Tips for wrongfully suspended Local Guides
Were you kicked out of the Local Guides Program?
Getting suspended from the Local Guides Program is not something we normally discuss here on Connect. For two good reasons: 1) it's embarrassing to admit you might have done something wrong, and 2) suspended Local Guides loose their access to LocalGuidesConnect.com and therefore they can't share their experiences here on Connect!
I got wrongfully suspended for two and a half weeks in the summer of 2020. It was an extremely unpleasant experience, and after long deliberations with myself and a few friends I decided to write this post even though I risk being remembers as the guy who got suspended!
I think my suspension story is relevant to most local guides. And it contains crucial information in case you should get suspended. There is a lot to learn, and I wish someone had shared their experiences earlier. Also, I hope the Local Guides Team will read this, since there is plenty of room for improvements in the way suspensions are currently handled.
This is a 5-part series on getting suspended from being a Local Guide.
a) What it's like to be suspended?
b) Why was I suspended?
c) Was my suspension justified or a mistake?
d) How to appeal
e) Life after suspension
f) Lessons learned and feedback to Google
In the summer of 2020, I was expelled from localguidesconnect.com for two and a half weeks. In this blog post, I will share my experience and some tips for other Local Guides that might end up in a similar situation.
I'm sharing this here on my blog since suspended local guides will not be able to view this on Connect. And I learned the hard way that getting this kind detailed information can be highly valuable to know for suspended local guides.
The information in this blog post is my interpretation and I'm not affiliated with Google.
What does it mean to be suspended?
First of all, you need to know that being a user of Google Maps and being a Local Guide are two separate things. As a suspended Local Guide you can still use Google Maps as normal. You can even make edits, upload photos, and write reviews. So a suspension does not affect what you can do in Google Maps.
But suspended Local Guides lose access to localguidesconnect.com. With that, you lose access to the official support and news provided on Connect. You will then need to rely only on support from fellow local guides on Facebook etc. And you will not be able to get any of the very rare perks including applying for participation in Connect Live events.
On Google Maps your Local Guide level will no longer be shown. The text under your profile picture on Google Maps will only mention how many contributions you have made.
If perks and access to localguidesconnect.com is not an issue for you, then stop reading this blog post. You can continue to use and contribute to Google Maps as before.
How to test if you have been suspended
If you try to log in on localguidesconnect.com and you see this:
Then and only then you know you have been suspended.
You don't get an email with a warning. And you are not informed via email about your suspension. And worst of all: You are not informed about why you were suspended!
You should try to log in again just to be sure that you are using your usual Google Account. And you can take a look at your profile on Google Maps. If you still can't log in and your Local Guides level is no longer mentioned on your Google Maps profile you are for sure suspended.
Wrongfully or rightfully suspended
This is the big question. Did you violate any of the guidelines? If so, then it might be fair enough you got suspended.
Having made thousands of contributions to Google make it practically impossible to find and fix what you might have done wrong. And the guidelines are written in a difficult to read and understand legal language. Further, the guidelines are not easy to find and they are spread over several documents. So here are direct links to them:
You need to read the following documents carefully and consider each of the "rules" if you have done anything wrong.
Community Policy (often referred to as the Guidelines)
Local Guides Program Terms and Conditions (often referred to as the Rules or Program Rules)
Maps User Contributed Content Policy (often referred to as the Policies) where Prohibited and Restricted Content and Format Specific Criteria are very relevant.
Also, Googlers have shared and detailed some of the rules in official posts on Connect, but suspended LGs will not have access to those.
Please remember, at not knowing the rules is not a valid excuse for not following them!
I have 3 tips for you, as you are trying to guess why you were suspended:
1) Read this post very carefully: Why was I removed from the Local Guides program? I believe the post is accessible even for suspended LG. Especially the text under the heading Appeal your removed account is relevant. Also, the examples mentioned crave you attention:
Common reasons your account may be removed include:
Participating on Local Guides as a business
Behaving inappropriately on Connect
Posting duplicate reviews or photos
Contributing offensive content or spam
Adding fake locations
Changing correct business names
Adding unnecessary keywords
2) My friend Jeroen Mourik has made a simple quiz to help prevent you getting suspended. It might give you valuable hits to take the quiz. You find his tool called Account Health Check here.
3) Ask friends to review your contributions. Experienced Local Guides might be able to spot what could be the reason for your suspension. There are several Facebook groups where Local Guides are happy to share and help others. The Local Guides World-group is great and I can recommend it. You can also try to reach out for help from experienced local guides on Instagram.
Is starting over an option?
