Well, it has certainly been quiet on here lately! Why is that you ask? If you are sitting comfortably, let me begin….
Earlier in the year I was alerted to a new service offered by Google for businesses. It allows almost any business to add a virtual tour of their premises to Google Maps, Google Streetview, Google+ and Google searches to name but a few. To do this, a business would have to ask a ‘certified’ Google Photographer (‘Trusted’ in Google speak) to come to their location and photograph the premises using specialist equipment. The photographer then departs and creates a virtual 360° tour of the site using the panoramic photographs they have taken.
Now, to do this, Google need photographers all over the country (and indeed the world) to take part in the programme. This seems like an easy enough approach to most, but, as usual, there is a catch!
The catches are…you need the right equipment, you need to pass the various quality checks and you need to learn the process from scratch. Not too bad but most pro-photographers would be unlikely to own EXACTLY the right lens and tripod heads and these don’t come cheap. Once you have the equipment and are accepted to start, you then have to pass a fairly rigorous training process within a certain timescale. Once this has been done you have to find some businesses, sell them the concept, get them to sign up and then shoot at least 5 different businesses before you become stage 1 ‘signed-off’!
Now, don’t get me wrong here, I am not averse to learning new things in the name of business and in the name of progress. But it isn’t necessarily easy.
So, why did I go ahead? Let me list the reasons:
- I LOVE the concept. If I owned a business with premises that required footfall, I would do this in an instant.
- The cost to businesses is not restrictive. Google suggest a pricing policy but ultimately it is up to each photographer to charge the ‘right’ price. We start at £300 and rise to £750 for very large premises.
- The price is a one-off charge to the client. It is not an annual fee and there are no strings attached. You pay your money, have the photographs done and a couple of weeks later they are everywhere on Google and the clients website!
- Unusually for a pro-photographer, the client owns the images. All of them. Now this puts many off but I cannot see the reason why I would want to retain copyright of panoramas of local businesses so it doesn’t concern me.
- Clients may put the tour on their own website if they wish at no extra cost.
- This one is a biggie! Clients who have adopted the tours are very likely to improve their Search Engine results (SEO), sometimes significantly, as a direct result of becoming part of the process.
- The tours look amazing
- It showcases a business and its interior in many more places, not just the main website. Think Google Maps, Streetview, Searches, Google+, Google Local etc etc
- Not only does a client get a tour, they also get other photographs of their merchandise, food, interior, decor, features etc etc. All this for the same one off fee!
- It will improve hits to a clients own website
- The tours are mobile device friendly
- The tours really bring a business to life for potential customers. They can browse the business interior from home before they visit!
There are many other benefits but I sort of stopped there. With regard to Squash Imagery and the benefits to us? Well, they are pretty easy to work out. A product that really adds value to local businesses at an affordable price should be fairly simple to sell. The income stream that derives from it can be steady and help support our other work. The marketing opportunity for us to get our name out locally is brilliant, as is the opportunity for further ongoing work with clients.
So, all in all, a great opportunity. There is a worldwide online community of ‘trusted’ photographers with helpful hints and approaches and the tours do look amazing (have I already said that?) Each are keen to showcase their latest work and as time progresses, the idea just seems to get better and better. In fact, I struggle to see why any business wouldn’t want this done.
We have been given the area of Bath in Somerset (beautiful enough in its own right) and Wiltshire together with a couple of other photographers and things are looking good for the immediate future. Getting through the training and quality control has been onerous but now we are up and running, the area is our oyster so to speak. Total classic win-win-win. Clients get great tours, we get to help them, meet great new friends and Google continue to take over the world!
It goes without saying that if you are a business owner and want to know more then please get in touch asap. You won’t regret it.
We are the proud new owners of the above badge to prove we are accredited and trusted by Google to carry out these tours.
To view a few examples from around the world have a gander here: http://exampletours.com