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Case Study | The 3 Reasons Why Virtual Tours Are Important for Local Businesses

Chances are, every single business owner in Montreal has been approached for a Google Street View Virtual tour. Most of you are actually wondering; how the heck can a virtual tour help me grow my in-store traffic. You've probably been confused between choosing from the ”Magical Facebook ads”, the classic SEO scam artist or the Adwords is vital for you business speech.

The truth is, all of those solutions are good for almost any business in the world, you just need to learn how to use them. Chances are that if you use them wrong, or if you deal with the wrong company, any dollar that you're going to put in may end up worse than a dollar invested in a pamphlet or bench ad.

What I'm trying to prove with this case study is that a virtual tour is the basic tool/advertisement product that every local business should start with. It's extremely easy to market, it's a one time cost, there is no chance to mess it up, and it brings 2 types of visibility.

 

  1. It Helps Your Local SEO
  2. It Increases Your Website Traffic

 

By starting with a low investment, like a virtual tour of your business, you'll be able to cover in-store traffic and website traffic, which allows you to expand on some more interesting strategies in the future.

This case study is divided into 3 sections. We really want you to understand the value of a virtual tour, so we have divided the end results into 3 different categories.

 

  • Local SEO impact
  • Customer interaction and User Experience
  • Organic In-store Visibility

 

Every stat that you see in this article has been taken from our own data. In 2017 alone, Montreal 360 has had a total of 412 clients. We compiled all of our client's statistics and ended up with some pretty amazing online view stats. At one point, you'll also see some data provided by Google and Hubspot, regarding the in-store experience and the offline behavior of consumers. We don't have the structure to provide accurate statistics, so we are using a third-party analytics to explain the impact of virtual tours better.

 

Part 1:  The influence of a virtual tour on Local SEO

Local SEO is usually a misunderstood element of the online visibility world for local Businesses. Most owners don't see the importance of investing in a good Local SEO strategy because the results of SEO are not always black and white. It usually takes a minimum of 3 months to see actual results, and most people that don't control their Google My business listing are not even aware that they can track the results of their Local SEO campaign.

Basically, Google My Business (GMB) has its own version of Google Analytics. By having access to this type of data, any business would clearly see the value of local SEO, in-fact they would see how much in-store traffic they generate with their current listing.

 

graph about virtual tour

 

 

By taking this tool and by creating a profile for some of our clients we were able to collect enough data to prove our point. Google Street View virtual tours affect your local SEO.  Here is why:

As you may already know, we wrote in a previous article a complete blog about the main components that impact your Local Visibility on Google.  However, we never mentioned that virtual tours are somehow involved with your local SEO.

Here is why: there is no clear statement from Google or any other big data company that proves the actual SEO value of street view tours.

On the other hand, Hubspot, MOZ, and Google helped us understand that the value that it provides is mostly indirect but still relevant. In fact, here are some stats that help explain what I'm talking about. In 2017, MOZ created a blog post about the top 8 criteria that affect your Local SEO.

From this list, behavioral signals and social signals lead us to realize that there is, in fact, a correlation between the ability to find you easily via local search and the implementation of your tour on Street View.

 

Behavioral Signals

Google determines your local positioning by analyzing many different factors, like behavioral signals. By having this type of data, Google can better understand what characteristics they must focus on to perfectly match the daily search of their users. Click through rate, mobile clicks, and check-ins from GMB are all examples that help the algorithm better understand you, as a human.

Here is how a virtual tour affects your local visibility:

Let's start with the use of mapping products in the daily lives of consumers. 44% of business searches are driven by a mapping application, like Google Maps. Which means that every local business in the world should be concerned about their positioning and their attraction on these platforms.

A good way to drive clicks on your listing would be to add a virtual tour to your GMB page. Since 2017, local searches provide a direct access to the interior of the store. This step allows your visitors to jump right into the store straight from their phone. Once they are in, you'll see your clickthrough rate jump to the roof.

Below, you can see a map search for the keywords: cafe near me. In the bottom left corner, you can see a square with a 360 arrow. For most businesses that don't have a virtual tour clicking on this square will lead them to the street view of their business. However, for businesses that have a virtual tour integrated on their GMB, the square will redirect them to the inside of their business. Allowing new visitors to better decide what store they are going to choose.

