“Local SEO is a Search Engine Optimization strategy that helps your business be more visible in local search results on Google.”
The influence of a virtual tour on Local SEO
A virtual tour offers an inviting visual showcase of your business to potential customers. Google’s Street View Technology is able to bring people who find your business listing in search results into your storefront or office, giving potential clients a gorgeous, interactive, 360-degree tour. The virtual tour will be visible on Google search results, Google Maps, and your Google+ page, and allows customers to explore the layout your business and enjoy a taste of your ambience and decor.
Potential buyers are able to narrow down their choices by viewing them virtually and only go to physically visit properties they’re truly interested in.
But the power of virtual tours is multifaceted, which is why it’s seen as such a game changer for the real estate market. One of the most important (but less thought of) benefits the technology brings is a boost in SEO for every listing and brand that uses it. Now, this article isn’t meant to teach you how SEO works, but we do need a basic understanding of what it is moving forward.
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the term for the strategies to make a webpage more visible on Google for users searching for specific terms. Part of the art of SEO is understanding what terms users will search for when they are looking for a product similar to yours and then optimizing your website so that it appears among the first results on the search page. With so many people looking for real estate listings online today, good SEO is critical for success in the industry.
So, how do virtual tours help? To start out, virtual tours bring a massive boost to your brand’s performance on Google simply because they search engine’s algorithms are designed to love interactive content and support exciting new technologies like virtual tours. That means including virtual tours in your listings online will automatically make them appear at least a little higher in Google’s search results.
Then you can always make yourself stand out from the crowd further by putting in a little extra work. Once you’ve figured out what terms users will be searching for when they’re looking for a property or a brand like yours, you can use that information and include it in the title of the virtual tours tour, its description and any other text that might be included in the webpage. Google reads it all and will certainly reward you for it.
But perhaps most importantly, virtual tours are a great catalyst for the creation of backlinks that lead to your site and listings. Backlinks are the hyperlinks that lead from an external site to yours. Having these kinds of links on websites with a high amount of regular traffic tells Google how important and relevant your website must be.
Local SEO is usually a misunderstood element of the online visibility world for local Businesses. Most owners don’t see the importance of investing in a good Local SEO strategy because the results of SEO are not always black and white. It usually takes a minimum of 3 months to see actual results, and most people that don’t control their Google My business listing are not even aware that they can track the results of their Local SEO campaign.
Basically, Google My Business (GMB) has its own version of Google Analytics. By having access to this type of data, any business would clearly see the value of local SEO, in-fact they would see how much in-store traffic they generate with their current listing.
On the other hand, Hubspot, MOZ, and Google helped us understand that the value that it provides is mostly indirect but still relevant. In fact, here are some stats that help explain what I’m talking about. In 2017, MOZ created a blog post about the top 8 criteria that affect your Local SEO.
From this list, behavioral signals and social signals lead us to realize that there is, in fact, a correlation between the ability to find you easily via local search and the implementation of your tour on Street View.
Google virtual tour allows you to give a potential customer an immersive, 360-degree look around your business. The benefits of this technology for your business are limited only by your imagination.
If you’re a boutique hotel or bed and breakfast, imagine what a virtual tour can do for you. Finally, a tool exists that can truly display the amount of care and careful detail you put into every aspect of your rooms.
In fact, virtual imaging software increases online bookings by up to 85 percent. By implementing Google virtual tool onto your Google My Business page, you will not only see an improvement in your SEO. You’ll also start to see a boost in consumer empathy.
Establish Consumer Empathy
As a savvy business owner who saw the benefit of registering with Google My Business, you probably know how beneficial it can be for a local business.
In fact, when consumers are searching for a business they use a mapping product 44 percent of the time. And on average, 41% of these searches lead to an on-site visit.
This can generally be attributed to a couple of things. First, by seeing where the business is on a map people are given a sense of place. They understand where that business is in relation to them. That sense of proximity establishes a very important connection.
Next, when a business is pulled up on Google maps, it is usually accompanied by some brief information on that business’s hours and services. If often also includes actual pictures of the location.
These pictures serve to strengthen that connection people feel with a place. By giving them an idea of what the place looks like, they are keen on visiting it.
How A Virtual Tour Improves This
Google virtual tour takes this concept of establishing a connection with a place into the stratosphere. Being able to virtually open the door to a business and look around can give the consumer a greater sense of your place’s vibe.
Given how advanced and immersive 360-degree technology has become, you might even establish a sense of empathy from the consumer.
Establishing empathy is a huge part of attracting and then retaining new consumer base. Empathy is what shoots your business up in their minds over the rest of the competition. It’s what makes you a special place to them.
This empathy was before only assessable once you had gotten them physically in the store, where the atmosphere of the place could leave its impression.
Now you have the opportunity to build this connection digitally, and convert a consumer into an empathizer before they have even walked through the door.
Establishing empathy has practical payoffs. Businesses 360 photos and a virtual tour are two times more likely to generate interest. And you will see a return on investment on virtual imaging in less than four weeks.
This is largely due to the increase in both interaction and time spent on your page.
An experiment done by google exploring the benefits of 360-degree photos and videos found that these types of virtual imaging encourage viewers to interact with the imaging.
Viewers were more likely to share these types of imaging and they had a much higher click-through rate than the standard video they used for comparison.
This meant that viewers, and eventually your consumers, were more likely to click on the video in order to see more. This can only mean great things for your brand — especially when it comes to building name recognition.
These factors, consumer interaction, retention, and sharing, are vital aspects in improving your businesses organic SEO.
