Are Google Business Photos a Trust Factor for Your Local Rankings?

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I’ve never known much about Google’s Business Photos program.  But it’s always sounded cool: If you have a bricks-and-mortar business location, you can pay a Google Trusted Photographer to come in and take photos that allow customers to take a virtual tour, right from your Google+ Local page.

Jeff Finkelstein’s great recent post on Moz stirred up a couple questions for me.  Jeff offers Google-approved photography to businesses in the Boulder, CO area.

Yesterday I emailed him a question:

I’m wondering how the process of your sending in the photos to Google ties in with their effort to verify a business’s info.

For instance, does Google make you fill out a form with the name, address, phone, etc. of a business, when you send in the photos you took of it?  Do they ask you to report any  inconsistencies you see (like if a business is using a fictitious DBA on its local listing, but another for its front sign)?

…Just to follow up on the question of whether Google might give a slight bump to businesses that hire a Google Trusted Photographer, to me it makes sense that a GTP would help verify the accuracy of a business’s listing info – which could help its rankings.

-Phil

Jeff kindly took the time to write back, and to give me a little peek behind the scenes:

Due to some of the huge amounts of paperwork that I did have to sign, I can’t verify a lot of the methods publicly.

But I can answer the question as it might pertain to me photographing a business location for you.

So, if you wanted to hire me (or another trusted Google Business Photographer), we would require the following in order to be able to create the panoramic (street view) photos:

1. You need to have a physical location for the business, where customers can go in and interact with your organization.  Home-based businesses are not able to be included in Google Business Photos.  We do make sure that the business address listed matches the Google + / local listing.  Especially so that we can go to the correct place to make the photographs!

2. We do need to get a written signature from the business owner, giving permission to Google to publish photographs of their business.  This does require the physical location of the business to be listed on the printed contract.

3. We are required to make sure that the photographs are positioned correctly in the world, so that maps and directions work properly.

-Jeff

My takeaway: you can’t really put fake business info on your local listing if a Google-approved photographer crawls around in the guts of your business and sends the endoscopy photos to Google.

My other takeaway: I wouldn’t rule out Google Business Photos as a factor that might help your rankings a little.  Jeff took a good swing at the question in his post, but we’ll probably never know for certain.  What we do know is the photography program is another “checkpoint” at which Google can make sure your online business info is accurate.  And as we’ve seen in areas like citations, the “trustworthiness” of your info matters probably more than anything.

Doesn’t really matter, though: getting professional photos taken of your business might be a nice way to appeal more to customers, and to get more calls out of whatever rankings you do already have.  My advice: contact a Trusted Photographer like Jeff and see what he/she can do.

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Comments

  1. I’ve seen significant changes after I’ve shot virtual tours for Google Maps/Google+ at various businesses here in the Netherlands.

    Therefore, I find it very likely, that it is taken into consideration for local rankings.

  2. That was an interesting article in Moz and an interesting follow up Phil. Nice work. I’ve spoken to one of the google trusted photographers in the metro DC area.

    Its interesting and great photography IMHO. Especially for great looking places with neat interiors or high roofs it does an outstanding job of highlighting the interiors. Its driven me to try out some restaurants.

    Now that its mentioned I don’t believe I’ve seen the photography on the main site of an smb. I suppose that google restricts the use of the pictures to just the google local information. Do you know if that is true or not? I might have to contact Jeff myself to find out the answer.

    Jeff’s article was quite honest. He revealed his data and he revealed the limits. With many possible sources of data that influence rankings its difficult to tell. Also insofar as google is identifying the sources of queries and searches to a zip code level and “geographical places” that subsist within towns…its possible if you are searching for a local business like a liquor store (to use one of Jeff’s examples) local results might differ just by zip or a mile or two or three. man that is personalization, isn’t it..or might that not be?

    The pictures are really great marketing tools IMHO. They are worthwhile on that basis. But if they are simply limited to the pictures in google’s local graph it would somewhat restrict their effectiveness as a marketing tool.

    Overall nice article and nice thinking!!! kudo’s

    • Thanks, Dave. Great points, as always.

      The photography is damn good, as you say. I don’t know why more business owners don’t play them up on their sites. Jeff and I had a great conversation yesterday, and he told me that oftentimes business owners want good photos taken anyway, and just choose to throw the Google-approved virtual tour in there. So what it seems to boil down to is generally these SMBs have an assortment of great photos anyway. I just think they aren’t thinking of taking it a step further and using the photos on their sites. But that’s just my speculation; Jeff’s the guy with the answers here, of course.

      Like you, I appreciated the honesty of Jeff’s post. (Not sure why some boneheads in the Moz comments raced to point out “Oh, that’s not a statistically significant data sample.” Of course not; Jeff said so before anyone else did.)

      To me, it kind of doesn’t matter whether / how much the photos might help rankings. As you said, they’re a great marketing tool. Of course, the rub is that the walkthrough tour is basically buried, because of the reviews “popup” that makes it nearly impossible to get to a business’s Google+ Local page. Outside of there, it only shows up in a sliver of the knowledge graph. Which sucks.

  3. Hey Phil,

    Great post. Virtual tours are great and ive been familiar with them for many months. I actually started offering the service for clients, I partnered with a top ranked Google Trusted Photographer and has been great. I’ve been part of the actual shooting and know how the whole process works, There is alot they cannot reveal due to NDA signed even family members that live in the same household have to sign them. If you guys have any questions that I can help answer let me know.

    • Hey Raymi, thanks. I actually fired a bunch of questions at Jeff during our pow-wow, and I got a good sense of what can and cannot be discussed, but I’ll let you know if anything comes to mind :)

  4. Phil:

    While I didn’t try Jeff, I did find that the 360 degree shots can be uploaded to a site and was sent 2 examples. Of sites I’ve looked at that have had the shots done there are examples where the 360 degree shots are simply superb. In fact in 2 cases they pushed me over the edge to try out 2 restaurants. In neither case had the business/ restaurant/ website uploaded the 360 degree shots.

    They are nifty marketing tools for the right businesses. Its surprising they don’t have higher visibility.

  5. Hi Phil,

    Great read! In fact I have added my own two penny’s worth to the debate here. http://www.optimize-yorkshire.com/local-search/do-google-business-photos-increase-trust-in-local-rankings. I think the fact that Google doesn’t really seem to support the service makes me wonder whether it really is a trust factor.

    • Thanks a bunch, Neil. You make some good points. It’s worth pointing out, though, that I wasn’t trying to argue that Google Business Photos are or are not a ranking factor. It’s just that I wouldn’t be surprised if they are a minor factor, given what Jeff told me about how photographers need to verify the basic business info. But it’s just speculation on my part.

      • I also wonder if Google Business Photographers would be able to change things without verification. Say a wrong location or telephone number. Now that would be helpful!

        • I’m pretty sure the photographers can’t change anything. Based on my chat with Jeff, my understanding is that they just note down the correct business info and send it to Google at the same time they send the photos.

  6. I recently had a Google certified photographer come out at do a virtual tour shoot for our small salon. She was very hush, hush on if the photos and tour would effect our rankings. One thing I can say is that my experience was great. She gave me the opportunity to pick the photos which would appear on our listing. Also, any photos she took had to be submitted to Google by the photographer Rather it helps our rankings or not, it was totally worth it to spend the money and get professional photos. Thank you for posting this topic.

Trackbacks

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