bhartzer

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I haven't seen a lot of people talk about Google Street View, the Google Street View app, and, more importantly the Google Street View Trusted Photographer program. I recently got my Google Street View Trusted Photographer status, and thought I'd share some information about it.

I downloaded the Google Street View app (I have an iPhone, haven't tried it on Android). It took me about 3-4 weeks taking 360 view photos of local businesses to eventually get my Google Street View Trusted Photographer status.

There are a few features that are interesting--one being the fact that Google tells you which businesses in your area need a 360 view photo of their business, and how many views Google expects the photo to get. I find it useful (in more than a few ways) to know how popular (or how unpopular) a local business is. For example, many local businesses in my area get anywhere from 10-30 photo views a day. But, there are a few that get over 500 views a day. I can verify that, as I've taken photos of those popular businesses and am seeing that many views. It seems to be random, though. One popular restaurant chain might get 10 views a day but another popular chain restaurant across the street might get 500 views a day. I haven't looked into this in depth, but it could be the way Google is displaying their local listing in the search results, where my photo is shown to everyone searching for that restaurant chain--not just the location in my city.

In the Street View app, you don't have to have a 360 camera to take 360 view photos. You just need to stand in one place and the app walks you through, using an orange dot on your camera, and tells you which photos to take. I initially did this for my first few photos and they did come out okay. But, it just takes a lot more time if you're doing it manually. Now, with a 360 view camera on my tripod, I can connect the camera to the app, step out of the car, put the tripod on the roof, point it at the location, sit down in the car (so I'm not in the photo) and take the photo. I then retrieve the tripod, upload the photo in the app, and I'm gone. Takes about 2 minutes per location.

When it comes to making virtual tours, those are pretty easy, as well, in the Google Street View app. Take the photos and upload them--then you can connect each photo, move its location and initial view in the app, and Google makes a walking tour.

It officially takes 50 Google Street View approved photos before you can apply to be a Google Street View Trusted Photographer. In the Google Street View app, you need to upload at least 50 photos (for me it took about 60 photos), it depends on how good you are at taking photos. It took me about 10 or so photos to get the camera settings right (how I wanted them) with the new camera I bought. Once you have 50 maps approved photos, though, you will see the Google Street View Trusted Photographer option enabled and you can turn on the "for hire" setting in the app. You'll then get an email to join, you'll need to sign up, and it takes some time before they manually approve you and get you the other info, such as logo files you can put on your website. You're also listed in their Google Street View Trusted Photographer directory, and they send you leads.

Feel free to ask me any questions, as I just went through the process, and am out there actively taking new 360 photos for Google Street View every day. Actually, whenever I leave the house now, I have my 360 camera with me.

Google Street View Trusted Photographer status is a great complement to being a Local Guide, as it gives you points for every photo you take, and you get to know your local businesses a lot better.

Here's a link to my contributor photos, it also has the 360 photo spheres that I've been taking: https://www.google.com/maps/contrib/100234866328923609404/photos/
 

bhartzer

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I didn't realize that so many people didn't know it existed--until I started talking to various SEO friends here in the Dallas area.

If you use the Google Street View app you can upload 360 photo spheres of local businesses, even of your own. They can also be transferred over to someone else. So, for example, if you take the photo sphere, then you can transfer it to the local business owner. And, they can also have an interior walk-thru of their business, as well.

I haven't looked into whether or not having 360 photos of your business (versus another local business not having them) is a local search ranking factor, but it probably should be.
 

djbaxter

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I haven't looked into whether or not having 360 photos of your business (versus another local business not having them) is a local search ranking factor, but it probably should be.

Why do you say that?

I'm not sure that whether or not a small business has a 360 degree photo on Google should give that business higher ranking in either organic or local search. I think many small business owners would find that burdensome, and most people searching for products or services won't find that a do or die feature of any website or store, other than real estate listings.
 

bhartzer

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Why do you say that?
Having updated photos, whether or not it's a photo sphere or not, should be a ranking factor--having fresh photos. Users don't want to see photos that were taken 5 years ago. I'd rather see a fresh photo taken within the last 6 months.
 

bhartzer

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A fresh photo sphere (360 photo) outside the location will show the current environment around that building--making it easier for people to find the business location.

I use Street View to see where I'm going before I visit, especially if I'm going to a business for the first time. I want to know where to park, if there's a parking garage, what the street looks like, etc. etc.

