Google Business Profile (previously Google My Business or GMB) is a portal to display your local search listing information to give you as much search engine visibility as possible.

MN Orchestra Open Rehearsal

Behind the Scenes – Virtual Tours for Theatres

I’m happy to announce virtual tours for theatres and event centers in 2022! It’s great for performance attendees to get to know the theatre safely from their own device, earn trust and be compelled, and buy a ticket to a show.

Behind the virtual tours, being knowledgeable and experienced in theatre and performance center layouts started with me at the age of 3 in Rochester. With my Dad in the male chorus, my Mom performing on the organ, and 2 older sisters who played the piano, it was inevitable for me. So I begged my parents for piano lessons… at 3.

Honors Concert at Northrop circa 197X

A favorite childhood memory was doing well enough in the MTNA piano competitions to where we were rewarded by playing group piano concerts at the UofMN Northrop Auditorium. If any of us 3 siblings made it, our parents took us up from Rochester to “the cities” to stay at a hotel… with a pool!

I guess I was the tiny kid.

This is eventually what familiarized and compelled myself to notice the different looks of theatres, auditoriums, and performance event centers. The vibe, acoustics, acceptance for dorks, and the sheer music made me want to learn more. I eventually became a Music major in college and played a senior recital in our college auditorium, and that was close to it for my performing career.

Linda (cellist), myself (hair!) circa 199X after the Senior Recital at CWU

This experience and knowledge makes for great theatre virtual tours. Being in the audience for so many events, plus performing enough to know the backstage and secret areas make this niche a perfect fit. Plus, after doing virtual tours and digital marketing in other industries, this just makes perfect sense.

There are plenty of people out there who have experiences similar to mine. When it comes to music and the arts, we’re naturally more passionate and want to know more about you, the theatre venue we’re thinking of visiting.

In your virtual tour, showcasing driving directions, where to hang my coat, showing where the restrooms are, and of course viewing the different seating options to choose are completely compelling. These are the benefits I like to provide others who are thinking of visiting your theatre.

That’s my story. What’s yours whether it’s for music, arts, or theatres in general? Sound off on Twitter!

Yellow Flowers

6 Tips on How to Stage and be Ready for your 360 Virtual Tour

You’re ready for your virtual tour. You’ve hired a company, or are thinking of hiring one. Whichever the case, here are some good pro-tips from experience to help you stage your tour and be ready beforehand.

Staging works great for both Google and custom tours, and it can really help stand out for the latter when you combine color schemes, table of content, and hotspots (info spots) to the virtual tour.

The Google tours are what people are first used to seeing as your Google tour will automatically be placed in their Maps results. These results are visited often, and may even provide indirect SEO benefits.


Here are some useful tips

In general, it’s great to have a bright interior space. If not, we have editing tools to improve all photos taken. Ensure that all your lights are working properly to have consistent light throughout the tour.

Stage your place

Stage your place just like you would want to showcase to a customer as they walk in your door. It’s these virtual, visual impressions that can bring people from their device and ready to walk in your door.

Display your safety protocols

Not just staging, but displaying your safety protocols helps make it safe, compelling, and ready for people to come visit you. Especially since 2020, customers are more conscious of distancing and sanitizing.

Safety Protocols at Check In

Safety protocols at check-in

Watch for the weather

It’s hard to measure the weather. When possible, days that are at least partly sunny are superior. Some of the 360 photos are exterior and having some blue in the sky help make the tour more compelling for the user.

Mayo Civic Center

Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, MN

Showcase specific photos

If you have machines, products, scenes, or anything you want to call out, let us know. You can have specific photos of these for your custom tour.

X-Ray Machine

X-Ray Machine

Think about Stills and Tiny (little) Planet photos

Think about opportunities for stills and Tiny Planet photos. These can be a great, creative way for your use on social media and other content. Be the center of your planet!

Twitter Post on Tiny Planets and Stills

Here’s just another example of what can be done. This is a plain scene, although you can have features such as your staff be the center of the planet!

Armory - Minneapolis

Armory – Minneapolis

Consider HIPAA and other precautions

From either HIPAA laws or personal choices, your location may need to be empty. For this reason, LocalMN is available for your tours on weekends.


LocalMN provides both custom and Google tours for you for 2 reasons:

The custom tours are superior. There are tables of contents, branding, your color schemes, and the control and assurance that all the arrows point to the right direction. This is what we recommend you embed on your website with a short and easy code that we provide for you.

Also, the tool we use to create these virtual tours allow us to publish both the Google and custom tours in not a lot of extra time. We pass this saving to you and you get the best of both worlds!

