Since 2010 Google has let business owners hire a “Google Trusted Photographer” to come to their store or office, take a bunch of photos, and splice them together into a virtual tour. That tour is called Google Business View.
The walkthrough tour and photos get uploaded to your Google Places page. You can also feature them elsewhere, like on your website or Facebook page.
You can’t get a Google Business View photo shoot it if you’re a service-area or home-based business.
It may not be a good idea if you know your place of business just gives off the wrong vibes.
But otherwise, you’d be smart to fork over a few hundred dollars to have a photographer come out.
Here are 10 reasons you should get a Google Business View shoot:
1. Potential customers, clients, or patients want to know what your place looks like. If it’s a nice environment, it can be a selling point. But even an dingy little hovel can have a certain charm, and it’s usually wise to let people know what they’re in for.
2. The photo shoot may encourage more people to click through to your Places page or website. It shows up in your knowledge graph and in the Maps tab.
3. It may be a ranking factor. Trusted photographer Jeff Finkelstein explored that possibility in a nice Moz post last year, and he offered some good insights in my follow-up post. My guess is that a Google Business View photo shoot by itself is at most a very minor ranking factor, but can help your rankings more indirectly, because it can get more people to click (and Google knows when someone clicks). Again, just a hunch.
4. The “See inside” view is front-and-center when you view the Google Places page on a smartphone. (It’s even more prominent than it is on desktop.)
5. You can embed the photo shoot on your site.
6. You get 10 professionally-taken still photos.
7. Someone else is taking the time to take photos. That saves you time – especially if you’re picky about your photos. To take good photos is rarely quick or easy, because it’s a numbers game.
8. You can reuse the still shots elsewhere – on your site and on your non-Google business listings. You own the photos for good. You can do whatever you’d like with them. And if you don’t have a good cover photo yet, maybe you just found one.
9. It can be the start of a quid pro quo with your photographer. Google Trusted Photographers often have other online-marketing skills, so especially if you like the photo shoot and them personally you can probably get their help in other areas. It’s also possible you could get a link and/or a citation from the photographer.
10. Google seems to have plans for Business View. It’s been around for almost 5 years now – which is about 68 in Google product years.
It’s getting phased in, not phased out. In the “Google My Business” rebrand / facelift they put a pitch for it right at the top of your dashboard (unless you’re a service-area or home-based business).
Maybe someday they’ll integrate it with product feeds, so that you could “walk” through a store and click on the inventory and actually order it right from within the tour. Who knows what the Big G will think of next?
Bonus – reason #11. This one comes from Greg T’Kint of JHBathrooms.com. You can send potential customers “a link to a specific location within the virtual tour, in order to show a specific product or display within email communications.” (See Greg’s comment, below.)
Update (11/10/14): David Deering just told me about a Google service called PhotoSphere. Maybe it’s well-known in some circles, but I hadn’t heard of it. It’s an app that lets you take and embed your own panoramas. Those have been around for a while, but this one’s from Google. Obviously, you wouldn’t get some of the benefits of an”official” Google Business View photo shoot (see points 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, and 10), but in some ways it might be a nice DIY alternative.
What’s been your experience with Google Business View?
Can you think of other reasons to get a photo shoot (or not to)?
Leave a comment!
Lloyd Silver says
I love Business View. We just started promoting it in our agency last month. There are so many wonderful benefits. It goes a long way in building trust, increasing conversions, and building engagement.
The biggest roadblock?
Sadly, I think it’s Google itself. They make it so difficult on the photographers. I’m not talking about getting certified but just the ongoing process of signing up businesses and uploading a shoot that meets their loosely defined standards.
It’s very frustrating at times.
But I think it’s here to stay (fortunately). And will become even more important going forward. They just need to figure out an easier way of working with the photographers.
As for other reasons to get a shoot . . . You touched on embedding it in the business website. But it can be embedded anywhere you can place an iFrame. Facebook is one that I love. And you can do a screen capture video of yourself doing a walkthrough and upload to YouTube. So many possibilities.
Lastly, I definitely think it’s a rankings boost for the reasons you mentioned. And also because of increased trust. With all of the spam we have to combat every day, fake businesses aren’t going to have a business view. And anything that can help build trust with Google should result in a ranking boost of some degree.
Thanks for writing another great article.
Hey Lloyd, thanks for the excellent insights.
I’d be interested in hearing more about how Google makes it tough for photographers. (I knew they had strict standards, but I don’t know any specifics.)
Malcolm Maybury says
Great post Phil,
Did not know it was almost 5 years old though! we have been in the program for just over 2 years now its amazing how many customers have never heard of Google Business View at all.
Love your line of ‘ It’s getting phased in, not phased out ‘
Purely for fun, here’s one of the very first GBV shoots:
Amazing how little it’s changed.
Brian Childers says
I am a strong advocate of this service. In fact, I introduced it to photographer friend here in Santa Cruz. She got certified by Google and has been doing great with it. She recently shared a Facebook App for the Google Business View https://www.socialpr.dk/lookinside/.
It’s easy to implement. Check-it-out https://www.facebook.com/foxxr
Very nice, Brian. Thanks for sharing that.
Andy Kuiper says
Compelling reasons – thanks Phil 🙂
M.J. Plebon says
I have a client who is a dentist. He had the virtual tour done on his brand new office and it looks quite good. He invested a large amount of money in the look of his office and now he is showing it off in the Google+ listing and also his website. We are now optimizing the images for directories and other online properties.
If it is free, why not take advantage of it.
