Episode 15: Perfect Pictures

One of the main activities of local guides is uploading pictures to points of interest (POI) on Google Maps. And it typically gives them a lot of satisfaction when those pictures then get a lot of views, or even get featured (shown as the main image for the POI). In today’s episode we have an interview with an expert in that subject matter: Torben Mauch (@TorM on Local Guides Connect).



Jan Van Haver 0:06
Hello and welcome to the LetsGuide Podcast, the ultimate podcast for Google Local Guides. Today in episode number 15 titled ‘Perfect pictures’, we have an interview again. One of the main activities of local guides is uploading pictures to points of interest, on Google Maps of course, and it typically gives them a lot of satisfaction when those pictures get a lot of views or even get featured – which means being shown as the main image for that place on Maps. In today’s episode, we have an interview with an expert in that subject matter. It’s Torben Mauch, who you might know from Local Guides Connect where he’s one of the Connect Moderators. His handle there is @TorM.

Jan Van Haver 0:57
Before we really get started, as usual, I want to point out that I’m not an official representative of Google or the local guides team. I’m just a local guide like most of you. Things said in this podcast are therefore my personal interpretation. This episode is recorded at the end of October 2019, and everything is describing the situation as it is today. Should you be listening at a later date, things might obviously have changed.

Vanessa P. 1:27
Let’s get started.

Jan Van Haver 1:31
In episode number 3, we already discussed pictures and more specifically, which pictures to select for upload to a point of interest. Today, I want to dig a bit deeper with one of the local guides who is the real expert and for whom adding pictures to Maps is probably something he’s doing more or less every day. So let’s dive into the interview. Hello, Torben, so nice to have you on the podcasts. Please, for the audience, make a small introduction of yourself.

Torben Mauch 2:05
Hi, Jan, thank you very much for inviting me to this interview. My name is Torben and I’m from Germany. And I’m addicted to Google Maps and to traveling, so I really like to travel around and make pictures all over. And I did it, in fact, in the past, but I wasn’t aware, up to 2016, that it’s such fun to make those uploads to Google Maps.

Jan Van Haver 2:33
Yeah. So you’ve been traveling quite a lot. But it’s only 2016, you said, so then you became aware of the local guides program, or how should I see this?

Torben Mauch 2:46
Yes, exactly. So I received – I changed my mobile phone and I received a message if I would like to upload something to Google Maps. And in the first moment – of course, I’m a German so I thought “Oh, no, I will not supply my information to Google”.

Jan Van Haver 3:03
Privacy, GDPR, you name it.

Torben Mauch 3:06
Exactly. So in the end I did it, and, in fact, I did it on the wrong place. My first photo was on the wrong place. And I didn’t care about this. But I received two, three weeks later a message that my picture has achieved already 20,000 views, and I was totally in shock. So then I started to post more and more pictures. And yes, as you can see maybe on my Google Maps profile, I’m somehow addicted to this.

Jan Van Haver 3:43
Actually the story you’ve been telling is very, very similar to what I have experienced with the new phone and the question to upload and so on. So how many pictures have you uploaded so far?

Torben Mauch 3:59
So, I’m close to 35,000.

Jan Van Haver 4:02
35,000? Okay, and for how many different points of interest, so to speak?

Torben Mauch 4:09
About 32,000, in fact not all pictures are displayed. So I have about 3000 pictures not displayed, and now maybe 30,000 points of interest I have done uploads. Because I personally only like to make one picture for one point of interest. And so sometimes I put in three, four. But, in fact, I prefer to put only one picture because then you selects the best one.

Jan Van Haver 4:44
Yeah, so it’s not a matter of I want to score as much points as possible. I want to go to level 10, so I upload 25 pictures of one shop. It’s one or two, three maximum per point of interest.

Torben Mauch 4:58
Yes, never, never. I still believe and I posted it as well on Local Guides Connect that I’m a person who prefers that for one point of interest, you only can make five points for pictures and no more. I’m preferring this because otherwise you don’t select. But, you know, now I do it already for three years, so sometimes I recognize of course that I do the same or upload for the same place, because it’s three years later. And the place can look different.

