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How Goolge can generate dollars for local businesses 

In the past, travelers might decide where to stop based on road signs, but with cell phones and tablets in hand, they make dining and lodging decisions long before they pass your interstate signs. According to a study by BIA/Kelsey and ConStat, 97 percent of customers use the internet to research products and services before making a purchase.

Warrenton’s website data shows a large amount of traffic from Maine to Miami along Interstate 95, and the town council wanted Warrenton to have a professional, attractive appearance when travelers are deciding where to stop.

“They are forward thinking and believe an online presence is as significant as a sign on the highway,” said Robert Davies, Warrenton town administrator.

The town created a matching grant program to help local businesses purchase professional photography from Randy Bass at Mid-Atlantic 360. Bass takes high-quality, panoramic images that are uploaded to Google Business View, which works with Google Maps and Street View allowing prospective clients to see inside your business as if they were there in person.

In November, Bass photographed several businesses including the Warren County Chamber of Commerce, Warrenton Furniture Exchange, and Hamme’s Mill, a museum and taxidermy in a grist mill from the 1700s.

“Google drives the lion’s share of the hits to those websites by far, so hopefully it will improve our ranking with certain keywords, but also our professional appearance on Google,” Davies said.

According to Bass, Business View users are more likely to come up in a Google search but the real advantage is an increased likelihood that customers will visit after seeing what the business and surrounding area looks like.

“Many of these smaller towns are trying to revitalize their communities, and there’s no better way for them to showcase their property than these Google Business Tours,” Bass said.

While Business Views is especially useful for visitors and convention towns, it’s also valuable for permanent residents who might be looking for a new dentist, neighborhood or park. Bass said one client had a Google Business referral from someone who drove by the business daily but never knew what was inside – that customer spent enough in one visit to pay for Bass’ photography.

“I don’t want to say it’s a no-brainer because it’s a little bit of an investment,” Bass said. “But, it’s going to become an expected norm to be able to see these places before you go.”

Mid-Atlantic 360 packages start at $375, which includes 12 high-definition, magazine-quality images that will stay online as long as the business is in that location and can be used for other advertisements. The photos can also be embedded in the business’ website at no cost.

“I get a lot of feedback from my clients, and the most common thing I hear is, ‘I had no idea. I had no idea what was behind these doors,’” Bass said. “It could be worth thousands of dollars to showcase something that was a huge investment for their office. A flat photo just doesn’t show it like a panoramic.”