Google’s effort to bring photographers to local businesses to capture interior and exterior images now bearing fruit. The company announced that the images that its contractors have been collecting (all over the world) are now online:
Starting today, the images we’ve taken as part of the pilot can be viewed on the Place pages of participating businesses. Users and potential customers who look online for local businesses can now see more high-quality photos that give them a sense of what a place is really like. The photos may include the storefront, decor, layout, merchandise, food, signage about hours and accepted payment types, and other items that help people learn more about a business and decide if they want to go there.
Here’s an example for an Italian restaurant in San Francisco:
Business owners can also add their own images and video as well and Google continues to encourage them to do so:
In the meantime, you can also upload your own photos and videos of your business by signing in to Google Places. By building out your Place page with visuals and other relevant business information – such as hours of operation, offers and more – you’ll help potential customers learn more about you and feel like they know what to expect when they actually walk through your doors.
Google is not the first to do this. Interior and exterior photography of local businesses has existed for some time on certain local directory sites in Europe. However Google’s push to enrich Places with images, reviews, Street View, video, and so on, is an effort to make Places the favored local consumer resource online and in mobile. A more complete set of data and information will also help them successfully compete for consumer attention with Facebook Places/Pages, for example.
Right now Places Pages remain somewhat buried behind the “more info” link within Maps, although they do surface in SERPs for business name lookups:
Some local directories and sites that have weak brand identities, or only offer “thin” profiles, will ultimately be swept away by Places as Google takes control over the “name in mind” and “bottom of the funnel” lookups that have been the bread and butter of local directory sites for years. No more SEO success for those that “offer little more than the Acxiom” database, to quote Google’s John Hanke.
Google is quietly building a “branded experience” around Places, though consumers don’t know Places exactly (Google Maps is the brand at the moment). Accordingly I suspect we’ll see Places Pages become even more prominent and get more exposure in SERPs, Maps and mobile in the future.