We have a lot of experience in Google My Business (now Google Business Profile). Have your virtual tour created by us and hit us up with any questions.

Safety Protocols at Check In

Virtual Tours in a COVID 2022

Virtual Tours in a COVID 2022

Safely Stand Out with Your 360 Photos

To comply with the different 2022 COVID orders, more businesses and organizations have been hosting virtual tours. Whether it’s a Google or custom tour, it’s to share your place with customers to tour with these 360 photo spheres, and from the safety of their device.

Do you have a recent virtual tour? If so, do you showcase safety features that you have for your customers, patients, or students? It’s pretty accepted that we’re in a new world with more safety precautions whether it winds up being continued distancing and sanitizing, or more. Here are some 2022 tips for your virtual tours, both in general and more specific to safety.

Safely staging your front door and main area is the starting point

This is often your virtual tour starting point. Just like a residential home, this clean area is what gives a first impression to the customer. Even if it’s just dusting and light cleaning, these virtual tours and 360 photos should be as close to an in-person tour as possible and the first impression of your business front door is so valuable.

Above is the entrance to an upper-end quartz countertop gallery. Below, this flower bouquet was staged up front just for the virtual tour. This small effort alone helps make the gallery more welcoming once viewers enter the front door.

Showcase your call-to-action features

More so with the custom virtual tours, but you can showcase your calls-to-action in Google tours, too. Google is just way more limited.

For both, it’s generally a good idea to have each photo sphere, or scene, point in the same or similar direction (the above examples are South). This is done to help ensure ease-of-use for the many customers who just navigate by the arrows, while still having the opportunity to swipe to different directions. 

In this case, a dental office has a newer, modern 3d x-ray machine that they wanted to call out so we turned the machine slightly and added an infospot (hotspot) to explain the machine.

They take COVID seriously and we decided to showcase a couple safety protocols for their patients including a plexiglass panel up front along with hand sanitizers to build trust.

Showcase your exterior 360 photos

This is incredibly important and serves two major purposes:

  1. To show your building and features to let users become familiar with the look
  2. To show roads, street signs, address, and any landmark to not only let users know exactly where you are, but for them to automatically know how they will get there.

We have a lot of experience in both of these and know how to make it tick. People want convenience and easy answers and this is a great way to provide both.

This customer wanted to showcase the building address and parking lot from the neighboring road.

Many of their patients also enter the area from the back end so we focused this 360 photo on the street sign.

Highlight pristine outdoor views

If you’re in an attractive area, let’s do everything we can to showcase it like a dental clinic virtual tour I did. It can provide both implied prestige to the customer and even convince them to safely enjoy the area during their visit literally right outside by walking the promenade at Edina’s Centennial Lake. Side note, if you ice skate, this lake is a big, local skating destination in the winter.

As well, the same clinic offers a free or discounted coffee for their customers at Ambrosia Coffee on the main floor. We decided to use a couple 360 photos that show open space to compel users. Customers can even safely enjoy their coffee while walking around the lake area.

And the exterior with a couple tables safely apart.

Stills and Tiny Planet photos

It’s important to have these, at the least just to have on hand. You can add stills to your Google Business Profile at any time which helps keep it updated with very little time. I use Google Photos and everything is very user-friendly and organized, for me anyway. There are plenty of other options as well.

I do love Tiny Planet photos just for the wow and cool factor. It’s not necessarily going to make a direct impact on sales or new customers, but they indirectly could, especially depending on your industry. These often bring personality to your group and can give users a trusting feel for you, especially if you use people or even staff in these photos. 

This photo below turned out effective, and these all can easily be included with virtual tours. They’re actually great for Google Posts and Instagram and should only grow in popularity in 2022.

By taking just a little time before your virtual tour, you can have your place staged to your liking. Having a 2022 safety strategy for virtual tours still during COVID for your custom or Google tour is even better! It can be just these little things that can turn a casual browser to a customer at your location.

Feel free to comment on Twitter!

Google Knowledge Update – Bands are Brands to Them so Let Them Brand Your Band

Google Knowledge Update

Brand Your Band

If you’re a musician and/or in a band, you probably already use social media to engage with and attract fans. This post isn’t about how to do that. Rather, it’s for what Google now shows (including social media) in their knowledge graphs and panels when users search for your branded name. I’m calling it Google’s Knowledge Update, and you can even share it! More on that below.

Excited so far? Good! Here’s more.

First, Google yourself or band and see if the results look updated or more organized. Bands are brands to Google. Let them brand you! The bigger your band is to them, the bigger your brand is to them. As of this writing, this change may still be rolling out.

