Google wants local small businesses to create virtual tours

Published: Thursday, June 21, 2012, 8:00 PM     Updated: Thursday, June 21, 2012, 8:42 PM

 By Marcia Pledger, The Plain Dealer

So far, about 40 Northeast Ohio spas, car dealers, hotels, restaurants, manufacturers [and retailers] have signed up with the Google Business Photos program.  

Google is expanding its Street View mapping technology to get users deep inside local businesses and it is asking photographers to help.

The trusted photographers program, announced in January, so far has spread to more than 40 cities nationwide, including Cleveland. So far, two local photographers have signed on. About 40 local spas, car dealers, hotels, restaurants and retailers are part of the Google Business Photos program.

Participating companies pay local photographers to turn still photos into images that allow visitors to move throughout the business -- similar to what's become common on major hotel sites. Pay for photographers varies by city, but the average for this area is between $300 to $500.

Katie Mamick, administration manager at the Closet Factory in Parma, said she inquired about the service after seeing a Denver franchise promoted online with a virtual tour. The photo shoot took a couple of hours and included still photos and the opportunity to embed the Google virtual tour on the company's corporate website (

"Even if someone doesn't find us on Google they can see a virtual tour on our website," she said. "Instead of just showing pictures, it gives customers a better feel of our showroom and factory."

Gery Petrof, one of two newly certified trusted photographers in the area, said he wanted to be part of the program because it's an opportunity for small businesses to share another part of their story visually. Potential customers often turn to online written reviews or static websites for information, but virtual tours offer another perspective, he said. "The idea of a virtual tour is to invite customers to actually see what your business offers for themselves," Petrof said.

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