Here’s a fun way to dress up your presence on Google: panoramas of your place of business—Google calls them “inside Street Views”—that display on your listings on Google search results pages and maps. (For an epic example of what we’re talking about, see EPIC Steak in San Francisco). Several local chambers of commerce are offering $199 group rates on indoors Street View photography this spring. Worth it for your business? Take a tour around these frequently asked questions.
What is an inside Street View?
The photographer sets up a tripod in at least one room of your business and shoots a series of photos up, down and all around, and edits them to create an image a Google user can navigate by spinning, panning and zooming. With multiple tripods in adjoining spaces, the user can explore from room to room through a series of panoramas (or “photo spheres”, as Google also calls them).
Users find the panoramas on Google search pages in the box about your business that appears on the right side of the page, teased with a “See inside” caption. On Google maps, thumbnails of the photos are in the box about your business that pops up to the left. Clicking on a thumbnail launches the inside view as a full-screen, high-resolution image. You can also embed indoor views on your website and Facebook page.
Any place that customers want to preview before coming. See these examples for hotels, retail shops, churches and health clubs. But service businesses can also bolster their reputations by showing off the professional look of their offices or shops. You wouldn’t think a machinist could get business from a virtual tour yet Gilman Precision of Grafton, Wisconsin, told Modern Machine Shop Magazine that its inside Street View impressed out of town prospects who would not have traveled for a plant visit.
What does it cost?
First, understand that:
- You’re not dealing with Google directly, you’re hiring an independent photographer or photo agency to shoot and upload the images to Google.
- Google doesn’t charge you anything—these aren’t ads, they’re add-ons to your free listings.
Google also doesn’t set photo-shoot prices but it does bless photographers as Certified Street View Pros. The Pros list is your starting point for bids (in fact, Google accepts inside Street Views from non-certified photographers, and checks all uploads for quality).
Prices vary, some based on number of camera tripod set-ups, some on square footage of the business; some are one-time fees and you own the photos, some are yearly license fees (Google says the license belongs to the photographer by default unless transferred to the client so check contracts on that point). Some photographers will package the panorama with a series of still photos that you can also add to your Google profile.
Bottom line, you’ll probably pay several hundred bucks. For example, Michigan 360 Tours charges $295 for one to five camera setups at a small location such as a boutique, $899 for 15-25 setups at a medium location such as a fitness center, and $1499 for up to 40 setups at a large facility such an apartment complex. Clients pay a one-time fee for the company to shoot and upload to Google, and clients own the photos.
Can I do it myself?
Yes, but don’t. You can download a free app from Google to your mobile phone, take a series of photos and the app will stitch them together and upload them to Google. But, seriously, the point is to present your business in the most attractive way, so hire a pro. Also, according to search consultant Mike Blumenthal who tried the app, Google buries, not features, amateur photo spheres among the information in your listing.
Will a virtual tour raise my ranking on Google?
Always a mystery, but one thing’s for sure: When Google lists the items it wants you to add to your profile on Google My Business “to maximize how often your customers see your business in local search results”, images are in the top five.
Well, there’s something kind of eerie about seeing a place of business with no people present, a requirement for a good, clean panoramic photo shoot. Warm up your image: Also add a video to your Google profile that shows you and your staff at work, talking to customers, and generally adding some life to your four walls.