If you realize that you have made lots and lots of violations, the best solutions might be to learn from your mistakes and create a new Google Account and start all over. This can be relevant if you have made so many violations that fixing them will take longer than re-earning points and your previous level with a new account. You will lose your points, photo views, and your level, but your experience as a local guide means that you can advance quickly and regain or exceed your previous level.
You have to consider the implication on all other Google Services like Gmail, Drive, Crowdsource, Google Play, Music, YouTube, etc. Please be careful and don't close the old account before you have transferred / backed-up everything of value. Or even better: you could create a new account and use it for Google Maps and Connect only, and at the same time keep your old account for other Google services.
It is against the rules to have two local guides accounts. So you have to make sure first to leave the Local guides program with your old account. Normally you can leave the program using this link: https://maps.google.com/localguides/home/settings (see Exit the program). Re-joining the Local Guides Program with a new account is only an option if you were wrongfully suspended. Only the Local Guides Team can determine this. So please consult with the team first. Depending on the specific violation and situation the team may and may not communicate with the local guide. So if the team chooses not to respond to you it is not a good sign (=my interpretation).
Losing access to communicate with your virtual (and real) friends on Connect can be very challenging. While suspended you still receive the usual e-mail update every time someone tags you or asks you a question on Connect. But you can not reply or let them know why you are not responding!
This can be very frustrating. The solution is to also make friends with other Local Guides via other means of communication like on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Telegram or WhatsApp, etc. I was lucky to have other means of communication in place and good friends were kind and supportive while I was suspended.
Being left out is a sharp contrast to the usual communication full of praise. You feel alone and the help you get is in no way comforting and not very helpful.
I saw one sentence that gave me hope: The Local Guides Team will try to help very active Local Guides that are wrongfully suspended! And I was un-suspended in the end, but in the meanwhile, it was very unpleasant and the communication is far from very helpful.
If you are sure you have not violated the rules and guidelines I think you are likely to be un-suspended in the end, but waiting in the dark for up to 3 weeks is probably the standard. And it is a terrible experience if you like and enjoy being a part of Connect.
How to appeal your suspension
Communicating with the Local Guides Team and the maps feedback team does not seem to be well coordinated. And in my experience, you need to reach out to both teams.
A. Using the appeals form
The official appeals form is here:
It asks you some (almost trick-) questions that you need to get right. You also need to explain why you think your suspension is wrong.
And shortly after you will get a response from Google Support. In my case, I received a probably automated response indicating that my suspension was permanent. It also stated that it was my reviews that causes my suspension.
The title of the response email was An Update on Your Local Guides Appeal which I optimistically interpreted as it might not be the very final decision!
The most important piece of information was the indication that my reviews caused the suspension. Luckily, I had cleaned up my reviews just recently and only two of my reviews were marked private at this time. So, going through my reviews would be a lot easier than let's say all my edits or photos.
Under the heading Correspondence (below), you can find copies of select the messages from and to me during my suspension.
TIP 1: Before submitting the appeals form I think it is advisable to clean up any issues you or your friends can spot in your profile.
TIP 2: It says you need to wait 10 days before submitting the appeals form. I did not do that, and I'm not sure if this is good or bad.
B. Dealing with the Local Guides Team
You can communicate with the Local Guides Team via Twitter, Facebook, or by email. The email address is not public, but you might have the email address if you have communicated with the team via email before. Alternatively, you can also reach the team via:
I suggest you include a link to your Google Maps profile AND the link to your Connect profile page. You might have saved a link to your Connect Profile Page as a bookmark. If not, I guess the email address you used to sign up at Connect will help the team to identify you.
You should ask the team to help you and maybe they will take a look at your contributions and explain what you did wrong. Or maybe they will just let you know that "the responsible teams have been alerted and we will let you know as soon as we hear from them". It is not my impression that the decision will be handled by the Local Guides Team, and I don't think they have much of a say or means to fast track the decision.
I wrote a long letter explaining in detail how I don't see any violations in my reviews, and I listed some minor issues that could be questioned. But nowhere in our communication can I see that this letter was read or used while evaluating my reviews. You can see my letter under Correspondence below. It might give you some ideas as to what to look for. But keep in mind that the letter was never acknowledged, so at best we might conclude that the potential issued mentioned are not sufficient grounds for suspension.
After 17 days in the dark I finally received a very short message saying that my account is no longer suspended.
What a relief!
Below you can find the Timeline and the Correspondence, and further down you can find my suggestions to how the appeals process and the related communication can be improved. And also some general tips for local guides who would like to prepare for or prevent a wrongful suspension.
Day 1 = Day of suspension
Reaching out to the Local Guides Team. Reading 'Why was I removed from the Local Guides program?' and reviewing the rules and guidelines while trying to guess what caused the suspension.