Why does Google Street View update their photos every few years?
 

bhartzer

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A fresh photo sphere (360 photo) outside the location will show the current environment around that building--making it easier for people to find the business location.

I use Street View to see where I'm going before I visit, especially if I'm going to a business for the first time. I want to know where to park, if there's a parking garage, what the street looks like, etc. etc.

Why does Google Street View update their photos every few years?
 

djbaxter

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Why does Google Street View update their photos every few years?

Because cities and towns are in almost continuous development and the buildings and street names etc. around any given business change.

But that doesn't mean than a business should update their own photos if nothing about their own building has changed.

Moreover, I would still argue that's not a reason to rank a business higher.

I occasionally check street view but honestly that's maybe twice a year if I'm confused about the area. More often than not, I just use Google Maps regular view and perhaps a GPS app.
 

Linda Buquet

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Having updated photos, whether or not it's a photo sphere or not, should be a ranking factor--having fresh photos. Users don't want to see photos that were taken 5 years ago. I'd rather see a fresh photo taken within the last 6 months.

Many small businesses have been in the same building at the same location for years, sometimes decades. How would a fresher photo help?

Thanks for weighing in Bill I agree with you.

Knowing (or thinking I know) how the Google Local algo values popularity of the business, I've always believed the 360 photo tours to be a ranking factor. Not major, but a helpful one, for several reasons.

We know Google looks at things like click-through, stickiness and bounce rate as a measure of how good users think a site is and those user factors have some amount of play in the organic ranking.

Local, being about the local community, I think those user engagement metrics are an even more important indicator of business popularity/quality.

Here are some ways I think 360 photo tours could help.

1) Google Trust. A fly by night company, a plumber wking from home, someone set up at a UPS store, they would never want or need, much less pay for 360 photo tours. So while this part may not be a direct ranking factor - I think it helps build trust with Google that the business is not spam or a scam.

2) What better way to EARN local links than by doing a really creative tour that gets people talking and sharing with friends. That also helps build traffic and makes the business look more popular. Now these would be links and stickiness for your Google listing BUT I'm pretty sure G pays attention to listing metrics too.

Then DOUBLE bene: If a business is smart enough to pay for a tour, hopefully they are smart enough to embed it on their site as well. What if they do a cool treasure hunt or something and a local newspaper picks it up. Multiple benes with the links, word of mouth CTR and time spent on site.

3) CRT & Stickiness - I've spent lots of time on store listings cruising around, checking things out. It's so fun. This makes the business stand out AND increases stick rate.

I could go on and on, but I'll refer everyone to our Google Business View subforum which has tons of inspiration as well as opinions about the ranking benefits.

See in particular the 1st sticky post:

DYNAMIC! Google Business View: Get your Creative Juices AND Your Traffic Flowing!

Throughout that thread a bunch of great resources are shared including Phil's awesome post here: 10 Reasons to Get a Google Business View Photo Shoot | LocalVisibilitySystem.com

Tons more at the Google Business View subforum.

What does everyone else think?
We don't seem to talk about 360 photos much here any more.
You guys still using for certain clients? Opinions about how it works for them?
 
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For whatever it's worth, Google's own virtual tour page sites an independent study from 2015 that found that listings with a virtual tour are 'twice as likely to generate interest'. The study looks a little artificial (it was a survey asking about likelihood of taking action, vs a proper study using CTR and conversion in the real-world, and the study itself was only for the restaurant and hotel industries) but still, if virtual tours do have an impact on engagement, then it would also influence rankings now that Google's made engagement itself a factor.
 

BaggySEO

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Super interesting, thanks Bill! Makes me want to get verified myself.

May I ask what your set up is to get those great photos? I might make an investment and would value your advice.

Many thanks,

Jon.
 

Linda Buquet

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Forgot to mention - lots of our members that do Local SEO are also Trusted Photographers.
Think it's a perfect match. Either service can be a door opener for the other.

(Moving this to the Business View forum.)
 

bhartzer

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May I ask what your set up is to get those great photos?
I bought a Ricoh Theta SC, which does photos and video. It's essentially the same as a Ricoh Theta S, but doesn't do live 360 video streaming (if you wanted to do that on Facebook Live, for example).

There's a list of Google-approved devices here:
https://www.google.com/streetview/publish/
 
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