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Are Reviews on Google More Powerful When They Come from Local Guides?

As we continued to dive into what causes reviews to stay at the top of a listing, we looked into four more items.

  1. Local Guides: Do reviews left by local guides stay at the top longer?
  2. Profile pictures of the reviewer: Does a review that contains a profile picture stay at the top longer?
  3. The volume of reviews: Do reviews by people who leave reviews for other businesses stay at the top longer?
  4. The volume of photos: Do reviews by people who leave photos on other businesses stay at the top longer?

Local Guides:

Let’s start with what is a local guide?  Local Guides is a community of people who write reviews, share photos, answer questions, add or edit places, and check facts on Google Maps.  Anyone can sign up with their Google account to be a local guide as long as it is offered in their country of residence.  Local guides will have “Local Guide” posted under their name when they leave a review.

So, we wanted to test to see if reviews from local guides would stay at the top of a listing longer than reviews from others who were not local guides.  In essence, does Google treat people who are local guides in a higher category than people who are not local guides? This was quite surprising to us, but you will see in the image below that reviews left by local guides did stay in the top 10 spots quite a bit longer than reviews left by individuals who are not local guides.

On average, the reviews by local guides stayed in the top 10 for more days than the reviews by non-local guides.  So, encouraging customers to join the local guides program is beneficial.  It does require customers to complete an extra step, but it is only one click and it is a free program!

Do Local Guides Just Write Longer Reviews?

Based on what we found about longer reviews staying at the top longer, it might make sense that Local Guides say at the top longer if they write longer reviews than a non-Local Guide.  In this data set, we didn’t see any patterns that would indicate that Local Guides write longer reviews compared to those who were not Local Guides.

Profile Pictures:

The next item we looked at in this case study was whether the person leaving a review having a profile picture on their account had an effect on how long a review stayed at the top of a listing.  Some users will include a photo and some users leave it blank and Google inserts a silhouette for you.

This was not super conclusive at first until we started looking into other industries besides lawn care.  Once we started looking into other industries, there was a clear trend – reviews left by people who did have a profile picture did stay at the top of a listing longer than those who did not have a profile picture.  In most cases, reviews from users with profile pictures stayed live longer for double the amount of time.

It seems the more Google knows about an account, the more it can trust it and therefore, weighs the reviews more heavily. Again, this requires your customers to do an extra step, but if they are willing to add a profile picture to their account, it does help reviews stay at the top of a listing longer.

Reviewing Other Businesses:

The next item we looked at was how many other reviews the person has left on other listings.  When a user posts a review, it does show how many other reviews they have left underneath their name.  So, we wanted to see if users who left reviews for lots of other businesses allowed their reviews to stay at the top of a listing longer.

We saw no correlation with this – the data was all over the map.  So, Google does not seem to keep reviews at the top of a listing longer if the user has left reviews for multiple other businesses. 

Leaving Photos:

In addition to leaving reviews, you can also see how many photos a person has left under their name on a review.

We saw the exact same thing here — there is no clear correlation between the number of photos a person has left and how long a review stays in the top ten. 

TL;DR:

Shockingly, reviews from local guides stayed at the top of a listing longer, so businesses should encourage clients to sign up for the local guides program before leaving a review.  Also, reviews left by users with a profile picture did stay a the top of a listing longer, so businesses should also encourage clients to upload a profile picture to their account.  Finally, we did not see any correlation between people who actively left reviews for other businesses or who upload lots of photos and their reviews staying at the top longer, so that is not something you need to encourage your customers to do.

Joy Hawkins

Joy is the owner of the Local Search Forum, LocalU, and Sterling Sky, a Local SEO agency in Canada & the USA. She has been working in the industry since 2006, writes for publications such as Search Engine Land, and enjoys speaking regularly at marketing conferences such as MozCon, LocalU, Pubcon, SearchLove, and State of Search. You can find her on Twitter or volunteering as a Product Expert on the Google My Business Forum.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Hi, Joy, very interesting. Being a Level 9 guide, I have some additional observations :
    – I can decide to upload only a photo/video thru the Photo section. I can also write a review and add a photo in the Review section. When you then click on ‘photos’ on the GBP, I think all photos come up, including those from the Review section.
    – ‘Local Guide’ is – for me- a wrong term. I travel alot (often to the same areas). When I post something about a store when I’m not at my ‘normal’ home, it is still posted as me, being a ‘Local guide’. I think this is misleading, as I’m not ‘really’ local. When a searcher would check the reviews of a store in that area, he will see mine being labeled from a ‘local guide’. But in reality, the reviewer (me) may actually live thousands kilometers/miles away. This means, when you ‘earn’ that label from Google, any review you post will show that label. For me, the value from a ‘real’ local, vs a person who is (just) visiting, is different. I consider that a ‘real’ local has local inside information, and a visitor (probably) has not.
    – Personally, when I see that somebody has written only 5 reviews, my trust is not that high. If he/she has written 100, my perception changes and the review becomes more credible in my eyes.
    – my profile photo: I use a kind of drawing, not a ‘real photo’ of myself. Could also play a role ?
    – I notice that whenever I go somewhere, and I have already written a review about the place, Google notifies me asking if I want to update my review (yes, no). If I update it, it will take into consideration the new date of posting. If I choose not to modify my previous review, it becomes (very) old and – for me- loses relevant value. So, I’m surprised that in your first image, there are 2 reviews dating from 4 & 6 years ago.
    BTW. Very happy to have discovered your company. Excellent topics ! thanks alot

    1. Hey Daphne,

      I actually added a section to the article yesterday addressing this. In this data set, we didn’t see any patterns that would indicate that Local Guides write longer reviews compared to those who were not Local Guides.

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