Jan Van Haver 5:31
In three years time a lot can have changed, of course also for a point of interest, especially if it’s shop, they might have a new logo, or whatever. That makes perfect sense. But it’s interesting, your idea that you would say “okay, you can only get five points per point of interest for photos, no matter how many photos you upload”.

Torben Mauch 5:53
Exactly. It was so in the past, but they changed it.

Jan Van Haver 5:56
Okay, yes, the gamification and the incentives are set differently in different times, of course. So with those 35,000 pictures, what’s then your number of views currently?

Torben Mauch 6:16
Currently, it’s about 476 million views.

Jan Van Haver 6:20
476 million! Oh my god.

Torben Mauch 6:24

Jan Van Haver 6:26
So if I make a quick calculation, that’s about 14,000 views per picture on average.

Torben Mauch 6:37
Yes. So it’s not so high as others have. I’m happy with this. And the point is that, so I have only a few pictures who are above 1 million. So most pictures are between 50,000 and 100,000. And of course, you have a lot of pictures who have nearly no views.

Jan Van Haver 7:01
Yes. And so how many views are typically added each week, so to speak?

Torben Mauch 7:10
So in fact, I’m not 100% sure, because I receive from time to time the message that I have over 10 million views per week. But I’m not sure if it’s due to this update which has been made, but for example, I have received a message on the 8th of October that I have 450 million views and 28 days later now I have 475 million views.

Jan Van Haver 7:41
Yes. But by the way, the counter of your views, does it also get stuck from time to time, for like a week or two weeks and then all of a sudden it…

Torben Mauch 7:53
Yes, yes.

Jan Van Haver 7:54
Okay. So, everybody listening in the audience will be very glad. They are not the only one for whom this is happening, also for level 10 very experienced photographers, the thing where the counter gets stuck is happening for everyone. So, yeah, very soon you will reach 500 million then. When can we expect the invitation for the party and where will it be?

Torben Mauch 8:23
In case there will be a party, it will be in Cracow, in Poland, for sure.

Jan Van Haver 8:28
Okay, nice city.

Torben Mauch 8:29
And, yes, we will see. And I think, I expect that, theoretically,I will for sure make it in this year. So, maybe for Christmas or New Year’s parties.

Jan Van Haver 8:43
I will be a nice Christmas present for you as a local guide. You’re very well placed, then, with your experience in this topic to answer the following question: perhaps you have discovered some, let’s say, patterns in the kind of pictures that tend to perform very well. Is there something you can say to that?

Torben Mauch 9:10
Yes. So, sometimes I was surprised because sometimes, when I have night walks, I have not very nice pictures, but sometimes they are displayed on the first place. So in fact, to get a good view count, it this mainly when you have pharmacies, for example. Pharmacies and cinemas – they can get a lot of views. And also if you take pictures from a city and upload them to the city. So for example, if you are in Hamburg, and you post this picture to Hamburg – if you are lucky, you can get a lot of views via this. Maybe sometimes only during a very short time, but for example you can make an upload – and I have had such experiences – I did the upload and in 2 – 3 hours I gained 10,000 view. But then this picture disappeared because there are too many uploads to such very important places. Theoretically, in fact, my pictures with the most views I have when I post something on a place with a common name. It means that you have for example “Florentina”. That’s one of my top photos. So you have this “Florentina” which is a kind of steak in Italy, but it’s also the name of a restaurant in Poland. And I believe that the people using Google search in Poland, and let’s say Google “Florentina steak”, you know, then get to see this point of sale. And I have also discovered some sites, internet sites, in Russia and so on, and so have links to my photos. So for example, they have some experience, okay, “When you travel to Germany” and so my photos are linked there and below the photos is written “supplied by Google, author Torben”, so it’s quite funny. Then there’s pattern as well, the structure of the picture.

Jan Van Haver 11:33

Torben Mauch 11:33
So, what I recognize is, for example, if you go into a bar, it’s always very good to make a picture of this area behind the bar, where the barkeepers are, where you can see the bottles and the glasses and so on. So it’s all about the structure, if you have a structure. There are also some posts on Local Guides Connect where you can read about the structure of a picture. So you can add this – I don’t know how it’s called -you get crosses on the pictures and you can take this picture.

Jan Van Haver 12:09
The lines diagonal lines?