 

virtual tour google map

 

 

Virtual tours increase online bookings by an average of 85%.

By having a reservation button on your GMB page, you are already pushing your future customers in the right direction and are helping them do exactly what you want them to do (book a reservation). Google shows that by adding a virtual tour to a GMB, businesses see an average of 85% increase in their online booking.

The hypothesis is that you are helping your visitors better understand your store by showing the global ambiance through your virtual tour.Your visitors are then more likely to book directly from the GMB page since they are already on it.

 

Social Signals

A small part of the local results algorithm considers the social signals of your brand. If you don't have anyone engaging with your content, don't share pictures, don't use different platforms to share your content, or if you're just not active on your different social platforms, Google will struggle to find you, and it will definitely not think you're important for the community. (Remember, it's always about the community)

Fortunately, there are 3 platforms that can combine virtual tours and social posts. Google+ might be the most efficient because when you publish on Google Street View, it automatically connects to yourGoogle+ page of your business. This way, it clears out a step for your audience. Having a virtual tour linked to your Google+ page increases the number of pictures shown to your audience. Thus, increasing your activity on a social platform.

You can also use Youtube to publish 360 videos. What I suggest, if you have a minimum of skills with any video platforms that allow 360-degree images, is to create a short interactive 360 video and post it on the Youtube channel linked to your GMB page. Don't forget to use the geo-localization tag when you post on this platform. In fact, optimizing your video's SEO definitely helps your brand pop up in local and normal organic searches.

Finally, you can use Facebook in 2 different ways.

First: I suggest that you embed your street view tour on to your Facebook page. By doing so, you allow everyone that hasn't gone through Google to analyze your business, to also see the interior of your business. It'll increase your reach and the interaction with visitors.

Second: I also suggest that you ask for an individual 360 image of your virtual tour because Facebook now allows people to post 360-degree pictures. Surprisingly, we've had some crazy results, driving insanely low CPM and high interaction with this type of post. If you're really dedicated, put a link to your GMB on your post so that people can see the full virtual tour via Google, and boost your post in order to reach more people.

 

We tried this strategy with a restaurant in Montreal

The Goal was simply to generate interest in the Facebook post ( they had 385 followers at the time). As the manager of the page, we decided to post a picture of the terrasse while there was a snowstorm outside. The text was reminding everyone that we were eager for summer to come and to start using the terrasse again.

 

virtual tour on facebook

 

On such a small page, we managed to reach naturally 1716 people, when the average post had 36 of reach. 17 people shared the post, 113 people interacted with the post and 206 people clicked on it. And all this engagement was on a 0$ budget. That's how you kill 2 birds with one stone. We generated a ton of reach on Facebook, a lot of interaction between the viewers and the brand, and we helped our local SEO. All that with one virtual tour and 5 minutes of my life.

 

Get a Free Local SEO Analysis

 

Part 2: Virtual Tours increase interaction

You have probably read some other blogs about content marketing and the importance of it. Content is presented in different forms. Video, Photo, Text, Audio, etc. By creating content and by publicising it on different social platforms (GMB included), you sure help your brand. But don't forget that there is a proper way to do this. In fact, posting recycled content and unattractive pieces of content will certainly not help your cause. In the end, it's all about the engagement between your brand and your audience and they are not going to engage with boring content.

As we previously explained, 360 pictures are still something new for most people. Sharing this type of content puts you a step higher than competitors that are not doing it.

One of the best ways to generate engagement is to increase the interactivity of your post. Chatbots are a good example of great engagement because they can personalize the experience of your audience and they can adapt to the behavior of your audience.

In this case, personalization is a bit harder to achieve, but it doesn't change the fact that virtual tours let the client do what they want. By letting your visitor choose what they see, they will be much more inclined to consume the content that you present him.

The best example I have is the 3D virtual tour of Alfa Romeo.

 

 

Alfa Romeo Created a landing page on their website only to publish their virtual tour. They drove 882 views in the span of one month on their landing page and generated a total of 282 clicks on the tour, which means that they reached a 32% click-through rate on the piece of content that they published.

Even better, we helped Alfa-Romeo place information in the virtual tour. If you pay attention, when you enter the tour, we displayed videos, images, information, and links that redirect to the car landing page. This is one way to reduce your bounce rate on a page and to make your traffic jump from one page to another on your website. (Remember, the more time site visitors spend on your website, the better chance you have to close a sale with them.)