Google determines your local positioning by analyzing many different factors, like behavioral signals. By having this type of data, Google can better understand what characteristics they must focus on to perfectly match the daily search of their users. Click through rate, mobile clicks, and check-ins from GMB are all examples that help the algorithm better understand you, as a human. Here is how a virtual tour affects your local visibility:
A good way to drive clicks on your listing would be to add a virtual tour to your GMB page. Since 2017, local searches provide a direct access to the interior of the store. This step allows your visitors to jump right into the store straight from their phone. Once they are in, you’ll see your clickthrough rate jump to the roof.
Below, you can see a map search for the keywords: cafe near me. In the bottom left corner, you can see a square with a 360 arrow. For most businesses that don’t have a virtual tour clicking on this square will lead them to the street view of their business. However, for businesses that have a virtual tour integrated on their GMB, the square will redirect them to the inside of their business. Allowing new visitors to better decide what store they are going to choose.
Virtual tours increase online bookings by an average of 85%.
By having a reservation button on your GMB page, you are already pushing your future customers in the right direction and are helping them do exactly what you want them to do (book a reservation). Google shows that by adding a virtual tour to a GMB, businesses see an average of 85% increase in their online booking.
The hypothesis is that you are helping your visitors better understand your store by showing the global ambiance through your virtual tour.Your visitors are then more likely to book directly from the GMB page since they are already on it.
A small part of the local results algorithm considers the social signals of your brand. If you don’t have anyone engaging with your content, don’t share pictures, don’t use different platforms to share your content, or if you’re just not active on your different social platforms, Google will struggle to find you, and it will definitely not think you’re important for the community. (Remember, it’s always about the community)
Fortunately, there are 3 platforms that can combine virtual tours and social posts. Google+ might be the most efficient because when you publish on Google Street View, it automatically connects to yourGoogle+ page of your business. This way, it clears out a step for your audience. Having a virtual tour linked to your Google+ page increases the number of pictures shown to your audience. Thus, increasing your activity on a social platform.
You can also use Youtube to publish 360 videos. What I suggest, if you have a minimum of skills with any video platforms that allow 360-degree images, is to create a short interactive 360 video and post it on the Youtube channel linked to your GMB page. Don’t forget to use the geo-localization tag when you post on this platform. In fact, optimizing your video’s SEO definitely helps your brand pop up in local and normal organic searches.
Finally, you can use Facebook in 2 different ways.
First: I suggest that you embed your street view tour on to your Facebook page. By doing so, you allow everyone that hasn’t gone through Google to analyze your business, to also see the interior of your business. It’ll increase your reach and the interaction with visitors.
Second: I also suggest that you ask for an individual 360 image of your virtual tour because Facebook now allows people to post 360-degree pictures. Surprisingly, we’ve had some crazy results, driving insanely low CPM and high interaction with this type of post. If you’re really dedicated, put a link to your GMB on your post so that people can see the full virtual tour via Google, and boost your post in order to reach more people.
Virtual Tours increase interaction
You have probably read some other blogs about content marketing and the importance of it. Content is presented in different forms. Video, Photo, Text, Audio, etc. By creating content and by publicising it on different social platforms (GMB included), you sure help your brand. But don’t forget that there is a proper way to do this. In fact, posting recycled content and unattractive pieces of content will certainly not help your cause. In the end, it’s all about the engagement between your brand and your audience and they are not going to engage with boring content.
As we previously explained, 360 pictures are still something new for most people. Sharing this type of content puts you a step higher than competitors that are not doing it.
One of the best ways to generate engagement is to increase the interactivity of your post. Chatbots are a good example of great engagement because they can personalize the experience of your audience and they can adapt to the behavior of your audience.
In this case, personalization is a bit harder to achieve, but it doesn’t change the fact that virtual tours let the client do what they want. By letting your visitor choose what they see, they will be much more inclined to consume the content that you present him.
What you should take from this case study
Folks, what I want you to learn from this case study is that there are many ways to generate visibility for your business. All you need to do is create a good strategy that is well optimized for your audience and for your price point, depending on your product/service.
The first step for any local business owner should be to learn everything there is to learn about local SEO. What does it do, Why does it help, How to help it, how to DIY?
Once again I want you to see the value of Google My Business (GMB). The image below shows the total amount of searches, in the past four months, for a small shop close to downtown. We created their Google listing in October and already 93% of people are finding their business by typing a keyword related to their commerce. This means that 15,000 people learned about this new brand only by searching for one keyword on their phone.
Wrapping It All Up
Now all that’s left is to figure out the best way to leverage the Google virtual tour technology for your specific business. If you’re a gardening shop, perhaps a view of your expansive greenhouse would dazzle potential customers. A surf shop may want to sell the experience of surfing itself, providing a 360-degree VR video of what it’s like to ride a huge wave. Then you’ll be well on your way to opening your digital doors and welcoming everyone who would like to come in and take a look around.
Here at Momentum 360, we want to make growing your business easier than ever. Investing in a virtual tour is without a doubt an imperative step in making that happen. Our society is prioritizing digital content now more than ever, and we likely will not see a decline in this mindset in the future years.
If you are interested in learning more about Momentum 360 Virtual Tours or would like to have one made for your business, feel free to email us or schedule a call with Sean or Mac. For more information, visit our website website! Mac Frederick and Sean Boyle, owners of Momentum, have over twenty years of experience in the digital marketing field and have a passion for helping businesses reach their fullest potential.
We post our Momentum Monday and Small Business Saturday blog every week, so feel free to subscribe and make sure you are up to date on the latest trends in the industry. If you have any questions or concerns, leave them in the comments below! From everyone at Momentum 360, thanks for the love, stay healthy, and until next time, build Momentum!