Inbound Ambassador

How + Why + Why Now of Google Guiding

If you love finding new places or even have some favorites that you would like to share with others, then becoming a Google Local Guide on the Google Map app is a fun and rewarding thing to do.

Google Maps build Sustainable Destinations

From a sustainability point of view, promoting the use of Google maps, guiding and managing a business entry is a great way to reduce paper waste and save trees by decreasing unnecessary paper maps, pamphlets, and brochures. Printed materials become outdated quickly, whereas google maps are always adapting and changing and being updated.

Google maps are user-driven information that offers trustworthiness and transparency. Most users are unsure whether they can trust promotional information directly from the company but have more faith in the opinion of a user who visits an attraction or uses a company’s product or service.

Active Google Guides also help with overtourism problems, encouraging people to explore outside of the main, overcrowded sites and spread the wealth. There are so many great places to explore, eat or drink at, and enjoy as a visitor or resident. Spreading customers out from the main attractions and eateries gives users a richer experience while giving more economic benefit to a wider variety of people in the community.

What is a Google Local Guide?

According to Google,

Local Guides is a global community of explorers who write reviews, share photos, answer questions, add or edit places, and check facts on Google Maps. Millions of people rely on contributions like yours to decide where to go and what to do.

Why Write Google Reviews?

Of course, being a GLG is not for everyone. If you prefer to keep your favorite places to yourself, then google guiding is not for you. But if you enjoy sharing your insights about places you love to visit, eat at, drink at and have fun at with a larger audience than your immediate circle of friends, then you will enjoy being a Google guide.

Google map reviews are the foundation and basis of information on other platforms. You will find GLG reviews on google search, google images and data used on major travel websites and booking websites that use google data as the base details for their content. Basically, you won’t see competitors to Google maps anymore as you may have ten years ago, it is what everyone uses and what every business relies on.

No Salary but High Value

It’s not a part-time job as there are no financial rewards for writing reviews. Instead, the rewards come when your reviews receive points from google and you move up in your rankings. You also receive updates and messages of appreciation from the Google team about how your reviews are helping others. You are also appreciated by the many users who trust your reviews and insights. Your reviews help keep businesses honest and information up to date as google guides provide more transparency for businesses to verify, update, or disagree with claims made on official websites.

As you become a consistent and active guide and move up in your ranking, you may also have a chance to apply to one of the Google Connect Live summit events held around the world. These are fun and inspiring events where you have the chance to meet guides from around the world and learn how to be a better guide directly from the hardworking Googlers.

To make sure your reviews are honest, it’s not ethical to write glowing reviews for businesses that pay you, or you work for. As the staff of a business, you can, however, help manage their Google Business page. I’ll talk more about that another time.

As a highly ranked GLG, it can help you get consulting work, destination management or other writing and online content work as you have third-party certification of your dedication as a GLG that can be checked by prospective employers and collaborators. Your GLG profile is a good way to add transparency to your CV and proof of work history. Google will send you regular updates on how many views, likes and comments your reviews have had which is another great service and wealth of information to keep and see progress.

Be Positive & Stick to Constructive Criticism

It’s easy to be negative, cynical and to complain but it’s not the best tact when writing reviews on Google Maps. Running GetHiroshima, a regional online magazine for many years, as well as reviewing hundreds of places as a GLG, has helped me understand that running a business is hard and most owners are doing their best to put their passion into providing great products and services.

By highlighting the things the business is doing well, you are helping their business survive. Of course, if a business is doing something really badly, you should be honest in your review- but try to be constructive with advice about how they might be better.

As I’m passionate about sustainability and sustainable businesses and services in Japan, I make sure to add how the business is doing well in terms of key aspects of sustainability. Are they making efforts to reduce waste, do they source their products locally, have organic or plant-based items, or are they reusing containers, buildings, materials or other items, or do they have good work policies to protect and support their staff?

These are sustainable business practices I care about and make sure to mention in my reviews which I think other users and the business itself will benefit from knowing about.

