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.

© 2012 All rights reserved.


Google Business Photos Program Begins in Cleveland

Cleveland, OH, May 1, 2012: If you’re a small business in Northeast Ohio looking for a creative way to attract new customers to your location. Google wants to give you a helping hand by letting them visit your business virtually with its new Business Photos Program.

It sounds a bit out of the box, but through the use of Google’s Maps and Street View technology, a Google Trusted Photographer, can now create a virtual tour for your customers that will basically create a Street View 360-degree interactive virtual experience for people to see around inside your store. In a recent expansion to the Business Photos program, Google chose to open up Northeast Ohio and began the process choosing and training the independent “Google Trusted Photographers”. The program is now up and running and businesses can start to enroll to participate.

To get a glimpse of what it can make your business look like, check out the example businesses on the Google Business Photos site As you see, it’s literally the 360-degree virtual experience you get when you apply Street View to any Google Maps. As an added bonus it also increases your visibility on Google search!

Getting your small business the Street View treatment isn’t really all that hard either. For Northeast Ohio go to and fill out the contact form or call (440) 477-3247 to have a Google Trusted Photographer come to your business and take the necessary photos on behalf of Google. The photographer will then process and upload the photos to Google, who will then render the 360-degree panoramic interior of your business on, Google Maps, and on your Google Plus listing. You can also link and display your tour on your business webpage.

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