Local Guides: Google’s 50 Million ‘Feet on the Street’

This week Google held its second annual Local Guides Summit, bringing the top contributing Guides from around the world to San Francisco. There were 150 attendees from 62 countries, which was apparently double the number from last year (the inaugural year).

The number of Local Guides has grown 10X from last year. I was told there were 5 million Local Guides around the world in early 2016; now there are 50 million. This is staggering growth.

The Local Guides program emerged out of the earlier Google “City Experts,” which launched in 2013 as a way to get more local reviews into Google to better compete with sites like Yelp. The original program was probably modeled on the Yelp Elite Squad. Now, however, it has evolved considerably and expanded in its mission and scope.

The program’s name was changed and it was reinvented in 2015. In 2016 the incentives and rewards were revised. There are now 10 levels based on points and contribution volume. Local Guides correct bad data, add images, write reviews, add attributes and other local content to Google Maps and search. In developing countries these people are literally putting their communities on the map.

These are not Millennial hipsters reviewing bars and pubs, they’re people of all ethnic and religious backgrounds who are trying to make a contribution and in many cases take a great deal of pride in their work and see it as a responsibility. Around the world, they’re adding more than 700,000 new places to Google Maps each month.

There’s a lot more to say about this program. But what immediately struck me, for purposes of this post, is how these 50 million people could be doing a great deal more in their markets on Google’s behalf. They’re not a sales force but they could help educate local businesses about Google My Business and other Google tools and services.

Some sub-segment of these Local Guides could potentially be paid to do outreach and education for local businesses. Indeed, with some imagination Google could develop this group into a massive “feet on the street” asset on a global scale.

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