Since we’re talking about Google knowledge graphs and panels, I should show you what they are. Google knowledge panels are elements of Google knowledge graphs that appear in search results which are more organized in their Knowledge Update. Or, a visual and proof I’ll never be a graphic designer:

Lizzo

Google Knowledge Graph for Lizzo

Searching Google for any company name, not to mention musicians, actors, or athletes have always just been what so many of us do. Maybe it’s a lazy thing to not type in “.com”. I don’t know. With Google’s new knowledge update, these branded search results may now be more visual and organized for you to click on exactly what you’re looking for. In a way it can be like a perfect free home page that you can claim.

This new update integrates new design and data elements for celebrities, musicians, universities, actors, and other authority-type figures. I first noticed this from a recent LocalU article.

The tabs in the top nav knowledge panel is brand new. I checked my alma mater and their panel even blends in with the CWU school colors!

Design elements

The image above just shows my alma mater, but the look and the categories change depending on your search. Where universities have tabs like Cost, Programs, and Notable alumni, bands and musicians may have tabs like songs, albums, listening options, and sometimes even tabs for interviews, and different movies and musical groups members are (or have been) in. 

In addition, Google’s visual is more prominent in their design element. Here’s some more under The Hold Steady info.

This would be done with Google’s AI, but they’re able to identify and time what they consider important areas of the video itself. I was surprised by this!

For local bands and musicians, I consider Google as The Helper. Not all bands even have websites and that’s fine! If you have info out there, Google will pick it up. It’s just knowing the different sources that Google pulls their data.

Data elements

Most of the info you see with the exception of organic search results come from licensed data from 3rd parties, publicly available information, and your own content that Google has indexed. Google’s AI does their best to provide all this in the best way for the user in one simple branded search.

A few general data sources can be Wikipedia, Bandcamp, Spotify (yep, Spotify) and your official band website. There are more. These are just the ones I initially see.

Bandcamp

Most local bands and musicians have Bandcamp sites for obvious reasons. Get your music out there! Whether it’s displayed in the results or not, Google picks up this info. Here’s info displayed for local artists portal iii which is currently a knowledge panel displayed on their knowledge graph.

Spotify

Yep, Spotify. Both Bandcamp and Spotify are large enough that Google considers them valuable data sources to use and display for their users. Here’s the Google knowledge graph for Elle PF.

They take this info from their Spotify artist bio. It almost looks hand-picked right from the middle of it.

Protip: Unless there’s a specific reason not to, it’s a good idea to keep your artist bios consistent across the different music platforms you use. Google likes consistency, and sometimes it’s just best to do what Google likes.

How do I get our info up in these ways?

The good news is you already may be doing most of this.

First, claim Your Profile. You can scroll down on any device and often see the option to do so. You should definitely do this, if at least to help stop others from putting in erroneous info.

After a couple clicks, you’ll arrive here where you can verify your claim with your free Google account. If you don’t have one, you can easily just get a free gmail address.

In the search engine marketing world, it’s common that if you produce great content, links and overall interest will have a natural way for both people and Google to love you. If your content sucks, not so much. 

The same principle can apply to musicians. Great music can provide you some very beneficial Google love. If it’s not great, again, not so much. With that said, music is SO SUBJECTIVE! How does Google know what’s great and what’s Trapt?

Disclaimer: I have written plenty of sucky music before so I’d probably fall into the latter.

Social media

Engaging in different social media channels to attract fans is nothing new. I’m sure you’re already doing this! Google just happens to now be a little better at picking these up to display your channels. The more active and engaging you are, the more visible and up-to-date you’re displayed as shown in this partial Google result for Careful Gaze.

You can see that Twitter updates aren’t just for fellow Twitter users. They can also be for Google searchers who are searching your name. They keep it current, too!

Note, it’s not new for up-to-date Twitter posts to be in Google results. It just really integrates well now with their new updates.

Of course, keep on using social media to engage with fans and followers. Google keeps your displayed content pretty current, especially for users who just google your name. Plus, many your social profiles tend to be towards the top of search results so you get even more branded exposure. All this displays a larger number of choices that fits users particular interests.

Share your Google Knowledge page!

I mean, it’s not a bad idea. These pages are mostly seen by users who search for your name. Why not give them the choice of what site, music platform, or social media channel that they’re interested in? Here’s a sharing visual option for Durry.

You can share this link wherever you put content. In fact, in this post I actually linked to all mentioned artists’ knowledge panels when mentioning their names! 

You can also edit your panel by clicking “send feedback” from the same 3-dot vertical link. Note, anyone with a Google account can do this so it makes sense for you to be proactive and ensure correct info is displayed.