Torben Mauch 12:12

Jan Van Haver 12:13
So you suspect that might have to do with the algorithms analyzing the pictures and having a preference for certain structural patterns in the picture themselves, in the image?

Torben Mauch 12:26
I believe so. I’m not sure, but I believe so. So, sometimes it’s really funny, because sometimes I make a picture when I don’t have a lot of time and it gets a lot of views and sometimes I’m really preparing a picture – because I do it like hunting especially now after the European Union decided to protect privacy, so I I’m really waiting until no one, or no one visible, is in the pictures. So it’s more like, yeah, it’s more difficult now to take pictures compared to how it was in the past.

Jan Van Haver 13:02
And it was also very interesting what you mentioned about this general terms and the search results – which is also an indication of what I already mentioned in the episode 3 about pictures: that views are often the result of general search results, not necessarily Google Maps search results.

Torben Mauch 13:24

Jan Van Haver 13:25
Okay. So the number of views, evidently is linked to the position of the picture in the list of pictures that belong to the place; so the higher it gets in that ranking, the more views obviously. What do you think are the rules behind how this sequence, how the order of the pictures is sorted on a point of interest?

Torben Mauch 13:55
So in fact, I really have no idea because sometimes I cannot understand it. And I tried, for example, to use artificial intelligence to take pictures by phone with this. But they were not promoted in a special way. And as well, I use two different kinds, so I use Android and I use iOS phones, because it’s sometimes not enough to have only one phone for me when I do my Google walks.

Jan Van Haver 14:30
After all, you have two hands, so…

Torben Mauch 14:32
Yes, exactly. So and sometimes it’s quite difficult, so I thought it maybe depends on if you use iOS or Android, but that is not the case in my opinion. So really, it’s: no, I don’t find a pattern.

Jan Van Haver 14:50
The only thing I have experienced is that there’s a tendency to prefer newer pictures to older ones. You often have the newer ones come in high and then tend to sink a bit lower later on.

Torben Mauch 15:10
It depends, maybe. But, you know, I have added about 2000 news places, points of interest, and I have done the uploads as well there, and they are not always the top ranked. So for example, I go to special places where I know that they open a store and then I add the store and post the picture, but that not always remains on the first place.

Torben Mauch 15:36
Interesting. Yeah, but that’s also something you read a lot on Local Guides Connect or on social media groups: if topics like “What is your most viewed photo” are being discussed, a lot of people say: “Yeah, I don’t understand why this exactly, this one is my most viewed picture because it’s such a weird one, and I didn’t do any special effort for it”. It’s unpredictable. But that’s perhaps one of the nice things about it, of course,

Torben Mauch 16:08
Exactly it’s a game.

Jan Van Haver 16:11
What the listeners might appreciate perhaps is if you could give some insider tips on what local guides can pay attention to if they want to get their pictures ranked on a high position.

Torben Mauch 16:25
So in fact, you need to ensure that you have no people on them. So you don’t take pictures with people or people who are recognizable, because those really disappear quite quick already.

Jan Van Haver 16:41
You’ve actively experienced this, that pictures where people were in, were actively being found and removed?

Torben Mauch 16:47

Jan Van Haver 16:47
Okay, that’s quite interesting.

Torben Mauch 16:50
There quicker removed at least, yes, because I report as well quite often pictures. So the way I usually proceed is that I never do the upload at the moment when I’m at the place, yes? I do that in the afternoon, to relax. But it’s not that I’m going around and making uploads – I do the uploads later. But your question was something else?

Jan Van Haver 17:17
Some insider tips to get your pictures ranked hogh, or featured on points of interest.

Torben Mauch 17:24
So it’s like lighting, the lighting. And what I have discovered is not to take from a small place or, for example, you go to a restaurant and you take pictures only from the food, but you should also try to get a view of the whole restaurant. It’s very difficult because, of course, many people go to the restaurant, so there are other people and then you cannot take a picture. And also sometimes very colorful pictures get promoted. So and in fact I’m mostly looking on places, and I’m always happy – and this is something I would like to have: if your picture is the first picture on the place, the point of interest, there should be additional points.

Jan Van Haver 18:17
If your picture gets featured, you mean, yes?

