We’ve all heard the saying that first impressions matter, and this is just as true online as it is in real life. In business terms, this means that there is a constant need to carefully manage your online reputation, to ensure each landing page is word-perfect and that your social channels are updated, engaging and relevant.
What of your Google My Business page though? If you’re guilty of thinking of Google My Business in terms of reviews and local search position, you may have overlooked the need to keep a tight rein on your Google My Business photos.
Internet users are inherently visual creatures, with visuals processed 60,000 times faster than plain text. That means images are tremendously influential and key to your business looking good online.A 2011 BrightLocal study revealed that 60% of consumers said local search results with good images captured their attention and pushed them towards a decision. More recently, Wesley Young, from the Local Search Association, confirmed images had by no means waned in importance, stating,
“Images have become ever more important in online presence and marketing. It seems rare that an article, email, ad or social media post isn’t led by a hero image or graphic.
“There’s no question that images boost visibility, engagement and click-through rates. A study on Google+ concluded that posts with images were shared three times more than those without images.”
Google My Business has a wealth of visual features, which in theory should make it easy to present your business in the best possible light. However, actually taking great images and getting them uploaded to the right place can be a more challenging task.
Not quite ready for your close up? Read on for our ultimate guide to looking good online…
Google My Business Visual Features
Google My Business has several visual features available when you verify your listing. The platform will allow you to upload images of your business to your profile, attach images to posts, and upload video. Two recent additions include the option to add 360º photos and virtual video tours.In addition to your own ability to upload all of these visual assets from your Google My Business dashboard, it’s important to be aware that your customers can also upload their own photos and videos of your business. There is little you can do to control your public image via user-generated content shared in this manner, but if the images are offensive or inappropriate, you do have the option to flag them up and request removal.
Google advises businesses to upload several different types of image;
- At least three strong exterior photos, taken at different times of the day and showing the approach to the business from common angles
- A minimum of three interior photos
- Product photos for the most popular products and services you sell
- One image of any common areas your business may have, such as the reception
- A minimum of three management and team photos
- For bars, restaurants and cafes, images of the most popular food and drinks
- For hotels, images of guest rooms should be uploaded
It’s worth noting that the search engine’s research indicates that:
“…Businesses with photos receive 42% more requests for driving directions to their location from users on Google, and 35% more clicks through to their websites than businesses that don’t have photos.”
The Basics: Uploading Photos
First up, you need to address your cover photo, as this image will accompany your Google My Business listing.
Next up, upload your profile photo (this should be different to the cover image)
With the two most prominent images uploaded, next work through the list above and upload images for each of the categories relevant to you. If you’re a local realtor, you probably won’t need to upload images of your common areas and you certainly won’t need food and drink shots, but interior and exterior business images should be uploaded where possible, along with team photos.If your local business has more than one location, there is a bulk image upload function which can make the process quicker. You need to first verify each location, enter image locations in a spreadsheet and then bulk upload. Step-by-step instructions on how to do this can be found here.
Once all your images are uploaded, you can assess which photos are performing the best for your business over time to help you select the most appropriate photos each time. Google My Business provides useful insight here: navigate to ‘Photo Views’ and then the ‘Photo Quantity’ graph tabs from the dashboard. Here, you can see your own photo data compared to the photo data of other businesses in the same sector.
This will show you things like:
- Your total number of photos
- Number of photo views
- Number of customer photos
- Total number of customer photo views
From these insights you can tell just how well your photos are performing against competitors, and how popular your images are—whether self-produced or provided by customers. This will, in turn, let you push image types that perform and drop those that don’t yield results.
Influencing which images show first
When you upload images to your Google My Business profile, they will be labelled with ‘from the owner’ to distinguish them from images uploaded by customers. This does not mean, however, that your own images will automatically get preferential treatment and be displayed most prominently in your Google My Business profile.
Given the importance of imagery for brand building, you’ll naturally want to wield a tight control over which images are most visible to local search users. Google doesn’t specifically give you control over this aspect of your profile. It does say that,
“Adding a cover photo automatically sets it as your listing’s preferred photo. This action doesn’t guarantee it populates as the first image for your business, but it does tell Google you prefer to display this photo.”
What types of photo should you upload?
When uploading images to your Google My Business listing, your ultimate aim should be to present an authentic showcase of your company, its products or services, and its people.
Google suggests a minimum of three images in most categories, but how should you go about taking the perfect shot?Selecting your Google My Business images can be difficult as you want to showcase your brand in the best possible light—which can mean straying too far across the ‘corporate’ line for a local business. You want to have a great selection of professional images, of course, but steer clear of anything that seems too professional and overly polished as it can actually be off-putting and make your brand seem somehow less trustworthy.
Instead, focus on professional yet approachable, realistic but not staged. A smiley team photo for example is a nice alternative to a LinkedIn-style shirt and tie portrait picture. With a little practice and experimentation with good lighting and props, you should be able to produce decent quality images in-house without too much expensive equipment required.
Google’s aim with images is to give local search users a real feel for the business and its products so you’ll need to avoid stock photos at all costs. Google will find these and remove them very quickly because they don’t provide an accurate depiction of your business.
Apps and Tools
Not all of us are natural born photographers and few local businesses have the marketing funds to justify a professional shoot every time there’s something new to snap and share. Finding a handful of apps and tools to make life easier can take some of the pressure out of maintaining your Google My Business images.
A photo upload app such as PhotoSync enables you to quickly upload photos and video to different platforms simultaneously, cutting down on duplicated effort and wasted time.
Apps like LocalPics enable you to send new photos to your Google My Business account from a mobile device. LocalPics is designed from the ground up to meet the specific needs of Google My Business users. With no login required and a text reminder service, LocalPics makes it quick and easy to push new images straight to your profile. This not only cuts down on the time needed to keep an influx of fresh images flowing to your account, it can also help to tick the ‘authentic’ and ‘genuine’ boxes that Google insists on.
Many Instagram influencers are increasingly creating presets which they then sell to fans. A preset tweaks a photo based on preset settings, which helps to maintain a similar aesthetic and makes editing images that much easier.
If you come to upload an image and realize it contains the likeness of a customer or member of staff, you must obtain permission from each person to use the photo before uploading to Google My Business.
As you get into a routine of sourcing images to populate your Google My Business listing, you’ll find that you naturally start to notice opportunities during the course of a typical day. A restaurateur might get into the habit of taking a picture of the daily special, for example, an interior designer might share an image before and after a room makeover, or a car dealer might upload photos of a happy customer driving away.
We’d love to hear what you think
Do you have any tips for taking great photos? What are your favorite image editing apps? Share your thoughts and recommendations with us in the comments.