For the average person it was rare to find a virtual tour for a business on the Google maps. Granted, Google didn’t have their systems fully in place until more recently. But, if you were one of the lucky business owners that Google initially approached in 2010-2011, you had the ability to “Bring your customers inside your business on Google Maps” at least a year before everyone else.

A little bit of history Pre-2012…

This was considered the pilot / beta era of Business View called Business Photos. From my knowledge, it consisted of a small team of photographers who set out to meet with business owners in major cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego and offer Street View technology for Inside the business.

Little was known about the program according to some business owners, they vaguely remember what it was for and how it was supposed to work. This beta phase was highly important for what is now known as Business View Street View, as it proved that the model would work. I always make it a point to thank these early adopter businesses in my area for their participation.

Now almost 6 years later, the Google virtual tour has come a long way by utilizing trusted independent photographers, higher definition photos, faster software, and even contributing to the visibility of a businesses on Google Maps.

I am going to utilize a couple of tours that were done back in the beta days and point out how you can tell them apart and why you as a business owner should upgrade using a Trusted Photographer from your area.

Identification of a Tour and Why you should Update

1. Doorway Pano’s

A Beta Virtual Tour has a Panoramic Node inside the entrance or doorway of a business. See how the tour below is stopped in the middle of a doorway when you spin it 360 degrees? This adds an unnecessary location within the tour giving the user time to back out before they even stepped in. This was eliminated as a mandatory shot in 2012.

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2. Look for the copyright

If you look within the photography you will notice a faint copyright watermark with the year the photo was taken. In this case I zoomed in and panned until I found the watermark for 2011, which indicates that this was a Beta Tour. Some might see the 2014 copyright (lower right) on the above tour and think that it’s new. It’s not, that copyright is actually that of the street map imagery, not the virtual tour.

Your shop might have changed since 2011 in terms of interior decor or even a remodel. Your customers would appreciate an update as this helps them decide whether they want to come to your shop or not. If you have something new that they should see then you should do a update of the tour.

3. Weird Navigation and other stuff

The Virtual tours utilize the street view technology of Google maps which allows a person to navigate through the tour via arrows that are highly visible on the floor. In the Beta versions of the tours you may notice that the navigation arrows do not always follow a clear path within the business layout. Instead, they will allow you to walk through walls, tables, or even teleport you clearly to the opposite end of the building.

This happens when a human does not ensure the quality of the photo shoot and the person who shot your tour just uploaded it with an automated camera/ software hoping that the software would do it correctly.

4. Street View Connection is missing

Beta versions of the virtual tour does not allow for a seamless transition between the store front and street view. Street View arrows were introduced later and adds more value to businesses today. So now when you are on Street View driving down a street you may see arrows (old maps=double arrow) pointing toward businesses along the way. Note: There are a few circumstances were a street view arrow may not be present for a newer tour. This happens when a business is located within a shared building and/ or the photographer couldn’t begin the tour outside of the building.

5. Difference in quality

Google holds Trusted Photographers to high standards when it comes to the quality of photos taken for a business. Prior to 2012, Google was utilizing the standard in photography for that time period. As time progressed, the quality of the cameras have also progressed thus allowing for higher resolutions and definition.

As you can see there are some noticeable differences in sharpness and color between the 2011 pilot phase and what was shot in 2013. For business owners, you may want to consider getting a fresh new virtual tour, as I’m sure your business has changed since 2011.

Update: Now in 2016 cameras may have increased in their clarity and quality but Google will compress the photos to fit it’s software guidelines. Most tours will look the same or similar to each other and the quality of the camera is less of a factor. So keep in mind that just because a photographer is using a $2000 camera doesn’t mean it’s going to be any better than a $500 camera. Even with some newer 4K 360 Pano cameras coming to the market, the quality of the tours have not increased.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]