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Google’s virtual tours hitting Shelbyville

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Photographers offering storeowners opportunity to be highlighted on Google maps

By Todd Martin

Stacey Pettibone, owner of Stacey’s Simple Stuff, called it a no-brainer.

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“The more Google-ized a business is, I feel like Google likes you better,” she said.

That’s why Pettibone was the first in town to sign up to have a Google-certified photographer create a virtual tour of her store at 1025 Main Street.

“I have a virtual tour with Shop Main Streets [which was put together by Shelby Development], but I’m also an Internet marketer and Web site designer, so anything I can do to help out my Web site.”

The tours are a full, 360-degree look inside the store that affords users a clear picture of how the store is setup and stocked. It’s linked to the store’s location on Google Maps and comes up when you search for the store, along with still shots and the store address, a link to its Web site and to a Google+ page, if the merchant has one.

Pettibone said she saw the idea floated by the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce, so she investigated.

 “A lot of people use Google Maps and this tour will be linked on there, so they can just look right inside the store,” she said. “I just looked at it [on Tuesday], and it looks really good. It’s a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree tour, which is good for me, because I have things low on the ground and on the walls.”

Jim Hilker, the program initiatives manager for the Google Trusted Photographers, said he hopes to have one of his certified photographers back in Shelbyville next week.

“This is in line with Google’s official expansion of their street viewer, and for a one-time fee the tour stays live forever, unless contacted by the store owner for some reason,” he said.

Hilker, who is based in New York, said this is his group’s first run through the area. He coordinates work for about 75 certified Google photographers.

“They have to be trained by Google and have special equipment,” he said. “And we use local photographers.”

According to www.seeinsideky.com– where interested storeowners can contact a photographer and schedule a shoot – the photographers are all based out of Louisville and Lexington.

Stacey’s was the first stop lined up by Hilker, but he said his group is going to focus heavily on the Interstate 64 corridor from Louisville to Lexington.

“This is our first run through the area, and actually Stacey’s was our first stop,’ he said. “But we’re going to be in the area from Louisville to Frankfort and Shelbyville to Lexington over the new few weeks. So if businesses are interested they can reach out to us.”

Pettibone said she would certainly recommend it.

“It could be two or three weeks before it goes live, but I thought the price wasn’t bad,” she said. “The base price was three hundred and seventy-five [dollars], but for what you get, that’s really a good price to help market your store. Then you can add another spot [or a different room in the store] for fifty dollars. I thought the whole thing was pretty reasonable.”

She said she’s had positive feedback from her virtual tour on Shop Main Streets, but that site’s 180-degree tour doesn’t include all she has.

“People have liked the tour, and have commented on how the store looks,” she said. “I think anyway you can get your store out there is going to help, and this is just another positive link to my Website.”

The work only took about 30 to 40 minutes, she said, and she gets eight high-resolution shots she can use, as well.

“To me it’s just another advantage to have more advertising, and even if you don’t have a Web site, you can link it to your Google+ page and it also gets you on Google maps with your address,” she said.