Not many people can honestly say they have never used Google’s Street View to virtually “walk” up and down their own street, take a peek at their dream neighborhoods, or snoop around for possible dining or entertainment destinations. Now Google is allowing users to take things one step further by virtually “opening the doors” for Pittsburgh businesses through the Google Business View program.
Google Business View allows Street View style technology to come inside local businesses that opt to participate. This technology allows businesses to feature an immersive 360 degree virtual tour of their location on Google. The tour can sometimes appear next to Google’s search results when someone performs a search of the business name. Online searchers will have the ability to virtually “walk” through the establishment from the comfort of their own homes or on mobile devices. These Google powered virtual tours can also be embedded on websites and within web content. They’re best experienced for that “ah-hah” moment where you immediately see the value and understand how useful it can be, here’s a snazzy tour of a car dealership we worked with last month, go on… take a stroll inside:
Local brick and mortar businesses can bring their location to life on Google Maps and on Google+ Local by showcasing their products and highlighting their interior decor. These tours can also be a great way to garner a trusting relationship between a business and it’s clients or customers by showing them what’s behind closed doors.
I recently returned from a week-long trip to Las Vegas where I got to hone my skills as one of Google’s Trusted Photographers by attending a series of workshops and demos at an IVRPA industry conference, sponsored by Google. While there I was fortunate enough to get to spend some time with Evan Rapoport, the Product Manager of Google Street View, along with over 20 Google Trusted Photographers from all over the United States and Canada where we were able to discuss the future of some of these Google products in a very collaborative way.
Businesses that participate in the program work directly with a local service provider that is a specially trained and certified independent subcontractor. These Google subcontractors are known as “Trusted Photographers” and within Google’s culture are affectionately called “TIPS” (Trusted Independent Photographers). They coordinate a quick photo shoot with the business, normally during slow or non-operating business hours when possible. However, some business owners elect to do the shoot while the business is busy but due to privacy policies any people who appear in the shoot will need to have their faces blurred (as well as license plates on any vehicles visible in the virtual tour).
The contractor is then responsible for preparing the completed tour and handling all post-production work, including photo-stitching the panoramic photographs into spherical 360 degree views and linking the different “panos” (also referred to as spins) to one another to create a path thru the business. The finished virtual tour is then submitted Google for review and publishing (and quality control in some cases).
The photos for the virtual tours are taken using special equipment including a DSLR camera that rests on a tripod that rotates on a special scientific pano head. Multiple photos are taken at each site and the tripod is moved around the business until the entire area has been covered sufficiently in a manner similar to how a real world visitor would move through the space. Once all the pictures have been taken, the Trusted Photographer handles all the post-production work to create an immersive virtual tour that we publish on the business’s behalf to Google Maps & Google+ Local. Business owners have the option to also embed the virtual tour on their website.
To date, we’ve already shot over 30 local businesses including the extravagant kitchen showroom at Vangura in North Huntingdon, McDermott Funeral Home in McKees Rocks, numerous well-known restaurants in downtown Pittsburgh such as Seviche, Sonoma Grille, Nola on the Square, specialty stores like feast on brilliant and The Sweet Shoppe & Nut House, a lovable South Side arcade called Games N’ At, and many many more.
Participating in the Google Business View program seems like a no-brainer for most local businesses looking for effective ways to shine on the web, but don’t just take my word for it see what a few of our actual customers right here in Pittsburgh have to say about the service:
Once these tours pass Google’s Quality Control procedures, they’re published on Google Maps, attached to the business’s listing on Google+ Local, and sometimes the virtual tours appear “algorithmically” right on the Google search results via a “See Inside” thumbnail image. One additional incentive is that aside from the cost of the initial photoshoot there are no ongoing or recurring fees making it a cost-effective longer term marketing investment. Google hosts your data and the tour for free and it can easily be included in other marketing collateral such as print materials or business cards using QR codes or a short vanity URL. Additional costs only occur if the business owner decides to reshoot in order to update the virtual tour, at which point your certified Google Trusted photographer will need to come out for another photoshoot.
In addition to the inherent value of this service we frequently help our clients sort out sometimes frustrating local SEO issues surrounding claiming, verifying, and optimizing your Google business listing to help take control of your brand’s online presence. Additionally, while on-site to collect the panoramic photography we also take numerous traditional still photographs that will be featured on the Google business listing to highlight important aspects of the business. All captured photography is provided to the business owner for use as they see fit and many of the point of interest (POI) still photographs make great images for use on social media. Many of our clients have made their favorite POI photographs the primary Facebook Fanpage cover image, Google+ profile photo or cover image, or used them for elegant Twitter backgrounds.
If you’re interested in showcasing your local brick and mortar business location via the Google Business View program please fill out our inquiry form to get a free personalized quote today: