Episode 10: Level 5 in a Day

To reach Level 5 as Local Guide, you need to “score” 500 points. That sounds like a lot, but it is actually perfectly possible to do that in a single day – without violating any of the rules and, most importantly, by making genuine and meaningful contributions.




Jan Van Haver 0:05
Hello, and welcome to the LetsGuide Podcast, the ultimate podcast for Google Local Guides. You’re listening to episode number 10, which is a bit of a milestone for me because, well, with 10 episodes we go into the double digits with respects to the number of episodes. And that’s a bit of an achievement, of course, because you might have noticed in your podcasting app that by far not all podcasts reach 10 episodes after starting out. Not sure if I will ever reach 100, because you have to realize this is just a hobby for me; so I want to point out also that I have no official affiliation to Google or the local guides team, I’m just a local guide like most of you and everything I say here is just my personal interpretation. This episode is recorded at the end of July 2019 and is therefore of course describing the situation as it is today. That might have changed if you’re listening to this episode at a later point in time.

Jan Van Haver 1:10
The episode today is called ‘Level 5 in a day’ – that sounded like a nice topic for this 10th episode. To reach level 5 as a local guide, you need to ‘score’ so to speak 500 points – we’ve talked about that and discussed at length in the first episode, about the basics. That sounds like a lot, but it’s actually possible to do that within a single day, without violating any of the rules and most importantly: by making genuine and meaningful contributions.

Vanessa P. 1:46
Let’s get started.

Jan Van Haver 1:49
An important element in the success of the local guides program is the gamification with the points you receive for contributions, and the levels you reach by collecting ever more points. If you’re not familiar with the details about which type of contribution brings which number of points: I’m not going to cover the full list here, please listen back to episode 1 – as I said: ‘The Basics’ – to hear all the details. I do have to point out some new ways of earning a decent amount of points that have been added since I recorded episode 1, so let me briefly mention those. Adding roads, this is a fairly new possibility. Well, it was already in, but it’s new that you get points for this: brings 15 points, which is nice of course. And then there’s lists: you get 10 points for every list, for every public list you add, and another 5 points per description of an item on that list – we’ll get back to that later on.

Jan Van Haver 2:52
Before we really start, I want to point out very, very clearly that the ways in which contributions are made and points are collected should ALWAYS be in line with the rules and guidelines that Google provides. Please do go back and listen to episode number 6 (it was called ‘Breaking the rules’) if you are in doubt, if you want to learn more, or refresh your knowledge. This is really crucial. Local Guides making low quality contributions or trying to game the system risk being suspended or even removed from the local guides program sooner or later. So in this episode, I only want to talk about adding content and making changes that really add value for the users of Google Maps. Otherwise, I could easily have called the episode ‘Level 5 in an hour’ – as you could, for example, go to the city center, select a shop on Google Maps, click ‘Add photo’ and start taking 25 pictures of it, which you then upload to that point of interest on Maps, then you move to the shop next to it, do the same, move across the street and do the same again: 25 each for two other shops et voilà: 100 pictures uploaded to Google Maps, at 5 points per picture is 500 points… and level 5. Do not do stuff like this. Or you could also just stay at home, open Google Maps, type in a search for ‘restaurant’ and just open each one in the list, give it a three star rating and add a review that just says “Okay”, continue to the next one until you have done this 46 times – because a rating gives you 1 point, and a review gives you 10 points. So 46 times 11 points will also get you over 500 points. Once again, in the clearest possible way: do NOT do that. It will get you to level 5 no doubt and repeating it might even get due to higher levels, but in all probability it’s only a matter of time before the account gets suspended. Even level 10 guides have been suspended for violating the rules, which suggests you could get away with it for a while, but certainly not forever.

Jan Van Haver 5:17
Reaching level 5 is such a big thing for a lot of local guides, because level 5 is the minimum requirement for being allowed to apply for Connect Live. That’s a yearly four-day event where Google invites 200 Local Guides (used to be 150, but this year it’s 200) to California. And with ‘invite’ I mean: pay for everything, all the travel expenses (so in most cases: a flight from your hometown to California), the hotel, food, drinks, the lot. So you understand that’s a big motivator for a lot of people for reaching level 5. So how will we now get there in a single day? Of course you should focus on contributions that bring a lot of points. You can always open the ‘Check the facts’ module on your phone and start searching for things that you can help with, for example check websites or telephone numbers. But that’s really a lot of effort for one silly point. If you go on for literally 24 hours doing this, you might even get to 500 this way, but I really prefer a more varied approach. So let’s take a trip together.

Jan Van Haver 6:30
As we have a busy day ahead of us, it’s important to get a decent breakfast. And that’s also right away our first chance of gaining some local guides points, because after having had the breakfast, we can write a review. And if it’s a detailed one of more than 200 characters that describes your genuine experience there, you get 20 points for the review, and 1 for the rating. Later on we take some pictures: there’s one you could have taken from the food; later on, stepping outside, you can make one there; and another picture of the parking spots for people in a wheelchair; and as you’re there you could always show other people what the environment looks like by adding a short video. That gives us 3 times 5 points for the photos; when you took the picture of the food, you also entered the label, which gives you another 3 points; and 7 for the video. Bring us to a subtotal of 46 points already – and a full stomach. Then we move along the shopping street and take 10 more pictures of 10 stores, which brings of course another 50 points – there’s some useful tips in episode 3 of the LetsGuide Podcast (was on selecting pictures) to find out exactly which kinds of pictures are useful. But those pictures bring our subtotal to 96 already.

