If you want potential customers to get a 360-degree, panoramic view of your brick-and-mortar business when they click on any of your listings in Google, its new Business Photos campaign makes its listings for business more interactive. To that end, the search giant is pairing its own certified "Trusted Photographers" with businesses that want to show off their interiors to the public.
While including these photos in your Google Maps listing and Google Places page is extremely helpful for someone wanting to find out more about your business, it will really matter in your search engine results. When someone does a search and your listing comes up first, Google pinpoints the business on a map, offers its existing street view photo, and gives the option to look inside the business if interior pictures exist.
Hiring a Trusted Photographer
To get started, go to this page, select a Trusted Photographer, and hire them. Google certifies photographers but lets them set their own prices. The photographer will get you to fill out a service agreement, which spells out that while you own the images, you are licensing them to Google for its use.
If you want to hire one of Google’s Trusted Photographers, you may be waiting a while. The city selection is a bit thin, as are the current number of photographers. If there is no Trusted Photographer in your city, apply here and Google will notify you when one becomes available. You can apply to have your business photographed anywhere in the world.
Once you hire a Trusted Photographer, you don’t have a final say on how the photos will look on Google’s website. Blur out employees' faces and other items if you have privacy concerns once the pictures are on Google by hitting the “Report a Problem” button under the image in question.
You can embed the photos and panoramas on Facebook, your company website, and your Google+ page by following the instructions here.
A Trusted Photographer's Snapshot of the Program
I spoke to one of the Trusted Photographers on the list, Bryan Tan of Bryan Tan Photography. Google contacted him back in November to be a part of the pilot program, and he's had a lot of interest from businesses. So far, he's photographed a few restaurants that haven't gone on the site yet, a hair salon, and a metaphysical antique shop.
While Trusted Photographers quote each business individually for photo rates, the price is largely based on square footage and how cluttered the space is. The more panoramas a photographer has to shoot, the higher the price. But businesses with a larger square footage shouldn't be afraid, says Bryan.
"An auto body shop with a 7000 square-foot shop contacted me to see what the cost would be, and I priced them the same as a 1000 square-foot restaurant because I only needed to take one panoramic shot of their wide-open shop space."
Bryan also said that the Trusted Photographer program isn't for businesses that like to control every aspect of their brand image, since they have no say over which pictures end up on Google's listings. Instead it's for businesses in industries where physical appearance matters, such as a restaurant or a hair salon.
Google's Business Photos make a great opportunity for exposure, particularly if you have an attractive restaurant or beautifully designed showroom that you want to show off.
To sweeten the deal, Google is offering a $100 incentive for free AdWords promotions to help small business owners offset the cost of hiring one of its approved photographers.
Becoming a Trusted Photographer
If you think you’ve got what it takes to become a Trusted Photographer, sign up here. Google isn’t publicizing the requirements to get its stamp of approval, although it does talk about the technologies and techniques in which a Trusted Photographer is trained. A Trusted Photographer not only needs photographic acumen, but the technical expertise to upload files in the correct format and layout.
Tan confirms that the photographic methods used are similar to maknig real estate panoramas, although using proprietary Google software. Google's tools are free its Trusted Photographers, and there's no charge to be part of the program.
Angela West dreams of opening a Fallout-themed pub featuring wait staff with Pip-Boys. She's written for big insurance companies, small wildlife control businesses, gourmet food chains, and more. Follow her on Twitter at @angelawest and Facebook.