By having a 3D virtual tour you can also use your website's visibility to promote your business interior. We compiled the stats of 55 virtual tours integrated on any website. and in a period of 6 months, they compiled a total of 101k impressions.

Lastly, as Google mentions, interaction is everything, even when it comes to in-store visits. With a case study, held in New York, Google analyzed the performance of virtual tours from 147 restaurants. When presented a virtual tour, 50% of online visitors would click through to make a reservation. In the end, participating restaurants experienced an increase in online reservations of 30%. If this ain't a pretty sight, I don't know what is.

 

Get a FREE Virtual Tour

 

Part 3: Virtual tours generate massive organic reach

Of course, I kept the best part for last. The undervalue of virtual tours is crazy to me. I have rarely seen products that have generated this amount of organic views for this amount of effort. Google has shown that the usual ROI of a virtual tour is 4 weeks. This is when calculated with the usual price of 497$. (Don't worry, we're not that expensive)

Here is a little analysis that we have done. 

The study is mainly centered on service businesses. As seen in the full study, 90% of the selected businesses are offering a service, or sell to customers directly. We then looked at the visibility of each business selected and calculated an average of their views to have a monthly statistic for a span of six months. The results showed that we managed to generate an average of 9481 views per month, per business.

In only 9 months, Montreal 360 generated a total of 4.9 million views on street view for the totality of its client. Here is an example of one of our clients that generated over 15, 000 views per month since the virtual tour was created.

 

virtual tour views

 

The average Facebook ads Cost Per Thousand (CPM)

One of the biggest notions to consider when it comes to an advertisement is the optimization of your dollar according to your campaign goal. See, in 2017, Facebook ads had an average of 11$ of CPM. This means that for every 1000 people who see your ad, the average marketer would pay 11$.

Now, we know that 11$ to reach 1000 people is already extremely low, but what if it could be lower?

ONoir Paid the normal price of a virtual tour, by spending 250$ for one virtual tour, this business managed to generate almost 100,000 views. This would be equivalent to 1,000$ worth of Facebook ads.

Okay, so the traffic is not targeted for a specific audience, and the virtual tour doesn't directly lead to a specific landing page to sell a product, but the reach on this simple product is crazy high for the low cost. The best part is that a business can keep this source of visibility for the rest of its duration. That means bringing thousands of views for no additional cost. Now that's some optimization.

If we look at the average views our clients make on Google Street View, a virtual tour would be worth 103$ of Facebook advertisement, every month. No additional work to do, no specific campaign to create. Only one single photoshoot.

 

 What you should take from this case study

Folks, what I want you to learn from this case study is that there are many ways to generate visibility for your business. All you need to do is create a good strategy that is well optimized for your audience and for your price point, depending on your product/service.

The first step for any local business owner should be to learn everything there is to learn about local SEO. What does it do, Why does it help, How to help it, how to DIY?

Once again I want you to see the value of Google My Business (GMB). The image below shows the total amount of searches, in the past four months, for a small shop close to downtown. We created their Google listing in October and already 93% of people are finding their business by typing a keyword related to their commerce. This means that 15,000 people learned about this new brand only by searching for one keyword on their phone.

chart of ways customers search businesses

And here is a graph of our own Google Analytics. We did 1 big burst of Local SEO for Montreal 360 and followed up with the equivalent of our smallest package of SEO for 3 months. On Google, we went from position 14 to position 1, and here is the evolution of traffic on our website. In the past 4 months, we doubled in monthly website visitors.

 

Once you understand how vital local SEO is for your business, you'll understand that adding a virtual tour to your listing will only help you get more people in your store. Plus, even if, in the worst case scenario, your virtual tour gets under 1,000 views per month, and you wish that you could get more visibility out of it, you can still use it in different ways. socials posts, Facebook integration, website integration, Facebook ads, content within the virtual tour, etc. There is so much you can do!

 

 

In other words, there is basically no way that you could ever waste your money on this type of marketing product.

Feel free to book a call with an agent if you need directions for your online visibility.

 

Book a call with Greg

 

 

Comments on Case Study | The 3 Reasons Why Virtual Tours Are Important for Local Businesses

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