Google Thinks a Picture is Worth Many Thousand Clicks

A new picture service from Google could be worth more to small businesses than just a thousand words, according to experts.

The web giant recently launched “Business Photos from Google” to better promote businesses to potential customers by showcasing the establishments’ interiors online.

The photos, which will appear on the business’ “Google Places ” page, are being taken by professional photographers and will feature 360-degree imagery using Street View technology. The “Places” listings are the first results returned during a Google search.

Internet marketing expert Jason Hennessey, CEO of the SEO agency Everspark Interactive, encourages all small businesses to take advantage of the service, saying it will eliminate a lot of the unknown for new customers and make a great first impression. “This allows real businesses to stand out from the crowd,” Hennessey said.

The service can be most beneficial, Hennessey said, for businesses like restaurants and night clubs. “You are able to see if it is something that is hip and trendy before you even go there,” Hennessey said.

While Google plans to expand its reach of photographers, the company currently is only scheduling photos with businesses in a few select areas of the U.S., including Orange County and the San Francisco Bay Area in California; Phoenix, Ariz.; San Antonio, Texas; and St. Petersburg. Fla. Photos also will be taken in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, France, and the United Kingdom.

In the meantime, Google is encouraging businesses in other cities to post their own photos to their “Places” page, and apply to have their photo professionally taken to help Google determine which cities to expand their photographers into next.

Businesses can apply to have their photos taken by visiting the Google Places website.

While Hennessey  said some may consider it to be an invasion of privacy, he believes it can only be beneficial for local small businesses.

“It creates a sense of trust,” Hennessey said.

Google for now is limiting the photos they take to business types that are searched for most often, including restaurants, hotels, retail shops, gyms, salons, repair shops and a variety of other storefront businesses. They are not photographing legal, medical, or big-brand chain establishments.

For Google , Hennessey said the photography venture is another opportunity for them to increase their nearly 75 percent market share.

“This is another differentiator that Google has over Yahoo and Bing,” he said.