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.
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.
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.
First of all, Happy New Year! I hope you had a fun and safe New Year, and all the best wishes for you in this new decade.
In 2010, 360 photos and virtual tours really didn’t exist. In fact, Google My Business (GMB) listings didn’t launch until June, 2014. The Rochester Post-Bulletin even recognized this in a piece written in August, 2017.
Here are a few known findings from Google:
- When searching for businesses, consumers use mapping products 44% of the time
- Listings with photos and a virtual tour are twice as likely to generate interest
- On average, 41% of these place searches result in an on-site visit
A brief overview of Google 360 Street View Trusted Pro Photographers:
Have you used this as a consumer? If so, you may have gotten great visuals of inside a location, implied directions, or compelling photos enticing you to visit their door. Maybe a show at First Avenue?
You can easily bring your location to life, and this is just one part of Google My Business that can help.
Here’s to you! Happy 2020, and all the best in using Google tools to help benefit your business or organization.
Localmn Interactive offers Google Street View Photography services with plenty of knowledge, experience, and local search strategies.
Google has taken another step to take your local marketing efforts easier and more streamlined this 2019 Summer with their new local marketing kit. This ties in nicely in your Google My Business (GMB) profile.
Create custom posters, social posts, and more from reviews and highlights on your Business Profile on Google. All for free.From the new Google Marketing Kit
In addition, it provides video and promotion options.
This Google-provided video is currently pretty cheesy, yet gives options including easily embedding the YouTube video within your content such as this blog. As of yet, I don’t know if you can customize this.
Another new opportunity is pre-made (social) Google Posts. They also give you the option to share these on social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter, plus a downloading option for you to share wherever in your content you feel relevant.
The current examples they seem to have are a bit generic, but I see them useful for filler Google Posts. My mind may change tomorrow, although I don’t see these as useful for Facebook and Twitter. I’d rather see updates that tell more of a story. But maybe that’s just me. Example:
If you’re a restaurant, hotel, or any other business prone to potential positive reviews, this is certainly worth filler posts.
At an enterprise level with multiple listings, this opportunity is a must with proper management. For stand alone local businesses, I have a couple reservations.
The best (or worst) part of it is that Google owns all the data. Yep, they still own the local search content you provide. For this, they even own the analytics although they show you an overview in your GMB panel. I only imagine that they use all of this to help calculate your overall authority in the results, and indirectly, your rankings in the local 3-pack.
Google does get info for these based on both content you provide in your own free Google My Business (GMB) profile combined with ratings or your organization.
I was a huge fan of the Small Thanks with Google Site that gave you free posters to showcase the positive things customers say about you, but the site’s now down. There’s no redirect and is now just a broken 404 page. The above-mentioned Google local marketing kit seems to be the replacement along with the other opportunities.
Google has a pretty strict policy regarding obtaining user reviews, and a lot of fantastic articles have been written regarding this. In a nutshell, soliciting positive reviews is bad. Reminding people they can leave honest reviews is good. Google is now showcasing the latter with new window decals.
Have you or your company/organization used the Google Local Marketing kit yet? We’d love to hear your experiences!
One thing I look forward to when going to Open Streets events is to look at local businesses and community involvement along the routes. Open Streets Minneapolis – Nicollet is amongst my favorite. On a single lane street that’s usually too dangerous for drivers to view anything other than the road, these local businesses are often overlooked. It’s encouraging to see them all on foot, especially if they have an event presence in front of their storefront.
I’ve been to the St. Paul Selby Revival a few times but not the one in Minneapolis. It’s right on the Open Streets Nicollet route and they engaged with the community by having different bands play throughout the day. I believe that the Minneapolis Revival chicken and waffles are available everyday and not just Sunday, but maybe someone could confirm or deny in the comments. Transit is a good way to get here, too. The 11 and 18 Metro Transit buses take you right here along with the Nicollet and Blaisdell Ave bike lanes that cover the jaunt.
Curran’s Family Restaurant has been a comfort food staple for decades and is right on the route. Like Revival, the 11 Metro Transit bus and Nicollet and Blaisdell bike lanes take you right there. There’s a parking lot as well for drivers. They have what’s known as the tastiest Monte Cristo. They could’ve displayed for free in their own parking lot, but paid for the honor to be on the street in front of their own restaurant. I’m not a fan of this charge.
However, they were selling cookies and beer on the street and were kind enough to let me take a quick photo of them. They even offered to let my phone juice up with one of their chargers, but I digress.