Jan Van Haver 8:02
Then you notice that there’s a florist in that street, which is actually not yet on the map. Of course we then add that place – always very much fun to do that. Just enter the name, the category ‘Florist’ and the address, which brings you another 15 points if the addition of the place gets approved. The subtotal then is 111. Down the road there’s a local supermarket, where we now drop by for the special promo because it is Wednesday, and they always have promos on Wednesday. Of course, also there you can give a rating and a review, but not necessarily 200 characters: if there’s not much to report, there’s certainly no need to come up with more nonsense to just to get to 200 characters. Do mention, however, that they have promotions on Wednesday, because that’s very useful information for other people using Google maps that stop at the supermarket. The rating, the review gives us 16 points, of course – because we also took a picture: not 11, but 16, and then the subtotal ends up for now at 127.

Jan Van Haver 9:20
With all that shopping and clicking it’s already lunchtime, so we drop by at a place for lunch. And of course, there you can repeat the entire process as described for breakfast: a review, some pictures, a video. But as you had a dessert as well, there’s two food pictures with two labels, of course, so the total number of points here will be 54, bringing the subtotal to 181. When writing the review, you see a notification asking you to answer questions about the supermarket that we visited in the morning. You will get this for places you visited: notifications pop ups. And you can also see this in ‘Your contributions’ page. The questions asked are, for example: “which picture is more useful of the 2?” The left one. “Do they sell hula hoops?” No, I’m sure they don’t, because they don’t sell toys at all. “Do their self fans?” Not sure, so I click the ‘Not sure’ button. And so we answer a couple of more questions, scoring us another five points, because questions are only 1 point per question answered. But it also doesn’t take a lot of time. Subtotaling at 186.

Jan Van Haver 10:46
After lunch we return home, as we will be adding points by making edits that not necessarily require your presence on site. Yes, you heard that correctly: for some of you it might be a surprise, but you can also make edits to Google Maps while just sitting at home. For some kind of contributions, it’s absolutely needed to be there: taking pictures, writing a review – how can you do that without having been there? Marking a business as ‘Closed’ or ‘Still open’: to do that kind of edit, you obviously have to be there. But for certain other types of contributions, you can have enough personal knowledge and use information already available on Google Maps itself to be able to make meaningful, valuable and genuine contributions.

Jan Van Haver 11:42
Let me give you some examples. Your knowledge of the world and the way the society around you is organized can help you. For example: Belgium, my home country, has an old, historic church in almost every village and Belgium is traditionally a completely catholic country. So, if you come across one of these churches and find it labeled with the category ‘Church’ in general, you can change that category to the more specific ‘Catholic church’. So that’s exactly what we’re going to do now. You just go to Google Maps in an area nearby you type in the word ‘church’, just type it in and see the list of results. If we go down that list, well, we notice that most of them are already labeled ‘Catholic church’, but some are not. So going through them one after the other for a minute or five, has resulted in making eight edits this way – which is (at 5 points per edit) 40 points. Bring the subtotal to 226 – almost halfway through.

Jan Van Haver 12:52
Another huge source of points related to selecting a more specific category are car dealers – there’s some other examples in the episode we had on categories, I think it was episode number 2. For most common car brands – and recently also for luxury car brands – there are specific categories available. Still, loads of them have the general category ‘Car dealer’. So, type in the word ‘car dealer’, and soon you will find all of them. But be careful: quite a few of them sell more than one brand, so in those cases, it’s not really possible to switch from the general ‘Car dealer’ to a specific brand category. Using Street View and some of the pictures already uploaded on Google Maps can be quite helpful to see what kind of brand they are selling, or if they are selling more than one brand or not. Do be careful to keep an eye on the date when the pictures and the Street View were taken, because things change of course. And obviously the website of the car dealer is a very great help to determine if it’s appropriate to change the category. Let’s say that, for example, you’re looking near the city of Leeds in England and you find a point of interest which has a website http://www.mitsubishileeds.co.uk and find some nice pictures and Street View – well, I guess you can understand it’s safe to change that one from ‘Car dealer’ to ‘Mitsubishi dealer’. Sometimes there are two brands sold, but also two points of interests. So, that’s quite nice actually, because then, of course, you have two chances of scoring 5 points. A good example there is Mercedes: they usually also sell Smart, but in a lot of cases there’s a point of interest for the Mercedes part and a point of interest for the Smart part; so with a bit of luck you can score two times 5 points by changing both of them. Let me warn you, however: this particular part can be a bit ‘addictive’, so to speak – and that’s experience speaking – as you can just keep on scrolling. There are so many car dealers around, so many opportunities to make changes in the category domains. That, in this case, we end up doing this for like 20 minutes and then ending up with a whopping 18 different points of interest, which brings of course 18 times 5 points per edit – is 90 points; the subtotal is then 316.

