Google to pay users for filling in Maps

Hoping to stock its database to get up-to-date information about local businesses, Google (GOOG) is trying to turn its users into paid contractors. The company has launched a program that will pay people to take digital photos of local shops and verify their operating hours and payment options – essentially, creating a digital Yellow Pages to layer on top of Google Maps.

Under the terms of the Google Business Referral program, representatives can earn up to $10 for each business they catalog for Google – $2 for the business’s information, and $8 for getting the company to verify that the information is correct by either sending in a postcard or approving it online.

If Google can get people to add business details to its maps, the referrals effort could prove to be financially rewarding in the long run. As part of the program, representatives also will be telling local businesses about Google’s AdWords program – and I’m sure Google hopes that once they know about AdWords, the businesses will turn into Google advertising customers.

Google’s move is also important as it fights with Yahoo (YHOO), Microsoft (MSFT) and others for the future of mobile advertising. As more devices, particularly mobile phones and in-car navigators, gain access to the Internet, companies will have more chances to reach consumers through mobile advertising. If Google can create the most comprehensive directory of local venues, it will have both a better shot at recruiting them as advertisers, and a more comprehensive local product.

For more information, see this Frequently Asked Questions link. Some excerpts:

As a Google Business Referral Representative, you’ll visit local businesses to collect information (such as hours of operation, types of payment accepted, etc.) for Google Maps, and tell them about Google Maps and Google AdWords. You’ll also take a few digital photos of the business that will appear on the Google Maps listing along with the business information. After the visit, you submit the business’ info and photo(s) to Google through your Local Business Referrals Center, and we’ll pay you up to $10 for each listing that is approved by Google and verified by the business.

All you need to be a successful Business Referral Representative is a passion for helping local businesses succeed, a love for the Internet (some knowledge of Google is great, too), and access to a computer and a digital camera. … You can earn up to $10 for each approved, verified referral you submit. This includes $2 when a business referral is approved by Google; and $8 when an approved business verifies that the information you submitted is accurate. Referrals are approved by Google based on the completeness and quality of data supplied by representatives. Businesses verify their information either by sending us a response postcard or verifying their information online.

As long as your earnings total at least $25 a month, you’ll receive a monthly check.

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