Google has recently launched City Expert, an exclusive initiative that aims to increase the quality of reviews on Google+ Local and Google Maps.

The program, similar to Yelp Elite, is a special limited-scope extension of standard Google reviews, which aims to attract consumers with a higher level of engagement with local establishments, products and services. City Expert will reward users with access to exclusive events in their area, Google-branded merchandise and special badges on their Google+ profiles.

The current scope of the program includes participants from a select number of cities in the U.S., including New York, Chicago and San Francisco, and international cities such as London, Tokyo and Sydney.

In order to qualify for the City Expert program, a user must have a Google+ account complete with real name and picture, have contributed at least fifty high quality reviews and post a minimum of five reviews per month.

What is a high quality review?
In Google’s terms, a review is of “high quality” if it is a minimum of three to four sentences long and provides “specific, helpful and balanced information” about a local business.

Generally speaking, the best reviews contain the following characteristics:

  • Relevant facts about the user’s experience
  • Information about what the place is known for
  • Helpful tips about the business
  • Constructive criticism if the user had a bad experience
  • Grammatically correct, profanity-free writing

Encouraging this type of review is a huge step forward for local businesses’ online presence. Nowadays, reviews on third party sites are just as important (if not more important) than the information, look and feel of a business’ website itself.

The problem with most review sites is that anyone can post, cluttering the landscape with poorly written, irrelevant reviews that may be based on personal motivations of the user, whether positive or negative. By encouraging high quality reviews that stick to facts and constructive criticism, programs like City Expert are improving the online search experience overall.

By drawing focus away from sites like Yelp, Google is trying to seamlessly integrate high quality reviews into regular organic or local searches that millions of people perform every day as they search for products and services in their area.

This is good for businesses, but it also means business owners need to keep up with these developments and use them to their advantage. With an experienced team of local SEO and social media marketing experts on your side, harnessing these new advances online technology will give your business that crucial edge everyone is looking for.