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Google has spent years evangelizing local reviewers — since at least 2013, when the now defunct City Experts program launched, and again in 2015, when that program was replaced by Local Guides. But despite its reliable maps feature, reviews and photos on competing sites like Yelp and Foursquare often outdo Google’s own listings.

Google could buy one of those companies — its parent Alphabet has about $92 billion in cash on hand — but instead the company is trying to reinvigorate its own service in an effort to keep up.

Today Google expanded its Local Guides program with a new points system that incentivizes reviewers who leave “higher impact contributions.” The system now grades reviewers on a scale from one to 10 (up from one to five) and displays badges for each level (RIP Foursquare’s badges). Google is also offering short-term perks for existing contributors, including a free Play Music subscription and discounted rentals from Play Movies.

Gamifying business reviews isn’t easy; it’s why Foursquare pivoted in 2014. But Google’s new badges and levels reflect the company’s determination to build a community on top of Maps.

And whether Google succeeds or not, it’s still leaps and bounds ahead of Apple on the maps front. Although Apple Maps relies on Yelp for ratings and continues to improve, the company’s mapping reputation has been shot for years — even prompting a now-deleted apology from the CEO.


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