Walkies! A Guide to Google My Business Virtual Tours

Walkies! A Guide to Google My Business Virtual Tours

Here’s our ‘barking mad’ virtual tour, and the low-down on how it all came together and what you can do for your own.

Written by

Gary Nissim

Published

14 March 2017

Categories

Team

Virtual tours have been integrated into the Google My Business setup since 2011. It’s a feature that we’ve seen work incredibly well for businesses in the hospitality and travel industries with walk-throughs of restaurants, bars, hotels and even aeroplanes. According to Google, having a virtual tour integrated into your business listing has the potential to double interest in your business, and on top of that, they state that 67% of consumers say they’d like to see more virtual tours.
But surprisingly, it hasn’t been utilised as much by online businesses that rely on interpersonal relations and brand connection with their audiences. Moreover, the ones that have created virtual tours haven’t pushed the envelope on what’s possible. With so many benefits (which we’ll get into later on), it’s surprising how many businesses aren’t optimising their Google My Business listings with a virtual tour.
Earlier this week, we published our dog-themed virtual tour to take you on a ‘walkies’ through the hub of digital marketing genius that is Indago Digital HQ. It’s a bit tongue in cheek, but it’s also on-brand for us – so look below and then read on as I explain the exact process we went through and how you can do the same.

Step inside...

Indago: The digital tour

1. Conceptualise the tour

Before doing anything, we decided that we wanted to do three things with our walk-through:

  • Show the world where we work,
  • Demonstrate how easy it is to create a unique virtual tour and
  • Have some fun.

Depending on your industry or your business’s core function, you may come up with a couple of different ideas of how you would want a virtual tour to look. Our logo is a dog, so it wasn’t exactly a giant leap to go with the canine theme. We’re also an eclectic and rambunctious group of digital marketers, so we thought we’d inject some fun with the scenes. You may be thinking that the scenes aren’t that ‘out there’, but Google has their guidelines, which you need to walk the line with – have a look at the guidelines here.

The virtual tour is essentially going to be an extension of your brand. So think of what you stand for and how you want to communicate your business’ personality to the public and come up with an angle that is congruent with what you do.

2. Make a plan

Now that you’ve got your idea sorted, you need to plan how to achieve it. Where are you going to get the props? When are you going to create the tour? Are you going to do the photography yourself, or will you hire a professional? Are you going to promote the fact that you’ve done the tour with a blog post on how you did it afterwards… These are all crucial questions that need answering. So well in advance of creating the tour, nut out the details on timelines for how everything is going to happen so that when it comes time to get the job done, you’re prepared, and you’ve got a map of how to make the most of it.

3. Source the required material

One of the biggest hurdles for us was getting all the props organised – masks, dog food, leads, costumes, and a book about dancing with cats. That isn’t to say that it was at all difficult sourcing these things, but if you’re going to go to the effort of creating a unique virtual tour, then it’s worth going the extra mile with sourcing extra details.


4. Organise the photographer or work it out yourself

Until recently, individuals couldn’t create their own virtual tours. But with smartphones being so photographically advanced these days, having a relatively new model gives you all the necessary tools to take the photos needed to create your tour – if you’ve got the pluck to try and pull it off. If you’re a bit of a gun with a camera or don’t want to use your smartphone, we’d recommend using a fish-eye lens of 8-10 mm focal length for APS-C sensors and 15-16 mm for 24 x 36 mm sensors. If, like me, this seems like a language from the other end of the universe, then you’ll want to take your pick from Google’s provided list of Trusted Photographers.

If you’re like us and want a high-quality photographer, we’d recommend Alex Hitchcock at Virtual Eyes. He came from Melbourne to deliver an impressively professional and creative photo shoot for us. He then stitched the photos together to create the panoramic tour and uploaded it to Google to ensure everything was just right.

5. Get everyone on-board

A virtual tour is supposed to give outsiders an inside look at your business, not just the inanimate makeup of your office space. So involve people (or dogs) in the tour. We tried to pick a day when everyone would be in the office, and we bought enough dog masks so that all present could get involved in the scenes.


6. Execute

This step shouldn't be too difficult if you’ve hired a decent cameraman. Google’s trusted photographers know the ins and outs of what’s allowed and what isn’t, what will work and what won’t, and most importantly, how to achieve continuity in your walk-through.

If you plan on doing the photography yourself, then make sure you take an excessive number of photos to give yourself a decent selection when it comes time to publish. Look at some examples of virtual tours before you shoot your own, and work out which spots within your business space you want to have as pivot points.

7. Stitch and publish

If you’ve sourced a photographer, this should happen within 10-14 days of the photoshoot taking place. Ensure you ask your photographer to send you a sample of the tour before going live to guarantee you’re happy with the end product before it becomes public.

Google used to provide a free tool for stitching panoramic photos to create the virtual tour effect; however, it’s since been discontinued. So, if you’re going to be doing the stitching yourself, you can choose from a couple of different software options, but these are highly regarded:

Once it’s stitched, just go to your Google My Business login and upload the tour to your company profile.

At first glance, it seems like a complicated process, but creating a virtual tour for your business is easily achievable. It’s a powerful cherry on top of your Google listing sundae, and while it may not have any direct SEO benefits, the business wins from having a fully optimised listing there. We’ve previously gone into relatively extensive detail on how optimising your business’ Google listing can be beneficial, but the three main things you’re going to gain from it are:

  • Brand awareness
  • Customer familiarity
  • Increased traffic interest

Whether you invest some money to get it done professionally with all the bells and whistles or if you do a basic version yourself, the business wins are there to be had. And with it being such a simple process, you’re barking mad if you don’t have a virtual tour of your business.

The dog and bone.
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Written by

Gary Nissim
The dog and bone.
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