Google Business Photos gives customers virtual sneak peeks inside businesses

Posted on March 25, 2013

Google Inc. is knocking, but will businesses let them in? The search engine behemoth’s Google Business Photos program aims to benefit restaurants, retailers and others by giving online searchers a virtual preview of their spaces to help sell them on a visit.

As I reported in this week’s Columbus Business First, the program has created business for a handful of local independent photographers. See Inside Ohio is one of five so far approved by Mountain View, Calif.-based Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) to shoot in Central Ohio and has been courting businesses since last April. Co-owner T.J. Hall likes to point to Wild Ginger Asian Fusion off Hilliard-Rome Road as a beautiful, well-decorated interior that shows off the program’s potential.

“You wouldn’t know from the outside,” he said. “It just looks like another strip mall restaurant.”

The standard shoot takes up to two hours, though some have been longer, said See Inside Ohio co-owner Mark Carper. Virtual tours and still photos are posted within a week and remain the property of the business.

“It’s a no-brainer,” said Jeff Seslar, owner of G-Tip Photography, another Google Business photographer.

Seslar’s shoots have included the Diamond Cellar on Sawmill Road and Local Roots restaurant in Powell.

There are some limitations. Medical offices and public spaces like libraries can be photographed, but hospitals and other government buildings are off-limits. Home-based businesses are not eligible. People cannot appear so photogenic owners, employees and customers won’t be in the images, and if one winds up in a picture accidentally, they get their face blurred out (same as on Google Street View).

“It’s (Google’s) worldwide policy,” Carper said.

A business does not have to be inside, either. See Inside Ohio has shot campgrounds and ZipZone Canopy Tours. Hall said they’d love to get more business in the Short North.

“It would be Gallery Hop daily on Google,” he said.

Dan Eaton, Business First.