For small business owners, Google is an important part of marketing. You want to rank in Google's search results and get found by customers. However, most people don't realize that a good portion of Google's search results are tied to Google Maps, your business location and to a newer product called Google My Business (GMB).
Like most of Google's tools, GMB is free and relatively easy-to-use. It allows you to create a profile about your business that includes photos, website, physical address and more. The best part... you can add 360 degree photos to enhance your Google Search presence.
“But I don't have a 360 Degree Camera"
You have two options for creating a 360 degree image: Buy a specialized camera, such as the Samsung Gear 360, or use the free Google Street View app (Android \ iOS) on a smartphone. The app shows you how position your smartphone camera to create overlapping photos. The app then stitches those overlapping images together into a near-seamless 360 degree image. After image stitching is complete, you can publish directly on Google Maps, link it to an existing listing or create a new one.
If you don't want to create a 360 degree photo yourself, you also can find and hire a local Google “Trusted Photographer" through the Street View site. It is also possible that your customers have already created 360 degree images for you and linked them to your location. There are many citizen photographers adding these photos to Google on a daily basis.
"Can 360 Degree Photos really help engage new customers?"
In 2015, Google commissioned Oxera, an economic research and consultancy, to study how photos or more complete business listings would contribute value to consumers and businesses. You can read about it here, but the most noteworthy stats include:
- Listings with photos and a virtual tour are TWICE as likely to generate interest
- When consumers search for businesses, they use mapping products 44% of the time. The best part: 41% of those searches result in an on-site visit.
When you search for a business on a mobile phone, the first photo image displayed is often a 360 degree image. Google appears to be weighting these immersive images higher – to allow a person to virtually move around your location, inside or outside, depending on what a business has loaded to its profile, or what a visitor has loaded to Google on their own.
Google wants to keep its marketing tools simple and fast for the small business owner. The Google My Business product is one of those tools that allows you to create and manage an online profile that Google recognizes and uses in a variety of ways where you benefit, such as Google Maps. The more data you share, the more time people spend in the Google universe.
Based on their research, Google knows that people like to move around in the image to get a sense for the place, so 360 degree photos provide that interactivity at a low cost (or free if you do the photos yourself with a smartphone). Any opportunity to create more engagement and interaction with your prospects and customers is a good thing in today's crowded online world.
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