Smithfield business owners will soon be able to add photos of their stores’ interiors to Google Maps – but only for a price.
Currently, users viewing Google Maps at the “street view” level can see only the outside of buildings. But Google is now photographing the inside of businesses so users will be able to “walk through the front door,” said Jim Hilker, a Google contractor managing the photographers who will be shooting the 360-degree pictures.
The photographers will be in Smithfield Aug. 29-30. Business owners can sign up at www.SeeInsideNC.com for one of 16 available spots during those two days, Hilker said. Photographers will then contact the business owner and set up a time to come in.
The businesses will own the photos, Hilker said, and can embed the virtual tour from Google Maps onto their websites. The photos are also used in Google search results and other Google services.
“It enhances every aspect of a business’ presence in Google,” he said.
But the photos come with a cost. Depending on the size of the business and the number of rooms, the photography could cost a one-time fee of anywhere from $350 to $1,000, Hilker said.
For Smithfield business owner Roy Wood, of Roy’s Saddle and Shoe Repair on Market Street, the price is too high. “It sounds like a good idea,” he said. “I just can’t afford it.”
Connie Barbour, owner of Market Street Coffee and Bakery, thought the same thing. “For a small business like us just starting out, probably not,” she said.
But Barbour did like the idea. “I think people will come into a business more if they know what to expect,” she said.
Scott Gandolph, owner of Gandolfo’s, said he’s interested in the service because adding photos of his sandwich shop to Google could catch the attention of people driving by on Interstate 95. “Travelers nowadays are using more things like Google or Yelp to find their businesses,” he said.
“Those type of things are the way of the future,” he added.
Rick Childrey, president of the Greater Smithfield-Selma Area Chamber of Commerce, said the service could be a good opportunity for businesses. “I think businesses are looking for any way to get exposure, to get to be seen especially on the Internet,” he said. “Google is the largest search engine, so I think absolutely it would be good.”
Childrey compared the cost of the photography to advertising. “Most advertising of any type costs anywhere in that range,” he said, adding that whether Google’s cost is too high depends on the business.
Other North Carolina cities on Google’s August schedule include Durham, Chapel Hill, Wilson and Goldsboro.
Hilker said about 40,000 businesses in the United States took part in the program in the last year, and Google is adding about 2,500 businesses a month. Worldwide, about 150,000 businesses have taken part, he said.