Google overhauled its Local Guides, the feature in Google Maps that rewards points to people who provide data and photo uploads of local venues, to give participants additional levels and awards. Guides who accumulate enough points to reach the fourth of the 10 total levels get three months of free access to Google Play Music and 75% off a movie rental in Google Play, according to an announcement by the company.
Before the update, users had to accumulate 500 points to max out the rewards and reach the fifth level. Google added five more levels and changed its points system so that it takes 100,000 points to reach level 10.
Google also changed the points system so that Google Maps users who add a new location to the map or write reviews will earn a greater number of points. Local Guides contributors can also earn points by updating addresses and telephone numbers of businesses, answering questions from other users, verifying information that other people provide and uploading photos.
This year, Google has taken major steps to provide more localized information, recognizing that a significant number of searches are geared toward finding nearby events, restaurants, stores, gas stations and entertainment venues. The company last month updated its mobile app with more comprehensive guides to events and entertainment near the user, reflecting research showing that nearly one-third of all mobile searches are related to local products and services.
The challenge for the company is in creating enough incentives for people to trade their time and labor to update its Local Guides. Foursquare, which has shifted its strategy away from mobile check-ins toward city guides, de-emphasized the gamification of local reviews three years ago as part of a rebranding move. Google seems intent on gathering location-based information to rival Yelp, which provides reviews to Apple’s mapping function.
When it comes to local events, Google is playing catch-up to Facebook. The social media company dominates with its public events feature, which reels in 100 million users every day, according to TechCrunch. Thousands of concert venues, museums and clubs have Facebook pages that users can follow, mark to indicate interest in attending an event or click to confirm they’re planning to go. Facebook also has a standalone events app. Right now, Google's main goal is likely to keep users on its site rather than other review sites. As the development catches on, the company might consider looking to monetize on the event or location listings with contextual ads for other activities and restaurants.