“My cousins had come over for the weekend and so we planned to have dinner at the new eatery that was inaugurated last month. Since we had no idea how it was, we thought of resorting to Google for help. The reviews were quite impressive but in reality the food wasn’t. What could have supposedly gone wrong in the research…. Maybe the reviews weren’t genuine and were posted just for the sake of ‘posting’ them.”
We all have this habit of logging and flipping through google to check reviews before visiting a place, restaurant or a new food joint in town. In today’s era, businesses gain more credibility if they have a positive online presence. It not only generates more leads but also helps them in increasing their potential customer base. So, the ratings and customer reviews do matter a lot. The question that now arises is – Who puts them up for you? Why do some people have a separate badge or identification mark with their names? Who are they? There are a plethora of queries that revolve around this. Let’s just unfurl them one by one.
Who Are Local Guides?
They are a group of people, a community that writes reviews, adds new places, uploads photographs, adds relevant business information etc. This way through Google Maps they provide information that a potential customer flicking through internet might need.
Google rewards them with points and they can avail many more benefits while progressing upwards on the point ladder.
(Source – https://maps.google.com/localguides/howto?scrollTo=points)
What Do They Do
- Give Ratings & Reviews – A local guide gives away ratings and reviews or describes a place with complete details. Ideally, they should add their experiences and genuine reviews so that the user can gain a truthful insight about the place in question.
- Add A Photograph – Capture the photographs of food and/ or place.
- Respond To Queries– People might be a bit skeptical about visiting a new place or trying out a new restaurant which makes them post their queries on Google. People who have visited there earlier can respond to such questions and trade points in return.
- Append A New Place – A million new businesses and ventures have not been recognized by Google yet. Local guides add such places on the map. This way it becomes easier for people to discover these unexplored places.
- Edit The Info – Google displays some basic business information on the web for their customers like address, hours of operation, phone number etc. These might change from time to time. A local guide gets additional points for editing and updating the information.
How Does The Mechanism Work
Local guides contribute content to Google Maps and barter points in return. The program was originally created to help customers get an insight over the venture’s performance as reviewed by others who took over their services.
There are 7 badges in total and a person is accorded the badge at 4th level.They get suitable rewards and benefits with each level that they unlock. This improves their say, credibility and online stakes. They tend to gain a social impact by being flag bearers in the community.
Also various community meets and events are organized where local guides who share same passion interact and meet others in proximity.
Genuine v/s Fake Reviews – The Final Impact
In order to get more points, earn a better badge and leverage maximum benefits, quite a few local guides have started posting fake and not-so- genuine reviews. This has counterfeited the whole idea and purpose of reviews on Google Maps. This can have serious repercussions on the reputation of Google in the following ways.
- Google will lose its credibility. Local listings on Google might just become spam.
- If this happens in the coon’s age, people will no longer check and believe on reviews and testimonials written on google.
- A business that gets unauthenticated or bogus reviews (which has reduced their rating) will no longer be interested in listing or promoting themselves on Google.
- People would have serious trust issues with the information provided by Google.
- Competitors like Yelp would take over the market as customers would look for other better alternatives.
What Can Be Done
- Google must develop stringent rules and policies to keep a check over fake reviews.
- Local guides who write unnecessary reviews should be penalized for the same.
- A suitable algorithm should be designed that can help in handling false reviews.
- Google should hire certain people to flag bogus reviews.