I totally agree, M.J. Although I’ve never heard of a Google Business View shoot being free.
M.J. Plebon says
My oversight Phil. For the mileage you can get from it, it might as well be free.
Marc Poulin says
I just want to add that it is also available in Canada (I had over a dozen done) and In Paris (France).
Thanks, Marc. In fact, an award-winning GBV photo shoot – one of the best ever – was in France:
(Scroll about halfway down.)
Great post… Can I eventually add an 11th reason?
An extra advantage is that when liaising with (potential) customers we can actually provide a link to a specific location within the virtual tour, in order to show a specific product or display within email communications.
We use it for most of our branches on jhbathrooms.com
Matt Maglodi says
I recently enrolled in the Google Business View program and will shortly become certified. I can say for the clients that have participated in the program and got the 360 Tour, it’s been great for local search.
I will be putting a case study out shortly, 1 month before the Tour, the month during, and the month after.
Awesome. Looking forward to it, Matt.
Diana De Rosa says
I was contacted and being considered as a photographer and was asked to sign on to a site to sign some paperwork but when I tried to do that it told me I needed more permission. I tried emailing but wondered if someone here might also be able to help.
I’d suggest asking whomever contacted you about becoming a GBV photographer in the first place.
Alan Timms says
Just wondered if you or any of our peers actually has any tangible results to report since using Business View panoramas? What difference (if any) did it make to monthly G+ views? Did it improve organic SEO ranking?
One aspect that’s been rather disappointing for me with Business View is Google’s guidelines. On the one hand I am quoted a $ figure for 5 panoramas – so I recommend my clients to proceed with it, yet when the Business View photographers meet with the client to ‘measure up’ and discuss the job they return with a quote for 20 panoramas.
This does not sit well with me for two reasons:
– Firstly, it misleads my clients
– Secondly, immersive as VRs are … no one is going to sit there and view 20 panoramas about 10 feet apart (I would be amazed if any more than 4 were viewed for any location).
Love to hear your thoughts!
Wish I had before-and-after numbers on the views, Alan, but I don’t.
Diana De Rosa says
I think it would help the photographers if Google helped to get the leads and then let the photographers do what they do best. Door-to-door selling is something that I do not enjoy but I’m a great photographer and can learn how to do this and do a good job.
When I first stumbled on this service, my sister and I were virtually “flying” around NYC via a Google Map, checking out our old neighborhood, when she announced that she was actually inside the store where my mom once worked. Before that, I didn’t know you could go inside businesses. We were both in there looking at the art on the walls, etc. Very cool! (The only thing missing was avatars so we could see each other in there). I’ve been wondering why this hasn’t caught on like wildfire. I mentioned it to a client recently and they said they didn’t want potential thieves virtually prowling around and scouting out the place. Do other people feel like that too? I met a Google Certified Photographer at a local marketing summit and he explained how it works. He was charging a minimum of $800 for a small business (about Starbucks size), and went up from there. Diana De Rosa mentioned Google helping photographers get leads, but I think it’s unnecessary. People like me with a local marketing/graphic design business are out and about anyway, and we can add this to our slate of services for a commission.
Carol Tiffany says
I was contacted by Google for this and they said price started at $1500 and could be more.
I think that a little high.
From what I’ve heard, some photographers offer it for less. Are you sure you asked Google, rather than a specific photographer? Photographers set their own rates.
Of course, it’s up to you whether the benefits are worth it.
Scott Witte says
That is strange. You have a B&B and as such no Google Photographer can approach you. It would be bizarre if Google did. Among hospitality businesses only a few major hotel chains are able to get Business View tours currently. I do Business View tours as well as custom tours. For you a custom tour would be far more effective. And if you want to see significant organic search ranking improvement a custom tour will definitely do that, which will improve local results as well. But the tour won’t appear in Google search and maps.
Google does plan to make Business View available throughout the hospitality industry again. They just won’t tell us when or how.
Scott Witte says
Quick update: As of September 2015 Google photographers are allowed to shoot lodging businesses, included B&Bs.
This was a great help! I just requested to receive a quote for the Google Business View photo shoot, but needed some justification as to why it would be worth it for our practice. Like you said, if nothing else, you get professional photos that can be used in other applications. Thanks for the write up!
John Varnedore says
Our agency has been in 360 degree tour marketing since 2006 and added Google Street View Trusted Photographer to the mix 2.5 years ago. The program changed names from Business View in the last 6 months.
I think one avenue that most are missing is this is a medium if used correctly can extend the reach of almost all other advertising.
1. Add either a QR code in your PRINT ads to take people directly to the tour or alternatively embed the tour on it’s own page and use a call to action on the print ad to view the tour.
2. Use mobile marketing as well…this looks fantastic on a smartphone or tablet. Use simple keyword with response being the tour link…works great
There are many more and the best part..only a one time cost with no monthly recurring. Of course, we add extra value by converting the images to a 360 degree video for youtube and facebook as well.
360 VR Marketing is here and cannot be ignored…Google Street View is an important part and should not be ignored.
Andy Larder says
Thanks for sharing on this thread. I live in the UK and am only looking to get started in this area now.
I would be interested in finding out more if you are happy to chat sometime?
Brad Gamson says
As we all know now, the program has changed dramatically. I am in the San Diego area and still doing great. This is a great program with many great benefits. My hope is that one day Google brings back the
“see inside”. This was an awesome selling point. I have figured out ways around it so it has not been
a problem. I focus on luxury apartment complexes and have done quite well with them. I think there is a real need for a Google tour in this industry. Thanks for the read!