Jan Van Haver 15:45
Another really nice opportunity I want to mention are newly added categories. If Google decides to add categories to the list, this means that a lot of points of interests have been added, there’s something new in society or in the world around you, and they decided to create an extra category. This means that there are quite a few points of interest on the map that still have an incorrect, or an old, or not specific enough category. A good example here is ‘Escape room center’, which was added like a year ago – perhaps bit less. At that point, when the category was new, most of them were already on the map, but had a category like ‘Tourist attraction’ or ‘Entertainment agency’. That time you could just go and search for escape rooms centers: they all have websites with up to date information, and usually they also have ‘escape room’ somewhere in the name – that was easy to find them and switch all of them to ‘Escape room center’. Nowadays, most of them have been changed already, so you could still find a few, but not as it was when the category was freshly added to the list. So keep an eye out for new categories – from time to time, on Local Guides Connect, I do publish posts when I find new categories. In this case for the escape room, we still found three of them, bringing 15 points, so the subtotal is rising to 331.

Jan Van Haver 17:25
Oh – there’s a notification now that the florist we discovered earlier this morning was now added to the map. So let’s go and Google them… yes, they do have a website. So now we can add the website to the newly created point of interest, which is another 5 points. And hang on… obviously they also have a telephone number, so I click ‘Suggest an edit’ again, enter the telephone number and make another edit which brings another 5 points. So that’s 5 for adding the website, 5 for adding the telephone number afterwards – the subtotal is now 341. While checking on Maps for that florist we noticed that on the same street some of the pin locations are probably not really correct, or not optimal, for some points of interest, because the pins are just in the middle of the road. That can’t be right: they have to be either on the left side or the right side, on top of a building. By using Street View and the pictures already uploaded, you can most definitely find out, in a lot of cases, where the correct position is, so you can move the pins to the correct place – which is another edit. we move three of them, so score 15 points, bringing the subtotal to 356. The pin location is definitely an subject that I will be covering in a separate separate episode later on.

Jan Van Haver 19:00
As you might have picked up by now, the best practice in a lot of cases, if you’re doing these edits from your home, or your smartphone – wherever you are, is to rely on multiple sources of information: the knowledge you have yourself, photos, the Street View images, reviews, the website… the more, the better. At the start of the episode I mentioned that there are some new methods of adding points, which is for example lists. So let’s create a list. it will be 10 points for the list and 5 per description added for the for the points of interest on that list. So just create a list named ‘Secret treasures in XYZ’ where XYZ is your hometown of course; you add 10 places that are special in some way – special for everyone or just special for you (for a personal story is always Interesting, if you ask me) and then explain why they are special in the description per point of interest, which then gives you 10 points for the list, and 10 times 5 points for the description, is 60 points. Wow, we’ve reached 416 – less than 100 to go!

Jan Van Haver 20:21
For the final bits we go out again, to grab some dinner. Obviously, on the way there, we check for points of interest that do not have a lot of pictures yet and find some of them. Take some pictures and that brings another 30 points – subtotal is then 446. So what are we missing? 54. That reminds me of what we did for lunch. Yes, of course: a review, some pictures, some labels and a video… another 54 points are added. And yes, mission accomplished: 500 points, we are now level five. You might also realize by now, if 500 per day, or 500 in one day is possible that you could be level 6 in a week, because level six is 1500. And since there are four weeks in a month, level 7 in a month is also definitely possible.

Vanessa P. 21:27
What a great idea.

Jan Van Haver 21:30
What a great idea is a special section of the podcast where I highlight in every episode one of the ideas submitted to Idea Exchange, a section of Local Guides Connect, the official platform that Google provides for local guides. There you can submit your suggestions to improve Google Maps or Connect itself and other local guides can then click the like button to vote for it. This week, the idea is one from our good friend and the Italian Connect moderator Ermes and it’s called ‘Multiple stars to rate a business’. The idea is not to just give one overall rating of 1 to 5 stars for a point of interest, but several star ratings for different aspects, for example: the service, the product quality, the waiting time in case of a restaurant. That would enable you to give or to get more accurate information on the point of interest. So far, this nice idea has only received 14 votes – it could definitely use some more. So, as usually, I will include a link to it in the shownotes to this podcasts.

Jan Van Haver 22:48
And that’s all I have for this episode. Please do feel free to get in touch with me, by sending an email for example, to letsguidepodcast@gmail.com. Reaching out to me on Twitter is also possible: you find me there under LocalGguidesGuru, or of course on the official platform Local Guides Connect under my real name @JanVanHaver. As always, the shownotes can be found on the website http://www.letsguidepodcast.com. Please do leave a rating and/or a review for the podcast in your favorite podcasting app, which is now also Google podcasts. And finally, I want to say about the next episode: it’s not yet decided what the title will be, and it might take a couple of weeks, because I’m going to take a bit of a summer break. But you can be really sure I will be back with more episodes soon.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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