Have you seen the “Top reviewer” badge as you’ve browsed customer reviews on Amazon.com?
Comments and ratings from top reviewers tend to carry more weight because consumers feel that these reviewers are serious about their assessments. Top reviewers demonstrate a level of commitment significantly above that of occasional reviewers so they have something of a reputation to uphold.
In the world of Google and Google Maps, top reviewers are called “Local Guides” and Google is offering “points, levels, and perks” to encourage people to sign up as Local Guides. Reviewers must attest that they are at least 18 years old, have a Google account, and agree to abide by the program rules. Organizations, businesses, and brands are not allowed to be Local Guides.
So far, the main “perks” offered by the program are badges earned by providing various kinds of local information, including ratings, reviews, photos, videos, answers, edits, fact checking, and adding places to Google maps.
This seems great from the consumer and reviewer points of view, but the fact that Google has incentivized its Local Guides program also creates a danger for local businesses. As we have learned from the various viral games that have swept through cyberspace, users can get addicted to winning more badges.
It’s entirely possible that some less scrupulous Local Guides will rate businesses they haven’t patronized just to get enough points to earn the next badge. This makes it even more important for small business owners to keep an eye on their Google reviews and ratings. Google has a way for owners to flag reviews as inappropriate, so make sure you’re familiar with the system.
Further, because Local Guides must have a Google account, there’s a good chance you can determine of the reviewer has been a real client or customer.
Finally, although there is potential for abuse, positive reviews from Local Guides should really enhance the reputation of your business. This is especially important because Google’s local business information is becoming so deep and thorough that many local prospects no longer click through to business websites – they just go with the information provided by Google.