Back in January, Google revealed that Google Business Photos were being used by 100,000 businesses, a number that has no doubt grown significantly in the first half of 2013. In late May, Google announced the expansion of the program into seven additional countries.
Do you have business photos up in Google's local results? Have Google Business Photos ever helped you decide where to go? Let us know in the comments.
Google Business Photos give businesses a chance to show off their interiors to prospective customers, and further entice them into coming to their physical locations. Just as Google lets you virtually tour the Eiffel Tower or the abandoned Fukushima town of Namie-machi, Google will let you tour the inside of the coffee shop down the street or the florist downtown.
Unlike with its more publicized endeavors, however, Google is not using its various Street View camera equipment to go inside every store around the world. It relies upon groups of local certified photographers which have applied and met Google's requirements to become a Google Trusted Photographer. These photographers then find businesses to photograph to fill up Google with more interior imagery.
We had a conversation with one of Google's trusted photographers, who gave us a better idea of what it's like to go through the process. Sue Ann Tomlinson runs SuePH Photography. She applied to be part of Google's program back in November of 2011, and was called upon by the company the following April, when it invited her to join the program.
Given how an online presence can make or break even a brick and mortar business these days, you would think businesses would be champing at the bit to have Google certified photos from inside their establishments make their way into the local search results, but that's not always the case, Tomlinson tells us. Some businesses simply don't want to have their interiors photographed for Google.
"It's about 50-50," she says. "Some businesses see value, and others don't. We are creating a buzz about Google Business Photos and the value of these services. When the right business is approached they do not hesitate and jump on the opportunity. In the last month I have seen more and more of this."
I would guess interest will continue to grow, especially as businesses see their competitors' Google listings.
On average (though it varies by square footage), Tomlinson says she shoots about 144 shots for a business.
"I submit the imagery [to Google] for the virtual tour," she explains. "Everything I submit gets posted to the clients' Google+ Local page. The client has the option to remove or add photographs of their own to the Google+ Local page."
With only about half of businesses wanting their photos on Google, it only make sense that Tomlinson doesn't just wait for businesses to come to her, though each Google Trusted Photographer is listed on the Google Business Photos site, where if a business is seeking this service, they can simply go and find a trusted photographer in their area.
She says she hasn't received many calls for work this way. Instead, she does more reaching out to businesses herself, and does so daily with referrals, calls, or visits to businesses based on market research.
"I mainly target businesses with a heavy social media presence and new businesses just starting out," Tomlinson tells us. "I also have built SuePH Photography on the power of referrals."
Google does not give any kind of assignments to its trusted photographers.
"Each photographer is an independent business and/or trusted agency, and I work directly with each business I contact," Tomlinson says. "As a qualified Business Photos Trusted Photographer I am able to run my own independent business - with free support from Google."
When asked how much professional time is being spent photographing businesses for Google, Tomlinson says, "That depends on how many shoots I schedule for the week. I can spend 4-10 hours a week just photographing. I plan to expand my business to include architectural and real estate services as my business grows."
In the state of Nevada, there are only seven Google Trusted Photographers operating, and in northern Nevada, it's only three. There are over a hundred and twenty-five in the region of Nevada/California/Oregon.
Interestingly, the photographers are not so much in competition with one another as they are collaborators.
"I work with the two other GTP in the Reno market (Northern Nevada)," Tomlinson says. "We collaborate on pricing, leads and work together to market the program."
This is apparently a common dynamic. This recent al.com article discusses a trio of Birmingham area photographers working together to put together virtual tours of a least 150 places for Google.
Between the 3 photographers in Reno, Tomlinson says, they are pushing 100+ tours.
We've seen various businesses do some silly things in their business photos. For example, we recently saw a guy in an office posing with a lampshade on his head. Then there was this bizarre corporate costume party.
"Most of my clients want to keep things professional and simply want to have an employee group shot," Tomlinson tells us. "However, the most unusual virtual tours I have seen from other GTPs were for various ad agencies and marketing companies worldwide as you may have seen. Why not have fun with these tours and stand out even more?"
Probably good advice. You want to be less boring than your competitors right?
What are some interesting things you've seen businesses do in Google Business Photos? Has a photo you've seen on Google ever deterred you from going somewhere? Let us know in the comments.