Google just released several iOS app updates including the Google Plus app which now supports Collections, Google Maps with an improved review flow and most significantly Google StreetView which now allows both the creation and uploading of PhotoSpheres.
PhotoSpheres are the poor man’s version of Business View (as of today called Street View | Trusted), Google’s professionally driven interior, virtual tour product. The feature in the new Google StreetView app is easy enough to use to create interior and exterior views of a business and get them uploaded to Google Maps in a very short time.
But compared to Business View, there are some limitations both in terms of quality and exposure such that if it is really important for you to increase a potential visitor’s understanding of your interior then Business View, despite its cost, is a better choice. These limits include quality issues, the current apparent lack of the ability to embed the resultant image elsewhere and most importantly the lack of search and Maps visibility.
The interface to the mobile app is very slick allowing you to quickly shoot the complete sphere surrounding you, indicating where to point the camera that it then auto stitches into a PhotoSphere. The interface to assemble and upload it is not as well designed and leads you astray but once you are familiar with it you can shoot, create and upload a sphere to any given location in under 10 minutes. And most of that time is the rendering and uploading it.
If you are shooting inside of very small spaces, the program has difficulties stitching accurately and getting good alignment. Whether that could be solved with more precise camera positioning via a tripod I am not sure. The quality of the stitches improves dramatically when you give the program “more room to breath” and shoot in a larger space.
Here are two of my first business related photospheres: the interior of my office and the interior of the bank that houses my office. As you can see there are a number of gaps and missing pieces of the one shot inside my 15′ x 15′ office that make it less than ideal. I would have embedded them here but alas no embed code was yet available as far as I could see.
Like all wide angle immersive photography you have to practice getting the angles and view point correct. Unfortunately I could find no easy way to delete an image once uploaded even if it was not of optimal quality.
However the biggest problem that I see is that once uploaded to Google Maps, the image becomes buried amongst the other photos inside of Google Maps attached to a location. The image is immediately available in the photos section of Maps for the location but it did not show within the hour in the photo sub section of the Knowledge Panel. Although it might show there with time. Even then it would be somewhat buried. Update 9/6: the image is not visible in either a mobile browser search result OR in the mobile iPhone Google Maps app making current visibility even less than I originally imagined.
If the purpose of this exercise is to highlight what a beautiful facility you have for potential customers then Business View wins hands down by being highly visible in the search result Knowledge Panel and from within the Local Finder via the new 3 Pak. To say nothing of the better quality control and quality of imagery, which is better in Business View.
Is it worth the time for an SMB or an agency to do this for a business? On the plus side, it doesn’t take long once you learn how to create a good image and it does no harm (the Hypocratic oath of local seo). I suppose if you were calling on a business location and wanted to “wow” them, it could be a freebie that you offered.
But its severe lack of visibility and the inability to easily remove seem to make it a non starter in most situations.
Google StreetView App Upgraded to Allow Photo Spheres - Not Yet Ready for SMB Prime Time by Mike Blumenthal