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If you run a service business, you know how important getting good online reviews can be to the success of your business. After all, the majority of American consumers consult the Internet before deciding on things like where to take their car to be serviced, where to have dinner or whom to call when their furnace is making strange noises.

A large proportion of local reviews on sites like Yelp! and Google are actually written by a small, active subset of customers. Connecting with them can give your business a jump start. One good way to do that is with Google Local Guides.

What is Google Local Guides?

Google Local Guides is a program, similar to Yelp’s Elite program, that rewards frequent reviewers with recognition, special events, promotion of their reviews on social media pages and the opportunity to try new Google products before they are released to the general public. These reviews are featured in Google search results right under the map of the business location. Unlike the Yelp! program which is by invitation only, anyone can join the Google program. A reviewer’s status is based on the number of “quality” reviews he or she has submitted, with the highest level being at 200+ reviews.

Finding and Meeting Prolific Reviewers

Like the Yelp! The elite program, Google Local reviewer program gives prolific reviewers a badge next to their name. The color of the badge designates how many quality reviews that person has submitted. If you live outside of huge metropolitan areas like LA and New York City, a little research should easily turn up the prolific reviewers who live and write about your area and your type of business. Even in the big cities, reviewers tend to stay within the neighborhoods where they live or work.

While the Google rules prohibit offering these writers free products or other enticements for their reviews, you CAN send them a message on their Google+ account, making them aware of your business and inviting them to visit. It’s also not a bad idea for you and your staff to familiarize yourselves with the faces of those prolific reviewers in your area, so you’ll be sure to give them extra good service when they visit your store.

The look of small business Internet marketing is changing. Gone (or going) are the banner ads. More useful and appealing to consumers are real people talking about their real experiences with a business. Get the attention of local reviewers and you can reap the benefits in higher revenue and a more local client base.