Nicollet Hardware on Nicollet is a welcoming community store and community presence for the Nicollet Open Streets. Also, the most Minnesotan Google review and response you may find this week.
Here’s a visual example of using their space as part of the Open Streets Community.
The patio at Pat’s Tap is welcoming for events like Open Streets, general people watching, of course their food, and the day of the event, Lagunitas specials. Like other Nicollet Ave businesses, it’s really easy to get to by transit, foot, or bike lanes.
I’m always interested in learning how a few things tick, especially when it comes to bringing neighborhoods together in all four seasons. The Samatar Crossing post comes to mind as I’ve now used it a few times for either walking transportation or to see a soccer match at Currie Field.
The Art in Public Places group were kind enough to show me the plan for the Green Crescent project and greenspace between Lake Street and the Midtown Greenway, just off the new-to-be Lake Street Transit Center. Just like the Samatar Crossing, they would be looking for public artists to help make it engaging through the greenspace. Open Streets is one way they’re getting the word out.
Little did I know, most benches in the city are from US Bench. For revenue, they sell advertisements highly visible on the bench itself for transit users. I guess this isn’t new, but didn’t know that one company provided most of these. According to one esteemed councilperson, they the Clear Channel billboards of benches and can possibly be used this winter to help build awareness for the Our Streets Winter Sidewalk Maintenance study and initiative.
There’s always something special about taking a day to dedicate a city street to those to walk, bike, roll, stroll, eat, drink, and play. It’s all about the community, especially those with 4 legs. Often, the popular question, “can I bring my dog (or pet)” to Open Streets?”. Of course you can, they don’t worry about traffic, road diets, or infrastructure, and they’re cute, dangit.
Music bonds people together. It makes sense that multiple musicians are always lined up. Pick your genre and you’ll mostly find it right on a street corner or a makeshift stage. Hot Pink Hangover played a a few acoustical sets on the NW corner of Nicollet and 35th.
Sgt. Danny was cool enough to show me his cajon box drum along with his foot tambourine.
These guys played right by the Driftwood Char Bar on the 44th block of Nicollet. They put on a great show including the accordion player/singer swinging his accordion like a flying-V guitar at times.
Roadrunner Records always has some kind of outside presence. The last time I was here, they were selling vintage albums. This band outside was really catchy. I didn’t catch their name, but if you know please let us know in the comments!
Community Engagement (fun!)
Where else can you close off a main street and play life-sized Jenga on the side?
And there’s bike polo right on Nicollet. Better than car traffic.
Our friends Beth and Tim helping people out at the Streets.mn booth.
Of course, there were plenty of runners enjoying the event’s Run for Beer 5K-ish.
If you’re interested in sponsoring, getting a spot or volunteering for the upcoming Open Streets University of Minnesota + Motley Open Streets, you certainly can. I look forward to attending the event as I’ve never been to one at this location.
More photos were originally taken for this post. If you like, there’s a shared Google Photos album for you to see as you please!
Article originally posted on Streets.mn
LocalMN Interactive provides content marketing marketing and local search services to the Twin Cities area communities.
The game is over, the condo neighbors in Downtown West, Minneapolis went to their respective condos and we wake up tomorrow for a new day. Many of us will be watching the Super Bowl LII in a couple weeks, albeit maybe more for the ads and commercials or Justin Timberlake’s Halftime Show (and Pink singing the National Anthem). We’re going to extend our January discount for a few days until after the Super Bowl on Feb. 4th.
Contact us or keep on reading…
New Websites and redesigns are all custom and responsive to all devices. Our WordPress Front End Developers makes it super easy to add content on your own once the site is live. We also include local up-to-date photography to where you are (we come out for this) for your site, and of course an in-house meeting to scope out your needs before we start.
Google Trusted Street View photography are deeply discounted. We’re going all out and cutting it in half. Was $500. Now $250. We come out in the cold to take up-to-date, current photos, 360 degree photos, Virtual Tours, and give you up to 4 hours of Local Search Consulting. You win!
To get started, just fill in the quick form here and enter “SKOL” in the subject line. Your information will not be shared with any outside sources. Ever. Only Eagles fans would do that.
We’ll change the header now.
We Are Minnesota!
2018 may be the most opportunistic year ever for local search. With Google leading the way and users and vertical markets working aside or within Google, the user experience promises the possibility to be both high in quantity and quality.