Torben Mauch 18:20
Yes. So because now if you put your picture as the first picture for a place, you know, there’s some point of interest where…

Jan Van Haver 18:30
That’s also – it actually was one of the things I suggested, I think, on Idea Exchange, that there would be extra points for ‘first picture’ because what I really hate is this grey placeholder for points of interest when there are no pictures. And especially, as you will know, in Germany, there are quite a lot of places where there’s also no Street View. So then you have just nothing there and that’s really a shame. So I also really like to hunt for places that do not have any pictures yet and then upload at least one.

Torben Mauch 19:05
Yes, okay. And for sure you need to take it horizontal, the picture, not take it in vertical.

Jan Van Haver 19:16
So, yes, in landscape, not portrait.

Torben Mauch 19:19
Exactly, so: in landscape. And also, really, it’s more like zooming big and throwing more. And this in my opinion gives you more points.

Jan Van Haver 19:30
Okay, that’s really great, great tips – highly appreciated. I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing it already a few times, but – that’s then my final question – could you give a short description of what happens when you visit a city where you’ve never been before? What do you do? Where do you go?

Torben Mauch 19:55
So it’s like I’m really going always downtown and I’m trying to get as much pictures as possible. And of course, I check in Google Maps always where’s the nearest shopping centers. Because in shopping centers you have many good light conditions, also at night, yes? And you can make a lot of photos. In fact, it’s not always permitted, but no one complained, so I do it. So and I don’t do anything bad and sometimes, really, security came and asked me what I’m doing, and if I tell it they say it’s fine; sometimes they say “No, it’s not permitted”. I really go and anyway, in the past as well, I always remember where I’ve been. So I really walk around and I take for every store a picture. But I don’t do an upload for all stores because sometimes the pictures are not good enough. Or sometimes it’s like someone is inside and to blur the face is not very… But really it’s like I’m somehow addicted. So my family mainly likes to to go to towns where I have been already so sometimes they ask me: “Oh, you will go to Augsburg?” (it’s close to Munich) “we’re going to Augsburg and you have been there already? Yes. And they say yes, okay, it’s and it’s fine.” So, and then they tell me: “Okay, you can take pictures only from new stores.” Because somehow – I don’t know why – but I can quite good remember if I have taken a picture already from this store or not. And really it’s like I’m focusing on stores, so stores and on banks too – a bank is very good, high view count, something additional. So, but it’s really I need to do this and yes, I know that a lot of people think okay, I’m crazy, but I need it for relaxing afterwards. So it’s really in the afternoon I make my uploads and I always have a backlog. Currently, I checked it yesterday, I have 10,000 pictures not yet uploaded.

Jan Van Haver 22:15
To be processed. Okay.

Torben Mauch 22:16
Yes. And I think about 6 or 7000 I will upload. The rest I won’t upload because it’s, as I said, bad quality or sometimes you don’t find this point of interest and I’m not sure because it’s two or three months ago. I’m not sure then if the point of interest might be closed or something.

Jan Van Haver 22:38
So there’s these upload sessions then. How many pictures do you do then in, is it an hour, two hours? How should I picture this?

Torben Mauch 22:52
Now when I go to the town, I take pictures for about one hour. I get about 150-200 photos and the upload is, like, either I use both phones, but then I need to sit and I’m mainly tired in the afternoon. I’m in my bed or somewhere – I’m traveling a lot, so I’m always staying in a hotel, yes? So and there I do uploads and I would say, how to divide it… it is like, I think, 100 photos per hour I’m able to do. It depends a little bit. So it depends, really depends, because if you have shopping centers, then I’m able to do this. If it is some small cities or small towns or so, I’m sometimes lost, yes? So and I need to find the right place because that is for mereally a key value: I really like to do the upload to the right point of interest. So especially if you have pharmacies in Spain, for example, or in Italy, it’s quite difficult sometimes to find the right pharmacy. But you can see it, when I do it, it’s always very structured. So I do the uploads in a row, but now it’s currently a problem because uploads, pictures are normally shown in the right order how I took them. So they are sorted by the upload date. And this made it much much more difficult for me.

Jan Van Haver 24:41
And that very first picture that you later realized you had uploaded to the incorrect place. Did you correct it?

