Google Renames Review Program: ‘City Experts’ Is Now ‘Local Guides’

Google has renamed its City Experts local reviews program. It’s now called “Local Guides.”

Local Guides

To be a part of the program you have to apply (or be currently enrolled), be at least 18 and have a valid Google+ account. Google appears to have gotten rid of the rigid “at least 5 reviews a month” rule in favor of different participation levels based on cumulative reviews:

Level 1: 0+ reviews: 
Access our monthly newsletter
Stay up to date on the latest program benefits, features, and news
In select countries, invites to members-only contests

Level 2 — 5+ reviews:
Join Hangouts with tastemakers, connoisseurs, and Googlers worldwide
Submit your own Local Guides meetups for promotion
Eligible to test new Google products and features before public release

Level 3 — 50+ reviews:
Get highlighted in the Google Maps app with a Local Guides badge
Join our private Google+ community
Apply to moderate Local Guides Google+ Communities
In select cities, invites to exclusive events

Level 4 — 200+ reviews:
Eligible to be featured on our official Google+, Facebook, Twitter, and more
Annual thank you gift for consistent, high-quality contributions to Google Maps

Reviews must still meet the “high quality” standards previously used to determine credit/eligibility.

I have no sense of how well the program is going or how much participation Google has managed to generate but the fact that it’s still around suggests that there is at least some threshold level of engagement.

What have you heard? What do you think about the name change and other program changes?

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2 Responses to “Google Renames Review Program: ‘City Experts’ Is Now ‘Local Guides’”

  1. Dave Oremland says at

    Greg:   There are several things about this that struck me.

    1.  The program really seems to mirror what yelp does; there will be community managers and there are levels of achievement;  a little like a yelp elite reviewer.

    2.  I look at this from the perspective of restaurants that garner the lion’s share of all reviews

    3.  I have taken samples of review volumes on a number of restaurants across cities in the US.  In the latter cases I’ve specifically looked at restaurants in “non Yelp” type markets ie smaller cities and non East or West Coast cities.  I took totals last summer and recently.   The cities I looked at recently were, Spokane, Wa, Tulsa Ok, Little Rock Ar, Birmingham, Al, and San Antonio, Tx.   

    None of them would be described as core Yelp markets

    In the latest test I looked at 44 restaurants in those cities.  I counted an aggregate 1464 google reviews and 2885 yelp reviews;  almost double those of google.  Again none of those cities would be characterized as a yelp market, or a city wherein yelp made a big effort.

    I basically looked at Mexican Restaurants, Italian Restaurants, and Chinese restaurants in each city picking the top 3 restaurants in google’s local results.

    I did a similar test on 15 non yelp markets last summer and similarly came up with more yelp reviews than google reviews as it related to restaurants.

    Here is something else:  for every one of those searches I never saw an ad.  I used an incognito search;  and did the searches from my home location;  Arlington, VA.  Then I switched locations to the target cities.  

    Now I’ve read a number of articles on this.  I haven’t seen this perspective.

    A.  When Google changed from the carousel to its current US view, with 3 local restaurants, it purposefully created a miserable user experience:   3 restaurants;  no address, no link, no phone number, no map.    

    Basically NONE of the information that a searcher would want.  Search for restaurants in Britain using   The user experience is entirely different.  Its informative.

    B.  There is very little advertising in the restaurant vertical in the US.  By the way, those searches didn’t turn up ads.  Its sort of interesting in that according to the National Restaurant Association there are up to 1 million restaurants in the US and something like $600 billion in sales.   Very little advertising in google.  

    Huge vertical;  relatively little spend on adwords.

    The current search results are beyond miserable, from a user experience, and contrary to the carousel where you might see up to 20 choices…now you see 3.   I  can’t think of a more deliberate non helpful set of local search results.  

    No or very little advertising;  Only 3 results in local search with no contact capability;  and after all is said and done;   in NON YELP markets…there could be DOUBLE the number of yelp reviews to google reviews.  (at least based on my admittedly very small sample.)

    Personally I think the change in local results from the carousel to this little pac of 3 restaurants without contact info or a map…and now an effort to make google reviews more important,… down deep an effort to target the restaurant industry and try and get operators to use adwords.

    What do you think?

  2. Greg Sterling says at

    Can’t comment on everything right now but the lack of ads is consistent with historically what’s gone on in restaurants. For many years restaurants was the #1 category in the print yellow pages but one of the lower revenue categories. People were using the directory to find restaurants but it was hard to get other than the Pizza Huts of the world to do any advertising. This is consistent with that “culture” and pattern. Agree that the user experience has been compromised with the new, stripped-down experience.

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