The Mysterious Appearance Of "Local Guide Program" Queries In Google Search Console

Jun 19, 2023 - 7:11 am 5 by

Local Guide Program Queries in GSC

There are times you can find some weird things going on in Google Search Console while analyzing websites. That just happened again, which led me down a strange rabbit hole leading to even more examples of the situation. I can't really explain what's going on, and it seems others are confused as well. Once I cover it here, I'm hoping some from the local SEO community could chime in, and I also hope Google can explain more about what I found.

Local Guide Program Queries: Top Queries, No Rankings
I started helping a new client and was doing my first pass over their Google Search Console reporting when I noticed an interesting query driving traffic to the site. It was "local guide program" and it was driving a good number of clicks, and to many pages across the site. I know Google has a local guide program, but this site had nothing to do with that program, didn't have content targeting that query, etc. I was a little confused… The site definitely does rank for queries with local intent, but shouldn't have ranked for that specific query.

example of local guide program in gsc

So I started checking some other sites that would be similar on that front. And low and behold, "local guide program" was showing up in the reporting there as well! And like the first site, there were many landing pages for the query.

Another example of local guide program queries in GSC

After asking my clients about that query, they were aware of the situation, but could never figure it out. In addition, some also sent several other examples of sites they run that have the same thing going on with that query. It seems this is happening way more than I thought.

Desktop-mostly, always ranking #1, and global: When analyzing the situation in Google Search Console, there were several interesting findings. First, this was mostly happening on desktop. Nearly 100% of the impressions and clicks were from desktop search.

Local guide program queries only showing on desktop

Another example of local guide program queries on desktop in GSC

Second, the site always ranked #1 for the query. Yes, #1 every single time. Strange, to say the least.

Local guide program queries ranking number one in Google

Local guide program queries ranking number one always

Third, according to Google Search Console, many urls were ranking for that query. When exporting Google Search Console data via the Search Console API, one site had 10.2K urls ranking for the query, and another had 4.2K.

Number of landing pages ranking for local guide program queries

Exported landing pages ranking for local guide program queries

Fourth, local guides did show up often when checking the listings in Google Maps. Again, I have no idea why Google would associate that with the query "local guide program", but it's worth noting.

Local Guide in Google Maps

And last, when checking the data by country, it was from many countries (so it was global and not tied to just the United States or any specific country).

Countries where local guide program ranked

Webmaster Forum Threads Point To Maps Pins:
I also decided to check Google's Search Central forums to see if others were experiencing the same situation. And I did find several threads where confused site owners were asking about the same situation. It seems "local guide program" queries were showing up and driving traffic to the site, but nobody could track down actual rankings. Some thought it was tied to Google Maps pins, but nobody could say for sure what was going on there.

For example, here are several threads where site owners were asking questions about this:

Is This A Google Search Console Bug or Something Else? Google should let us know.
Unfortunately, I don't have any great answers for what's going on with "local guide program" queries showing up in Google Search Console properties. But it accounts for a decent amount of traffic for some sites… Maybe Google can provide more information about this soon. And who knows, maybe those impressions and clicks end up going to their rightful place in Google Search Console.

I'll update this article if I hear back from Google or if we figure out what is going on. Stay tuned…

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

 

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