User-generated content (UGC) in local marketing: how to work with user photos on Google

This article is all about the importance of user-generated content (UGC) for your business listings and tips & tricks on how to integrate it into your local marketing strategy.
User-generated content (UGC) is any form of brand-specific content, such as images, videos, text, and audio, that has been posted by users on online platforms. In this article, we're talking specifically about photos. They are a visual representation of a company's products or services in real life. Since humans are visual creatures, these images are tremendously influential and build trust among potential consumers. Actually, 70% of them trust UGC more than branded content.

Google offers customers the possibility to leave reviews and photos. Here's how to use it to get more customers and engage existing ones.

Here's what's inside:

Google's guideline for images

Google makes it all clear about the importance of photos in your company's profile: "Your Business Profile is a great place to showcase the photos that capture your business. Businesses with photos are more likely to receive requests for driving directions to their location, as well as clicks through to their websites, than businesses that don't have photos."

Search Engine Land's research proves that Google Business Profile listings with photos get 42% more direction requests and 35% more website clicks.
How images on Google Business Profile influence customers' actions in listings
Source: BrightLocal
Google goes to great lengths to make sure content published by users is helpful and reflects the real world. It came up with a list of instructions for users to make sure that they post fair and honest content. Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms check UGC for compliance; but if the content is too difficult for AI to analyze, it is transferred to the company's specialists for verification.

Google has an impressive list of prohibited and restricted content. In short, contributions must be based on real experience and information. Deliberately fake content, copied or stolen photos, off-topic reviews, defamatory language, personal attacks, and unnecessary or incorrect content are all in violation of Google's policy and will be removed. You can find more about prohibited and restricted content in Content Policy help.

Proven ways to encourage customers to leave more reviews with attractive images

Customers are the source of new content for business. Actually, Google helps a lot by sending push notifications for customers that have visited the locations.

High-quality and relevant photos do drive results. People call businesses more often, submit requests for driving directions to their location, and click through to the company's website. That said, uploading professional photos once and ignoring what your customers upload doesn't work anymore.

Ok, but how can you encourage customers to leave reviews with photos? And ensure that the UGC looks great? We'll arm you with practical tips & tricks.
1. Provide a photo-worthy experience with catchy decorations and interiors. Don't forget about the lighting and stylish tableware.
image on google maps
This coffee shop with a unique interior also cares for beautiful serving. All of this makes people want to take pictures and share their experience
фото на картах google
This coffee shop hung a lot of mugs under the ceiling. It's catchy and attracts people, so you can find many photos of the interior in the reviews
2. Take the initiative and help your customers get great photos — ask your customers if you can take a picture of them while they interact with your product or use your services. You can even hire a photographer for this.
3. Just… ask them. You can simply ask your customer to take a picture and leave a review, either through POS materials or QR codes at your location, or by actually having a face-to-face interaction.
A stand with a QR code at the entrance to one of the cafés.
You can also receive feedback from customers by generating reviews via a QR code with an additional product of the BrandWizard platform. Reviews generation tool is designed to encourage customers to leave positive reviews with photos.
These three simple yet effective pieces of advice are proven ways to encourage your customers to create and share high-quality content. However, there is still the risk of getting poor quality or irrelevant photos.

How to manage your photos on Google

You might ask a question on how to see all photos users add with their reviews. If you have several locations it's not a problem to check all of them to see what's new. But if your business is in about 10+ places it becomes a hard task to do. Here, come special products that can ease your work with photos. For example, BrandWizard's Photo Management Tool collects photos of all your business locations in a single account and lets you manage content that is unattractive or doesn't match your business.

How to remove irrelevant photos from Google Business Profile page

Sometimes you want to remove customer photos, and that's understandable. The bad news is that it's not that easy, and Google can keep the photos up if they determine they are an accurate representation of your business. The good news is that there are still some ways to delete customer photos. Let's find out how.

Despite being a business owner, you don't have the direct ability to delete a photo that a customer uploads. However, you can flag it to let Google know that you want to remove it by a) reporting a review and b) reporting a separate customer photo. It's easy:
Flag a review

  1. On your computer, open Google Maps.
  2. Find your Business Profile.
  3. Find the review you'd like to report.
  4. Click More, then
  5. Flag as inappropriate

Flag a photo

  1. Open Google Maps.
  2. In the search bar, enter your business name.
  3. In your Business Profile, click the photo you want to flag.
  4. In the top left, click More, then Report a problem.
If available, in the top right, you can also click Flag.

Pay attention to photos and videos criteria. If user content violates these rules, you can easily send a request to remove an unwanted photo from a client.

How can you check your photos' performance?

Google Business Profile insights currently include data on 'photo views' which reflects the number of times photos have been viewed compared with other similar businesses' data.

Key takeaways

Customer photos, like all user-generated content, help businesses and other guests show how a product or service looks in real life. The more photos a business has, the more customers trust it. In addition, a user can report problems with a service or product using photos, so you can use this data to fix whatever needs to be fixed.

Here is what you must know while working with UGC

  • Removing a review or a photo uploaded by a user isn't easy. Moreover, the process isn't immediate. You can report a photo or review, then Google will review your application and make a decision.
  • Take some time to read Google's guideline on content. Knowing the rules will let you be more argumentative and persuasive while submitting an application for removal.
  • Google has a set of requirements for reviews and photos. In a nutshell, reviews and photos must reflect real user experience. The pictures must be as high quality as possible, and the location must match the address. Google can (and in most cases will) remove fake or stolen content.
  • When you regularly upload new photos, manage the reviews, encourage your customers to take and upload high-quality photos, and create unmissable interiors and services in your offline location, then you may be sure that your business listing will be ok.
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