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

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.