Managing a good Google Business Page

As a guide, it’s good to keep in mind that many businesses around the world manage their own google map listing page as a part of their business. So, when you write a review, keep in mind that the owners and staff will likely be reading it. You can write in your native language and it is translated automatically by google. This is another reason to keep your comments clear, positive and add only criticism that is constructive and actionable (they can do something about it).

I sometimes do consultations with local businesses about how best to run their Google business pages. I won’t go into too much detail here as that is a topic for another time, but the basic advice is to keep your information up to date and make sure to like and reply to all comments and reviews from Google local guides in an appreciative way. The quality of a reply that a business manager uses with Google guides is a free branding tool that can become a huge asset in building loyal, repeat customers.

We can’t always write great reviews

If you are having a bad day and write something more negative than constructive, or have spelling mistakes, you can always go back to it and “edit” out the mistakes and negativity at a later time.

Whenever possible, it’s better to read through your review carefully before posting to maintain your history of high-quality reviews. Ask yourself- is this useful to someone else? Are my criticisms constructive? Could I make it better? Any spelling or grammar mistakes? Would a first-timer find it useful?

Adding photos and other media at a later time is fine and doesn’t have a negative affect on your overall review points. I find it better to be in a good WiFi zone when uploading reviews and then the photos, videos, and information seems to go up more smoothly at the same time.

The Key to Great Reviews is Visual

If you love to take photos and short videos of the places you love and don’t mind sharing them, you will be able to improve your Google points and move up in the rankings more quickly. There are many great online tutorials on how to take great photos and videos, but these days you really don’t need any special equipment other than your phone camera.

Both Android phones and iPhones can use google map applications easily and upload media, but I have recently switched to the Google Android Pixel phone and discovered how much easier it is to be an active google guide. So, if you are looking for your next phone and an active guide, that maybe something to keep in mind.

In addition to photos, you can also upload videos, panorama photos, and photospheres. You can find all of these features on your camera app on your phone. Once you save it on your phone, you can open the place you are reviewing, then choose to add a photo, then choose the folder, then choose the video or special image (panorama, etc) and upload it that way. It is straightforward to upload photos to the review and if you add descriptions to the images, you can get more points.

Edits and Updates

A lot of place listings in Japan do not have English entries of their names, have outdated hours of operation, or are actually in the wrong location on the map. These are all things you can help improve and correct as a GLG (and get points for). If possible, take and upload photos of the suggested changes as well so someone at Google can help you verify the information.

You will notice as you review a window of questions that pop up about a place you are at, “Know this place?” If you go through and answer honestly, this is another great way to get points, improve transparency and accurate information which can help other users and the business itself. Adding places to your timeline helps you keep track of where and when you visited places and you can keep it private so only you can see where you’ve been.

Google will also send you invitations to review places you’ve been to using google maps- this makes it easy to write a few sentences of information, upload a photo and get more points as a GLG.

Streetview

Many of us remember seeing google cars and google staff walking around with 360-degree cameras, but now everyone can contribute to this imagery on the updated StreetView app. The Streetview features are also available now if you download the app you can upload video as you walk down paths, trails, and streets which help users find your favorite routes. It uses up battery quickly and is a big load on data- so it is a good idea to wait until you are back in a WiFi area to upload these Streetview images.

Menus, Signs + Notices

A recent feature of Google maps is adding names of dishes you eat as well as pictures of the menus. If you also see signs, notices and other information from the business which would be useful for other users, make sure to take a photo of it and upload it with your review. Even if it is in Japanese, google software can translate text in images to multiple languages.

This is a useful feature now during the Coronavirus scare as many shops are closed or have changed their hours, but that information has not been updated on the official review.

Why Now?

Using this time working from home and working on your phone from WiFi is a great time to catch up on reviewing your favorite places, answering questions about places you know and uploading great photos with captions.

For the next 6 months to a year, it is also a great time to review and promote places that offer take-out options, are great areas to explore outdoors, or at least away from the crowds that people can go to and enjoy while maintaining the rules of social distancing.