Torben Mauch 24:51
Well, no, but the point is, I was always thinking about this and now I have really a problem. I cannot scroll down, you know? I can’t even go to my first picture anymore. So the point is that it was in a very small village, and in fact I remember where the village is more or less, but I don’t find it.

Jan Van Haver 25:20
There’s a lot of small villages in rural Germany, that’s for sure.

Torben Mauch 25:24

Jan Van Haver 25:25
But very nice most of them and very good to visit one day.

Torben Mauch 25:29
Exactly. So maybe you’re right – I will try to find it tonight. Like hunting.

Jan Van Haver 25:38
Sorry for spoiling your night. Okay, Torben, thank you very, very much for having this interview, for having you as my guest on the LetsGuide Podcast. And I’m quite sure we will meet again in real life quite soon. Thank you very much.

Torben Mauch 26:00
Thank you, Jan, all the best for you and the podcast series. Bye bye.

Jan Van Haver 26:08
So that was the interview with Torben with really a lot of valuable insights. I’m quite confident that these will help tons of local guides make better contributions on Google Maps. And that’s, of course, the idea. And with that we now move on to the next section of this episode.

Vanessa P. 26:28
It’s time for some news.

Jan Van Haver 26:32
Loyal listeners might have expected to hear the jingle announcing ‘What a great idea’, the podcast section about Idea Exchange that we’ve had in every episode so far. But it was another jingle announcing ‘some news’. Up to now I’ve been covering news, new things about Google Maps or about Local Guides Connect, the official platform for local guides, and updates to topics we’ve already covered in previous episodes in Separate episodes titled ‘News and updates’. But that also meant that some features, some new features or improvements are only covered in the LetsGuide Podcast months after their release. This will change from now on, as I will be covering news more regularly in this new section. That does not mean that ‘What a great idea’ will disappear, only that it will no longer show up in every episode, but only in episodes that don’t have a lot of news to report on. And there’s even more news about the LetsGuide Podcast: there’s another new jingle for another new section that we will have in some episodes. Here it is.

Vanessa P. 27:42
It’s time for your questions.

Jan Van Haver 27:46
That’s right. I would like you, dear listeners, to send me questions you might still have about the local guides program. I will then try to come up with the best possible answers. In a minutes I will list – as I usually do at the end of the episode – the various ways in which you can reach out to me but you can simply leave a comment, I would say, on the podcast homepage if you have any questions: letsguidepodcast.com is that, of course.

Jan Van Haver 28:15
Okay, that was some news about the podcast itself. But I also have a short update on one of the topics we covered in episode 12, the previous ‘News and updates’ episode, and more specifically, it’s about the animated GIFs that are sent to you as local guide when you reach a next level – those animated GIFs that you can then share on social media. At the time of episode 12 I had not yet figured out what the new animated GIF was for reaching level 10. But our loyal listener and friend of the podcast @MortenCopenhagen figured it out only a couple of days after the episode was released and he sent it to me. It is – the animated GIF for reaching level 10 – a scene from outer space. Thank you again, Morten for sending that to me.

Jan Van Haver 29:15
And that’s all I have for this episodes. If you want to get in touch with any comments or remarks and of course questions you can send an email to letsguidepodcast@gmail.com. You can reach out to me on Twitter – you can find me there under LocalGuidesGuru. I’m obviously on Local Guides Connects where you can find me under @JanVanHaver; I also have a personal blog janvanhaver.com. As usual the show notes will be on letsguidepodcast.com, the homepage of the podcast

Jan Van Haver 30:00
The next episode will not be in two weeks as I’m taking a short break now to fully enjoy Connect Live 2019 which will be held in San Jose really soon now and where I will meet 199 other local guides from all over the globe and also lots of Googlers. Really looking forward to that and probably I will then need some time to recover from Connect Live afterwards. Most likely the next episode will therefore be out somewhere in December. I hope to find you in the audience then. Bye bye.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

5 thoughts on “Episode 15: Perfect Pictures

  1. I didn’t know that we previously could add photos to cities! I’m checking now and it does not seem possible anymore. 🙂 Also, I thought it was funny that Torben couldn’t scroll down anymore to correct that first wrongly placed image because of the massive quantity of photos he has. Haha!


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