360° Virtual Tours or Google Business Photos?

We often face this question from clients, “When Google is offering interior panoramas which are integrated with Google Maps what is the benefit in using 360° Virtual Tours which can be used only on our website while a Google tour gives us more reach and visibility”.

If you are not aware what Google Business Photos is – Google started mapping/photographing streets starting in US and later expanding to a lot of other countries, this service is called Google Street View. As an extension to this, Google started shooting Business interiors and called them Google Business Photos(GBP). This allowed Google search and maps users to take a look inside businesses, be it a hotel, restaurant, etc. Businesses whom we propose our 360° Virtual Tours feel Google Business Photos are superior in terms of reach and the edge it would give them on the search results. To be honest, it is apples & oranges.

First the advantages of having a Google tour –

  1. The link to the tour appears as “See inside” in the search results page. But there is a catch which I will elaborate later in this post, so let us assume it is an advantage for the time being.
  2. The tours are not hosted on the client’s server but on Google servers. This is something client’s often feel as a big advantage. But today servers with 99.9% uptime are available at dirt cheap prices.
  3. The tour is available on Google Maps.

The advantages of having a 36ty Solutions Virtual tour

  1. Superior image quality – Yes! GBP was launched primarily for strengthening its map platform and quality was never a priority. Infact Google doesn’t charge the business directly but the agency executing the shoot charges. There is a huge tradeoff in quality and Google tours are visually not so pleasing. 36ty Tours has a big edge here. Our Demo vs GBP Demo.
  2. Customization – Our tours are extremely customizable. You can change the user interface, add music or voice over, allow people to tag themselves with their twitter/facebook profiles and what not. This is not possible with GBP.
  3. Lively Human tours – When I say lively I mean pictures which are oozing life, buzzing with energy. GBP doesn’t allow any individuals in it’s tours, as a result if you notice any Google tour the faces(if any) are blurred. When it comes to most businesses, be it a hotel, a school or a hospital, the presence of humans adds to the warmth of the picture. GBPs are soul-less.
  4. Offline use – Our tours can be used both online & offline. Since the Google tours are on Google servers you always need an active internet connection to view them. Imagine your sales guy has to give a pitch in a place without internet access or you have to give it on a DVD to a client?

Entry barrier for Google Business Photos – There are 2 major issues we noticed with GBP, this is after doing some experiments about how users generally search for information and whether the GBPs are really giving a business the visibility they assume thanks to the Google brand name.

  1. Take a minute to search for “schools in goregaon” in Google search, else click on this link – https://www.google.co.in/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=schools%20in%20goregaon
    Could you find the school which has a Google tour in the search results that appeared? Majority of the users we surveyed could not! This defeats the point about visibility a business gets by having a GBP.Now try searching with “eurokids goregaon”, “eurokids playschool goregaon”. Now do you see the link to the Google Tour? No!
    Search for “eurokids school goregaon” and only then you see a “See inside” link.The more important question to be asked here is this – when a user is searching for a business we generally search as “hotels in hyderabad” or “restaurants in andheri” or “schools in annanagar”. When the user is unable to locate the GBP by searching in this fashion the idea of having a GBP is not served.If a user is directly searching for say “eurokids playschool goregaon” chances are he/she will visit your website, so why have a poor quality Google tour at all?
  2. The second issue – Today users are having a plethora of review sites which feed a lot of traffic to the business website. Zomato for restaurants, Tripadvisor for hotels, etc. When users enter your website through any of these channels, the Google visibility is again lost!

So that’s it folks! Each one has it’s pros & cons, so it is up to you to decide whether you want an apple or an orange!