Last week, Google announced they will be replacing their former City Experts Program with a new program called Local Guides that will go into effect on February 16, 2015. The former program, City Experts was used to encourage Google+ users to become more active in writing local business reviews. Users who have written at least 50 high quality reviews and then maintain at least 5 reviews/month are invited into a Google+ community of other reviewers. In addition, they also receive local discounts, free Google merchandise, and invitations to special local events (Google Plus Daily).
With the new Local Guides program, Google is providing users with even more incentive to write reviews with a multi-level approach. There are 4 levels for users to unlock and at each stage users will receive more and more benefits.
Photo Source: Blumenthals
Google has made the program easier with users only having to write 5 reviews to start receiving benefits as opposed to the former program where they had to write a minimum of 50 reviews. With this new game-like approach, users will be more inclined to write reviews than before. Google+ isn’t the only platform to have a review incentive program though. Businesses should also be aware of Yelp’s “Elite Squad” (Business Insider).
Both programs provide their members with great benefits from their local community (invitations to events, free swag, food, etc). The only difference between the two programs is that for Yelp, there’s no minimum number of reviews a user has to write to be considered. Quality is the more important aspect. Both programs contain reviewers with quite a bit of influence that can impact and create buzz for a business.
What this ultimately means is that businesses have to be even more mindful of their reviews. The more negative reviews a business receives leads to their local SEO being negatively affected. Businesses should also be aware of duplicate listings, multiple listings for the same location in a particular online directory. There are many other factors that can affect your local SEO so contact us today for your free consultation! See how your stores rank against the competition and much more.