I’m putting Voice Search in right away because it involves probably everything below, local or not. This is changing search fast and companies are busy figuring out how to capture the market.
Here’s a real-time example. I would like to see Soul Asylum play tonight at the First Avenue, mostly because a neighbor or mine won an audition an earned a spot to play bass for them tonight. Yes. Really! I don’t want to miss that! A voice search gave me the Google My Business profile. It has the hours correct tonight as it does close publicly at 7:30 in time for the sold-out 8:00 show. When you tap on Directions, you will get an Uber and Lyft option which will be convenient when the temp is supposed to be below 0.
Score “1” for Voice Search. Just one of many ways this changes all types of search, in this case Local just a bit.
Google My Business (GMB)
In 2017, Google was keeping busy pushing to Claim businesses in Google My Business, and then features within like Google Posts, Local Services Ads and Websites.
In 2018 Google will focus more on continuous new features in Google My Business and push both new and current features. Following these alone can keep professionals pretty busy.
Google Posts grows in 2018, but grows slowly. It was released in June, 2017 to be shown in branded searches and quietly used by few. They can be very informative for end-users and cover more valuable search result space for the branded company name. The Posts provide interest to click and learn more about events, newsletters, new offerings or any other thing relevant to the company. However, Search professionals have been weary of this all. Google owns the content provided and doesn’t pass any direct SEO Love to links that pass through.
Local Services Ads
In a simpler word, Ad. Google pushes this hard in 2018. This is how Google makes money. Originally Home Services Ads, they rebranded it to include and imply Local. Companies won’t be looking at it based on their favorite keywords, but by the quality of leads. Local Service Ads do have a prominent, thin listing up top on both desktop and mobile. Google’s currently pushing it hard enough that even companies that don’t have the “Google Guaranteed” badge sometime appear, most likely because not every industry has enough participants yet. Right now, there are a very limited number of industries this is offered to. Look for this to expand, and expand greatly to cover industries like legal, landscaping and other industries to where people compare companies.
Currently, all three of these companies are probably busy right now with the arctic chill Minnesota is having. Plus, maybe Google is banking on being listed next to Google Guaranteed listings will have some automatic trust.
They’re nice, they’re free (unless you get a customized domain – recommended), it’s almost built for you in GMB. They also show maps, custom photos, fill-in-the-blank hours of operation. With that said, don’t look for this go grow in 2018. At least, not in the U.S. This is certainly meant to help Google, and that’s fine. In my view, they can have the data. Google Websites are probably best for businesses who are just looking for a 1-page brochure about their business.
Google will either develop or buy a company who can provide real-time transit in 2018. Both Uber and Lyft obviously have this, and Metro Transit MN just came out with this feature on a mobile app or their website as well. I’ll bring up the arctic chill again. When a bus is late, this feature makes it handy by not having to stand outside quite as long when it’s really cold. The concept fits in perfectly for usability, placing inside the Directions and Bus tab in Google Maps.
Local Guides Grows and Grows
2018 promises to be a big year for Google Local Guides. For Google, they get data. The Local Guides at Connect are passionate and happily contribute photos, reviews and knowledge to Google and GMB. Just look at the 2017 World-Wide Food Crawl Meet-Up. Main incentives for Local Guides aren’t rankings-based. Rather it’s points and levels obtained-based, sometimes meaning perks provided by Google. The other incentives are really satisfaction-based to bring positive awareness to make local communities better. Google knows and appreciates this all, and they even provide a yearly Local Guides Summit.
Ratings and Reviews
Google cleverly builds on reviews in 2018 while Yelp confuses people. While Yelp is telling us to absolutely not solicit reviews but go ahead, Google just goes on and removes paid reviews. And now, it’s also against Google’s guidelines for ex-employees to leave negative reviews. With that said, Google highly encourages honest reviews. Albeit often indirectly, they highly encourage them. Here’s one way they do this and also reach your customers online and in person.
Local Guides now get extra points if their Google reviews are 200 characters or more. Perhaps this increases the level of quality and reduces the number of 5-Star ratings with no reviews below it for the purpose of gaining points only.
Reputation management companies have been around for years to encourage reviews and consulting when negative reviews happen, just to mention a couple services. There are good companies who offer this and have become trusted because of it. Some companies like Get Five Stars go further by developing more of a comprehensive platform. It’s built to acquire customer feedback, encourage online reviews and other features mentioned above. I see services like these all growing in 2018, albeit mostly with companies who already have a head start. It’s a growing and demanding opportunity, but also a comprehensive one.
