You're almost definitely familiar with the concept of Google Maps.
The system was first released in 2005. Eight years later, Google revealed that it had mapped 28 million miles of road in 194 countries.
Street View followed in 2007, meaning that local businesses could also be found with ease. Now, Google Street View has been expanded to include 360 virtual tours. You can set these up to help customers ‘visit' your store without ever setting foot inside.
This is a brilliant opportunity for quick-thinking small and medium businesses to get ahead of the competition. Of course, you should do so with the help of a Google trusted photographer.
How Can This Benefit My Business?
Google reports that 44% of consumers use mapping products. Additionally, 41% of searches for specific places result in an on-site visit — sometimes even that same day.
Listings with photos and a virtual tour are twice as likely to generate interest than those without.
By giving your customers a tour before they come to see you in person, you can help to highlight what's special about your store. You can show them why they should choose to come to your store rather than visit a competitor in the area. Overall, it is great for your marketing strategy.
But how do you find a 360-degree photographer to help you do this?
Finding a Google Trusted Photographer is Easy
Google likes to make things as easy as possible for businesses who want to use its services.
So, it has set up a system for them to use to find a 360-degree photographer directly.
All you need to do is to fill in its online form. Then, all the names and contact details (even cell phone numbers) will pop up for you. Many of the names will also be linked to an external site. That way, you can see that photographer's other 360-degree photo work.
It couldn't really be more immediate. Still, who out of all these results should you pick?
Google's Rating System for Photographers
When photographers sign up to produce 360-degree photos for Google Street View, they can qualify for what's known as a ‘Google Street View Trusted' badge.
Everybody who holds one of these badges is a Google trusted photographer. These are the people Google has specifically approved to participate in and produce its virtual tours.
They've published fifty approved 360-degree photos to earn the badge. This may not sound like a lot, but Google's requirement for approved photographs are actually very strict.
They require people to take high-quality photographs (using good equipment.) They also require it to have no gaps, blank spots, or computer generated ‘fills' in their work. Photographs must be sharp and well-thought out with adequate detail. They need to maintain a Google-approved resolution and aspect ratio throughout.
So, work must be undertaken to a very high standard prior to approval and the badge being awarded.
It's only once a photographer is approved by Google that they may upload 360 virtual tours. Don't listen if they try to tell you otherwise. Only trust badge holders to do your 360-degree photography.
Even after approval, all photographers must follow Google's Sales and Branding Guidelines. This is to ensure best practice and the best potential outcomes for their clients.
Check Out Their Portfolios and Prices
No talented photographer simply takes a photo and forgets about it. They want their material to be seen.
When searching for a Google trusted photographer, search for them and have a look at their portfolio of work.
You're looking for people who care about their work. That means no blurry stitching together of photographs, plenty of variety, and lots of clients.
You should also use Google Street View to go and check out their work as it stands on Google. See if they've done work for businesses similar to yours. Then, decide whether you think their photography would be a good fit for you, too.
It's also a good idea to get in touch with their previous clients to see what working with them was like.
The photographer may also have business reviews listed on Google's review pages or elsewhere. Check these out to weed out any problematic photographers from your shortlist.
Finally, check their quote against a few others. 360-degree photography is fairly new. It's also a very competitive area, as hundreds of photographers seeking to make their mark.
Making Contact With a Photographer
A Google trusted photographer who you can truly trust will get back to you in a timely fashion.
If they flake out on replying to emails, who's to say they won't flake out on your shoot?
Even if they have a trusted badge on their website, you do need to be careful. You should also verify the fact they are a badge holder using Google's search functions.
You don't want to waste your money on a poor-quality shoot which will never get uploaded to Street View.
Before the shoot, make sure you fully understand and agree to its conditions. You need to understand who will own the photographs before and after they've been uploaded, and who has the rights to use them.
Just because they're shots of your business, that, unfortunately, doesn't mean that they automatically belong to you.
Once the shoot is over, it'll take a few days for the tour to be uploaded to Google. You might want to ask your photographer to send the photos to you for approval first.
This way, you'll know that you're entirely happy with how your business is being represented online. You might want to ask them to come back to pick up on something that got missed the first time around.
You know your own business better than the photographer. They might have made a mistake and inadvertently passed over something important.
In Montreal? Try Us!
Montreal 360 Virtual Tour is a Google street view trusted business, undertaking 360-degree shoots in the city of Montreal and the surrounding area.
Our sessions take just two hours, so our services won't disrupt your schedule.
Book an appointment now, and we can talk through what you'd like us to shoot, when, and where.