Back in March 2017 the closure of Google MapMaker was on the horizon and the Local SEO community was figuring out what to do next to help their clients in the local space (and to clean up map spam.)

Google was pushing edits over to the Google Local Guide program and, once MapMaker shut down, the Local Guides program was going to be the place to make all of the normal edits and suggestions for GoogleMyBusiness listings.

(You can still get edits and support for Google Maps but it’s a more difficult process now.)

In 2017 I was also expanding my SEO skillset to a more focused learning on local SEO, so I wanted to level up quickly in the Google Local Guides program – as I believed that the extra trust in a higher Local Guide level would help me in the long run with edits and corrections to my own listings.

The Google Local Guide program at the time had up to 5 levels. Each level was obtained by earning points for making contributions including photos, reviews, and place edits.

I decided to create a workflow around place edits as that was the easiest to scale for me to earn points quickly.

Starting on March 15th, I set myself a goal of achieving Level 5 status by the end of the month. (At that time, Level 5 was the highest level.)

Level 3: 50 points
Level 4: 200 points
Level 5: 500 points

Current status: 51 points.
Points needed: 510
Gap: 459

Timeframe: 11 days
Needed actions: 50 location edits per day to achieve goal.

I targeted a few large chains which looked like they were regularly breaking Google business naming requirements with extra keywords which were not part of their actual business names.

From Google’s documentation: “Your name should reflect your business’ real-world name, as used consistently on your storefront, website, stationery, and as known to customers. Accurately representing your business name helps customers find your business online.”

One chain had added cross-streets to a large number of their locations – (I’m removing the actual business names from this post.)

Good: [Chain Name]
Bad: [Chain Name] at 11th and 49th 

With those businesses, I found several hundred listings in one chain which I could edit. I also found examples in the brands that were given as explicit examples in Google’s documentation. (Some were finding Subway locations that had an ALL CAPS business name, or the registered trademark symbol.)

In all cases, I made edits which were explicitly part of Google’s guidelines and recommendations. I did this so that they would hold up to manual review and get approved. (Since you don’t earn points for edits which are not approved.)

How did the editing go? Here’s my log:

3/15: Submitted mapmaker and google maps edits.
Question: Do mapmaker edits count??
3/15 – MapMaker: 75 edits (I think these eventually counted, but not as quickly as GMB edits on Google Maps.)
3/15 – Maps: 118 edits (341 remaining)

3/16 – Maps: 46 edits (296 remaining)
[Once these go in I should be a Level 4 Guide]

3/17 – 20 edits (When I logged in, I had 141 edits approved. 77 total points showing)

3/18: jamming on edits with morning coffee and iPhone. At least 100 edits in the AM before kids got up. (188 published by 9am)

3/19: 256 points – 443 points at 6pm. Another 70+ in pending. 

3/20 – showing 389 accepted edits to date. (Need 60 more to hit level 5)

Found a class of business (fencing club) which a number are miscategorized. Fixing categorization was another 20+ edits. Categorization can be easy to replicate as Google keeps releasing more refined categories. 

3/21 in the morning showing at 479.

Note: reviews add to points immediately where edits take 24-48 hours after accepted to add to total. 

After earning some early points with normal reviews and photos, I concentrated on Place Edits to ramp up my Google Local Guide ranking quickly.

The Results: When did I see the points in my Google Local Guides profile?

3/15 – Started project. 51 points.
3/16 – Started the morning at 72 points from work approved overnight.
3/17 – Started the morning at 77 points. 141 total edits have been approved. Only showing points for 27 edits. May take 24-48 hours to show. Progress status – 28% (141/500)
3/18: Level 4 with 215 points. 
3/19: 443 points. Need to get 57 more. 
3/20: lots of updates pending in queue. Should push to level 5 tonight or tomorrow.
3/21: Didn’t want to wait on the last bits to update, so left a few reviews during lunch and was at 501 in the afternoon.

The end result was that I went from a Level 3 to a Level 5 Local Guide in 6 days. By targeting one or two large chains with questionable GMB naming setups, I was able to quickly boost my Local Guide level.

At the time I did this work, there were just over 6,000 Level 5 Local Guides worldwide. Since then Google has increased the Local Guide levels up to Level 10. I haven’t been actively working to boost my Local Guide level, so I’m creeping along but I’m aware there are other methods with Google’s new point system to quickly boost your level if you set up the right workflow.

Google’s program is currently set up to encourage sharing videos and longer reviews (200+ characters), but you can still rack up points verifying data on businesses, helping with business categorization, and correcting business errors.

What are the benefits of Local Guide status?

At the end of the day, did leveling up as a Local Guide provide any benefits?

I can’t definitively say that this happens, but it seems that my corrections for my own business listings go through faster for me now than when I started out the program. That may be Google just getting better at verifying data or it may be a level of trust my account has built up. There’s no official documentation to back that up, so take it as pure speculation on my part.

What the exercise did accomplish is to provide me with a deeper understanding of the Local Guide program and how edits on Google Maps work.

Seeing how easy it was to make edits to businesses also highlights the need for continual and active management of your GMB listings.