Checking my contributions for violations and waiting for the team to let me know if I should fill out the appeals form.
Getting increasingly upset and pretty frustrated. Also because I still get e-mail notifications from Connect, that I'm unable to respond to.
Still no reply from the team, so I decide to fill out and submit the appeals form to get things moving. The same day the Mapsfeedback Team reacts to my appeal by stating that my suspension is permanent and they mentioned my reviews as the problem.
Now I'm really worried. So I start reaching out to other local guides with relevant experience for advice and for help checking my reviews. Also, I start drafting my reply to the Mapsfeedback Team. Again I try to get help from the Local Guides Team and ask them to review my draft letter to Mapsfeedback. See my letter below under the heading Correspondence.
I doubt the LG Team read my letter and I don't know if they forwarded my draft letter to the Mapsfeedback Team.
After one week of waiting in the dark, I asked the LG Team for an update. Reply: Please be patient. The responsible team in on the case.
Day 17 Day of unsuspension
On a Sunday morning, I get the good news: My suspension has been lifted. The email from the LG Team contains no details but some kind apologies for the inconvenience.
Edited for flow. Grey background means I'm the sender and the black background indicate it is a response from Google.
This morning I find myself kicked out from the Local guides program. See attached screenshot.
Also, there is no mention of my level on Google Maps.
Is this a deliberate action taken by the team?
I have not received any notice about this.
I know about the appeals form and will use it but I would like to know first if you have/know any reasons for this.
Cheers from Copenhagen
Thanks for reaching out to us and for submitting the appeal form.
We will look into your query and will take any necessary action.
The Local Guides team
It says I need to wait 10 days before submitting the appeal.
Would you suggest I do it now since I obviously would like to get back on Connect ASAP?
Please be advised that your profile is being reviewed by the responsible team and you do not need to fill in the appeal form.
Once we have more information, we will contact you.
Thank you for the cooperation in this matter,
The Local Guides Team
At this time I had already submitted the appeals form! Then Google Support responds:
Thank you for contacting Google support. We can't approve your appeal as your reviews violate our Maps User Content policies.
This removal is permanent. It will not affect other services associated with your Google account, however, you are no longer able to participate in the Local Guides program and receive related benefits.
If you have any further questions please consult the Local Guides Help Center.
Subject: MortenCopenhagen needs your help now !
I’m sorry not to have been actively helping other local guides on Connect this weekend.
Since Friday morning this is what I see on localguidesconnect.com:erroruserbannedLocal Guides Connect is reserved for Local Guides program participants. You cannot access Local Guides Connect as your Local Guides account has been suspended.
As recommended by you I filled in the appeals form resulting in this:An Update on Your Local Guides AppealHello,Thank you for contacting Google support. We can't approve your appeal as your reviews violate our Maps User Content policies. This removal is permanent. It will not affect other services associated with your Google account, however, you are no longer able to participate in the Local Guides program and receive related benefits. If you have any further questions please consult the Local Guides Help Center.Thanks,Google support
So there is a good reason for me not being able to respond to posts tagged with my name over this weekend. I still get these via email!
I’m upset and very sad/frustrated since I have been very careful to keep my contributions to Google Maps clean, fair, and always sticking to all the guidelines.
A few months back I luckily cleaned out anything remotely questionable in my reviews. So currently only 2 out of 534 reviews are hidden.
I really need your help getting me accepted back into the Local Guides Program.
Please take a look at my reviews to see if you can spot anything questionable at https://www.google.com/maps/contrib/xxxxxxxxxx/reviews/
And here is my ID on Connect if you need it: https://www.localguidesconnect.com/t5/user/viewprofilepage/user-id/xxxxxx
I have prepared a response to Google Support. See below. It points out some smaller issues in my reviews, but hardly anything at a level to warrant a permanent suspension.
But I have not emailed it yet. I will await your comments on issues in my reviews before sending them.
I really really hope you will and can help me. I hope my substantial contributions to Connect up til Friday is enough to justify that you step in and help me out with this problem.
Thanks a million
DRAFT response to Google Support:
Dear Google Support
I need to respectfully disagree with your decision. I believe your system has made a mistake.
I have made 534 reviews and 532 of these are public. With the kind help of two very senior Local Guides, I have checked all of my reviews including my two reviews marked private. And we were unable to find any violations of the Maps User Content policies.
We noticed the following semi issues that hardly could warrant a permanent suspension:
My hidden review of this Art center has 4 photos attached that could look like cartoons and hence could wrongly be identified as spam by your automatic filters. This is not spam since this is the kind of art this well-known artist makes. You can see more examples of his art here.
