Recently I’ve been spending quite a bit of time advising small and medium sized businesses on images and their importance, and this of course extends to their Google My Business images.

Google is very clear about how images positively affect the interactions made and actions taken on GMB profiles:

GMB image fails

So often I see profiles where the last image upload was 2013, and where the images are far from ideal (think dirty floors and empty rooms). Why for goodness sake can’t we extend the same careful curation to our GMB profiles?

As well as planning and shooting high quality images and video, and working out a calendar for regular upload of photos to GMB, many of my clients have found great value in investing in a professional 360 tour from a Street View trusted pro. I believe that as people spend more time in Google maps (and now that so much of the discovery phase is spent in the Google maps app) this type of interactive visual potentially adds increasing value for the ‘know before you do, eat, see or buy’ advocates.

StreetView Summit 2019

A Street View photographer pro I know attended Google’s StreetView Summit 2019 in London. I asked them to pose a number of questions I had relating to images and Google My Business. Sadly Google wouldn’t answer any questions about GMB, however they did say that they know there are frustrations and that it’s being worked on 🧯

However, my photographer friend did pass on to me the following (top secret? 🕵🏼‍♀️) round-up of the news from the event – which may (or may not) spell some changes for a range of businesses and how they deal with their Local SEO requirements and issues.

Bold and italicized = my photographer friends comments

“Firstly, they’re splitting the local guides and Street View trusted programs. Since 2017 these have been aligned and local guides having their accounts deleted because they were charging for photoshoots, as an existing TIP (Trusted Innerspace Photographer) we were automatically enrolled in the local guides program so it’s caused havoc for those who were publishing Street View imagery under a business profile.”

My thoughts: I don’t know a lot about this, but this sounds like good news. The situation described above sounds like a royal clusterf**k. 😱

“The “new” Street View Trusted Program will now be tiered, bronze silver and gold. Where each tier will require a number of published tours of a certain size AND an average of 3.5 stars on its own Google My Business profile from clients (which opens a can of worms as some photographers may have had spam reviews left)”

My thoughts: I’d only want to work with an experienced photographer with a good number of quality virtual tours. When I checked this evening there were 852 ‘trusted professionals’ in the UK listed on the Street View website. So, if this helps sort the wheat from the chaff then it’s a thumbs up from me. A bronze level photographer could be a cost effective option for a small business with a limited budget, but I would be looking for more than 5 reviews, with an average of at least 4*. The review count prerequisites seem to be setting the bar pretty low!

As for review SPAM – well what can I say, it’s an ongoing battle, with local (to me) marketing businesses contravening Google’s ToS for reviews – a whole bunch of businesses that should know better are happy to flout guidelines in order to gain an advantage over bone fide service providers.

“Google will be bringing back email support for photographers that will help them get their clients verified and deal with other maps issues. There will also be a number of other tools made available to us to operate on a professional level. I’m hoping that the new program will allow Gold Level photographers to have the trusted verifier app which will allow me to verify all listing within seconds.”

My thoughts: Well goodness me this could be an actual game changer (perhaps/maybe/maybe not *delete as required*). Small businesses struggle with navigating the vagaries of GMB and the swathes of misinformation that exist – sometimes from GMB support themselves:

Unless you have a hotline to the GMB support team in the US I guess the options are forms, the forum, the phone (I have had limited success with this from the UK), and social media (find a good round up of the contact methods on the Sterling Sky website)  And don’t hold your breath, I’ve waited weeks for a reply on social media.  

My questions here are…

❓What kinds of map issues could they fix?  

❓Why would this be different to the support we (marketing agencies and local SEO providers) can currently offer clients -for example in terms of the time taken for GMB to reply to us, for GMB to action anything based on our request, and in terms of our communications being handled by GMB staff that pass along misinformation?

❓Would all levels of Trusted Program photographers have access to email support, or just gold?  What will the tiered system mean in terms of this ‘extra’ support?

❓What are the details of these ‘other tools’ that might be available to trusted photographers?

In the olden days (pre 2017 I guess) I can remember that my Trusted Photographer friends had magic powers 🧙🏾‍♂️- they used to have the ability to sort many kinds of map issues via a quick email to Google.  This included verification of listings, deletion or merging of listings, and updating of info, and they used to help me out with some of these tasks – it was quick and easy – plus it worked!

If they get these powers again, then I think it’s potentially kind of a big deal.  

Imagine you’re an agency offering Local SEO services to businesses in a particular geographic area.  Then imagine having an in-house Trusted Pro photographer, or even a strong partnership with a Trusted Pro.  Not only can they produce wonderful content for your clients’ GMB profiles (think 360 tours, videos, images) and the same images can also be used across the whole gamut of digital assets – websites, social profiles and more – it’s quite possible that they’ll be able to get email support for client listings, straight from Google, getting sh** done quickly and easily.  What a way to build out your service offering and potentially increase the revenue potential of each client, as well as better meeting the needs of that client by dealing with their GMB woes in a much more expedient framework.

Food for thought, perhaps? 🥫