Local Videos and 360 Photos
DIY or Pay Professionals?
2017 may have been the year of making more videos. 2018 will be the year of making more videos, smarter.
DIY video can certainly be done on the cheap. Have a smartphone, tripod or monopod, lapel mic, iMovie app, and you can make an adequate one… or not. Companies may start with going the DIY route because it is rather inexpensive. Many of them afterwards will go towards independent companies, or agencies who specialize in videos.
2018 will be a really good opportunity for independent videographers. They know everything about video strategy and creation, as well as being search savvy. Some are confident enough to provide you free tips as well. Here’s Erica from Puke Rainbows on 2018 Video Marketing Trends to watch for.
360 Degree and Street View Photography
Street View photography will certainly grow in both supply and demand in 2018. Per Google Street View:
Listings with photos and a virtual tour are twice as likely to generate interest.
To become a Google Trusted photographer for this is a trial and error process. There are a number out there, coming from backgrounds from photography to marketing. Right now 360 photos for businesses are somewhere between the “this is really cool” stage and “this is really useful for our customers” stage.
Only time will tell how accurate my predictions will be. I suppose another post will come at the end of 2018 to see. What do you think? Am I spot on for these or am I out of my tree?
LocalMN Interactive provides Local Marketing services and we are beyond excited and very confident to see what comes in store for 2018. Let’s get together! We look forward to customize a local search strategy customized just for you. Skol!
Whether you’re a Google Local Guide, community advocate, like maps, photography and improve how people navigate around your neighborhood, this is a way to help showcase your area. All you need is a smart phone that takes the Google Maps app.
For me, I’m passionate about Ward 3 in Minneapolis. It contains 10 unique neighborhoods, although we hope to strive them to make friendly enough as one. We do have an election coming up and that factors in for my vote. These photos are from a small early morning walk down the street in the Downtown West neighborhood.
Just by walking around, I was able to find different businesses, parks and local areas of interest. On the skyway and vibrant streets of Downtown West lies Washington Square.
Within Washington Square is Penny’s Downtown, open since the latter half of 2016.
This above maps image is one I did on the smart phone and it took just minutes. Photos, review and all just took minutes out of my day.
But I digress and off to others.
Washington and Marquette lies one of 190 Nice Ride Bikes stationed across the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. As a whole, Nice Ride a local independent 501(c)3 non profit created to operate the bike share system. It has a board of directors and they’re always open to questions or feedback. See their FAQ page.
This bike has a customized sticker by the handle bars. No plans to bike to the St. Paul Farmers Market today but can be done for the adventurous.
This again can be submitted to Google in minutes.
A relatively unknown park is the Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Survivor Park, next to their headquarters on Washington Ave and Nicollet Mall, They do have a local page for their corporate presence, but not for the park itself. The park is really nice for people watching, lunch and just laying out to catch some rays. It even showcases events such as dance and yoga classes and in the photo below, a round of Kubb played during the 2017 Kubb Krawl.
I haven’t created a maps review or photo(s) just because the park itself doesn’t have a local page. Just their corporate office does under Marquette Plaza. In the meantime I could take a few minutes to add a missing place for them.
Nonetheless, the park has a nice view, wouldn’t you say?
Just down the street, Whole Foods have certainly made an impact. Many folks have made reviews for them, and it fits well in the newly constructed condo and luxury apartment community and the higher pedestrian traffic. As Washington Ave construction is nearing completion with wider lanes and sidewalks, a bicycle lane and improved safety as vehicle and pedestrian/bicycle traffic often share the same area with vehicles.
A review I wrote a few years ago.
Another Nice Ride Station, right in the neighborhood at Gateway Park.
Nontheless, it doesn’t take much time at all to do these. Try it for yourself, showcase your neighborhood to the world and even enhance your SEO a bit.
Google Photos can be used best when thinking as a user. You can use it on its own, for Google products such as Maps, or an organizer to distribute your photos to Apple Maps, other local portals or social sites such as Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
And, you can use all of this solely for SEO reasons. Please don’t.
As mentioned in the video, it can take awhile to set up and customized to your liking or needs. An organized Google Photos account can be like a switchboard. Once it’s ready and you need a photo, you can pretty much pick it, then title, describe, tag it and place where you need it.
LocalMN Interactive provides years of local search experience, including Google Trusted Street View Photography. Ask for a quote for a website redesign, marketing and photography services through our contact page, phone or your social media portal of your choice.
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