Since Google uses all of these 3rd party sources for their results, you know that they have your data and I just hope you’re cool with it. Even embrace it and let Google Brand your band or self!

Share your comments on Twitter!

Google Local Services Ads for 2021

I first wrote about Local Service Ads upon its inception in 2017. It’s a great concept. Don’t pay for ranking, or even conversions. Just pay for actual local leads. Now we’re looking at 2021 and they’ve slowly and continuously expanded.

First, Google shows how you can learn how to start your own campaign by seeing how Local Services work.

Many industries are available for this, and here’s a few current carpet cleaning industry Twin Cities Local Services Ad search results for Google Guaranteed:

Carpet Cleaning

Google Guaranteed does give you that green check for visual trust, and they may also back you with a money-back guarantee. Plus, these stick towards the top of search results.

More industries are now qualified in Minnesota for 2021, including lawyers and specialties within, and many others including the carpet cleaning example above. One thing stays the same:

Google’s signup process is unique for each business category. This means that a turnkey solution to just leave it for companies to fulfill for you may not be the best for you. It does take your effort.

From Acquisio

You must pass rigorous checks to be able to use Local Service Ads for your business. 

These include passing a criminal background check, having valid liability insurance and proving you have the correct licenses to be able to carry out work in the first place.

For local businesses, this gives you the ability to measure your ad cost. You can choose how much or not your lead is worth to you.

Scroll and see the embedded Google Spreadsheet to see the categories currently available in Minnesota:

Google Local Services ads can also give you more real estate in search results in addition to your organic listings and standard Google Ads.

Here’s where you can sign up to be Google Guaranteed for your respective services.


Localmn Interactive provides Local Services Ads consulting for our virtual tours customers.

Virtual Tour Photo

Virtual Tours During COVID

Virtual tours for businesses have been very compelling well before the COVID pandemic came. They simply let users tour your location to get a good feel and then hopefully visit you.

Some of you are open, some of you are not. COVID still brings a challenge. Potential customers can’t just show up in person beforehand, but you can keep your visual process moving forward. 

hallway

Benefits of Local Business Virtual Tours

Visually showcase your social distancing guidelines
You may have plexiglass at your arrival to separate you from customers or social distancing floor stickers. Showcase these in your virtual tours to help ensure safety for your visitors.

Reach more potential customers with less
By letting people remotely tour your location, you can reach more while keeping face-to-face contact low to help limit the spread.

Increase conversions
At the end of the tour, you can direct users to book a reservation or appointment. It can be as easy as placing a simple form on your respective web page.

Virtual Tour Options

  • Google Street View and virtual tours – show in your Google My Business (maps) profile and it’s highly searchable
  • Custom virtual tours – like the Google Street View tours, and with customized features and branding for your business to embed on your site, social media, and other relevant places
  • Matterport – very popular and a definite leader in the real estate industry

One myth: “Having Google Virtual Tours helps your SEO rankings”. Beware of this claim. This can arguably be indirectly true since the more complete your Google My Business profile is, the better your local SEO rankings are in general. A Google virtual tour will help. With that said, virtual tours do not have a direct impact on your SEO rankings.

We hope this all helps you understand virtual tours and the impact it can make.


LocalMN specializes in virtual tours. See our Google and custom virtual tour page for more information.

LocalMN Interactive

Google Trusted Verifier Program is now called Business Provider

Per this blog post by Mike Blumenthal, Google’s Trusted Verifier program is now replaced by their Business Provider program.

What this means for LocalMN Interactive is that we’re no longer eligible to offer these services. We’re an agency. From their Business Provider FAQ page:

The proposed partner must not have access to the business listings they are verifying.

Agencies, SEOs, and resellers are not eligible for this program.

I’m not too surprised with this, given the apparent ease to be accepted. A good couple years ago, to apply I believe you needed to be invited to by a friend to take a somewhat-detailed 10-question test. In some forum, the link got leaked, I jumped on it, answered all 10 questions correctly, and bam! I was a Google Trusted Verifier.

No serious leads ever came from it, and it really seemed to be a program ripe for manipulation.

As of now, I proactively updated that marketing page and took out internal links to it. Eventually, I’ll 301 redirect the page to the closet appropriate one. I’m taking out the Trusted Verified icon for future images to it and replaced it with a Theta camera icon shown here and just partially at the top icon on this post.

Icons with Theta

Google Icons with Theta

If you have any questions, certainly let me know.

LocalMN Interactive provides local search marketing services with a specialization in Google 360 Photography.