offers Google Play discounts as benefits.

How Google local guides can earn points and achieve different levels.

So, a local guide has an incentive of leaving genuine or fake reviews for as many places and businesses as they can to earn points and move up the level of contributions. While genuine reviews are welcomed, Google local guides fake reviews are harmful and dent a local business online reputation.

When we help our SEO clients, we always focus on helping them generate as many genuine Google reviews as possible from clients to boost local business authoritativeness. If a Google local business listing isn’t present, we make sure they have their presence on Google map as an optimized local business listing helps overall SEO strategy.

The urge to gain more points is very strong in a newbie and lazy local guides and thus they, from time to time, go on a review spree leaving fake reviews for most of the businesses they find. As part of Google local guide policy, Google states that the contributions much be genuine and based on actual experience, however, Google has no way of knowing if the review is real or fake.

We noticed an alarming trend of local guides leaving quick reviews for business within a matter of hours. One such local guide, one of his reviews shown below, left over 22 reviews in a matter of hours. For local guides leaving reviews is a way to earn points however for a business, it is a matter of boosted or ruined online reputation. We have seen businesses end up with 3-star ratings from 5-star earlier due to fake or cold reviews. Here are live examples of some fake reviews which are left by lazy local guides, who may have been paid by competitors to leave such reviews.

The growing menace of fake local guide reviews is felt by many businesses and there isn’t an effective way Google provides to handle such reviews. A business may not be able to remove the fake review but Google provides a little hope of reporting such fake reviews and local guides who are leaving such fake reviews, by creating a post about the issue and tagging a Google Moderator on Local guide connect. Google moderators are basically Google employees and they respond to issues and questions local guides face. A Google moderator can be identified by the “G” added to their profile photo and Google Moderator titled under their name.

We do not believe that all local guides are lazy to go different places and leave genuine reviews or paid reviewers but yes a small percentage are certainly creating difficulties for businesses trying hard to earn real reviews from clients. A local guide may jump from level 2 to level 4 and earn gifts in a matter of hours but a business drops from 5-star to 3-star in a matter of minutes not to mention the lost trust of prospective clients, business opportunities, and online brand reputation.

Are Google Local Guides Ruining Business Reputations with Fake Reviews? was last modified: September 3rd, 2018 by WebNet Creatives

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