In this review I have added 3 photos of paintings. Like in this example. Could this be a violation of the Copyrights? For long I have been looking for official guidelines on this to be included in a tutorial I’m preparing for Local Guides on photography specifically for Google Maps. But so far I have been unable to find it. Please let me know if this could be the problem and where this is mentioned in the guidelines.
In this review I had to cover the private parts of a statue for the photos to remain public. Could this be a problem?
Attached to this review there are a video and a photo with unblurred faces, but the musicians were performing publicly. Could this be a problem?
In this review of a local bakery, I mention that my photo is currently used as the primary photo representing the bakery on Google Maps. Could this be a reason for suspension?
In some reviews, I refer in the text to the photos I have uploaded to the place. Could this be a reason for suspension?
In this review I refer to only visiting as a paraglider pilot, can this be a problem?
All photos I have uploaded to Google Maps are taken by me personally.
If I have violated any guidelines or policies I would certainly be happy to correct them or delete those reviews.
On LocalGuidesConnect.com I have been very very active helping and guiding other local guides on a daily basis. It is quite upsetting to now receive notifications from Connect where other local guides are asking for my advice and comments when I’m unable to answer them. Normally, I always reply quickly and politely.
Please consult with the Local Guides Team in Sofia and take a look at some of my about 3000 contributions on Connect if you need documentation regarding my intentions, seriousness, and experience as a volunteer local guide.
Also, please look at my other contributions to Google Maps:
165,794 / 38,124 Contributions in total
126 Million photo views
11.000+ Photos uploaded
And as mentioned above I’m preparing an online and interactive tutorial for local guides wanting to contribute with better pics to Google Maps. This work can not continue should my suspension not be reversed.
I have previously helped other local guides after getting suspended. And it was always pretty obvious what guidelines they violated. So it troubles me, that I am unable to see what I could have done wrong.
I am aware that reversing a permanent suspension has happened before.
I really hope you will reconsider and soon let me be active on LocalGuidesConnect again.
I hear nothing from Google.
Please give me an update on resolving my suspension.
It has now been a week with no access to Connect. And I'm very unhappy.
Please confirm that you are taking the steps necessary to get my review-suspension overturned ASAP.
Have you involved @sonnyNG as suggested in my previous letter?
When can I expect to hear from you?
Apologies for the inconvenience. We can assure you that the responsible teams are working on this and we would appreciate your patience while they look into it.
Thank you in advance for your understanding,
The Local Guides Team
I hear nothing from Google.
Thank you so much for your patience and apologies for the inconvenience.
We would like to let you know that your Local Guide account is unsuspended.
Thank you for understanding and we are looking forward to your new posts on Connect.
The Local Guides Team
After a suspension is lifted it is not straight forward to log in at Connect again. I had several failed attempts. And I believe you need to sign up as a new local guide from within the Google Maps App using the same e-mail address to regain access to your old account.
What a lot of frustrating waiting time!
I still don't know what caused my suspension. I can only guess: Maybe my suspension was initiated by a faulty AI filter, or by a business owner or another Maps user/Local Guide flagging my profile. I just don't know.
I find it hard to believe that it takes 2 and a half weeks to manually review a profile. There might be a wait or the profile reviews are only done in batches. It would be very helpful if Google would communicate about this.
Most importantly, I regret that Google is not sharing any information that could help local guides learn from suspensions.
I understand that when you are under accused/flagged for bad behavior there are limits to what can be shared in order not to help deliberate spammers etc. But much could be done to improve the process. My thoughts on this are shared below.
Speed up the process - or at minimum make clear that the appeals process is handled in batches only every 3 weeks or so if this is the case.
Read and acknowledge attachments and submitted arguments.
Let us know if our attachments and arguments are shared between the Local Guides Team and Google Support.
If possible, let us know what caused a suspension so we and other local guides can learn from it.
How to prevent and be prepare for suspensions
Dear fellow local guides:
Read all the guideline documents regularly and make sure you understand everything! Not knowing the rules is no excuse. And the guidelines can change over time. And regrettably, there is no place where you can find a commented or easy-to-read version.
Review your contributions regularly to make sure you are not violating any of the guidelines. Remove questionable reviews and photos if in doubt.
Set up communication channels outside Connect with fellow local guides that can help you if you get suspended.
Save a bookmark to your Connect profile and your Google Maps profile, so you have them at hand should you get suspended.
Fill out the appeals form ASAP since the feedback could let you know what kind of contributions you are suspended for.
After my suspension I learned that it is possible to visit, search and browse Connect if your use an incognito tab/window.
Finally, you could advocate for improved communication and better learning opportunities from suspensions on Connect.