Getting Google to boost your street credentials

Local businesses fretting about their poor visibility online can call on some additional help from Google... and specifically its Google Street View.

"Even though it's been there for some time, it's still an emerging technology for this part of the world,” said Hameed Yousuf, senior manager for Digital Media at BPG Maxus.

"We signed up for it when we found that the name 'BPG' was not getting a high ranking in search engine optimisation (SEO) rankings. Since we integrated Street View, we have had a definable lift in exposure terms."

What Street View does is relatively simple — it can link a business's physical address with high-impact images of its office building and the interiors.

In effect, adds a dash of personality to the organisation's profile and that can win a few brownie points with those prospective clients for whom an online search is the first point of contact. In other words, the Street View is Google Maps with lots of zing to it.

"Google Street View adds multiple images of key focal areas within an organisation's physical address, such as meeting rooms, etc," said Yousuf. "There are many possibilities, each of which can be optimised to make an impression with the one making the search. When those favourable impressions add up, the business's SEO rankings can zoom up the ladder. It's a zero-to-hero transition, nothing less."

The cost need not be an inhibitor, at around Dh30,000-Dh35,000. As regards the images that need to go with the Street View, forget about taking it on your smartphone and putting it up. The Street View images need to be taken by certified Google photographers. Once the image displays are decided, the Street View upgrade process could take seven to 10 days on the business's portal.

Now that BPG Maxus has had a good look, it is making the pitch to its clients, especially those in the retail space.

A "couple of malls" have shown interest in the concept.

Others have already incorporated the Google add-ons into their virtual space. Arabian Automobiles Company is now showcasing an 'Infiniti Virtual Showroom' on Google Maps powered by Street View. The intention is to make sure that those browsing get an impression that is as good as "being there" physically. And that it would translate into a "greater number of walk-ins to Infiniti Centres".

Also recently, Google added Umm Al Quwain in Street View, allowing users to view and navigate "360 degree street-level imagery of major streets across the city", it said in a statement. The main areas are the city's Beach Garden, Old Town Area, the National Museum and the abandoned Soviet-era cargo plane, the Ilyushin IL-76.

Meanwhile, at the broader level, search engine optimisation processes are getting tweaked to make the message connect with the target audience almost seamlessly.

"I don't think "drastic" is the word to describe the recent changes to SEO," said James Gaubert, general manager of Bruce Clay M.E., the internet marketing optimisation agency. "Everyone knows about Google Panda and Penguin updates, [and] more recently we had Hummingbird and Pigeon. Now we are getting the second coming of Penguin.

"The underlying objective is relevance for the user. Now, we don't see search results based on the site that has the greatest number of backlinks. Rather, results are based on multiple factors such as our personal browsing preferences and history, location, and search engines' understanding of what is relevant to us, just to name a few factors.

"This has completely changed the face of SEO... definitely for the better."

So, is digital advertising ready to move away from pay-per-click (PPC) and pay-per-view? Have they gone too mainstream in the digital landscape and are thus ripe for a change?

Gaubert reckons it is not the case. "PPC is very unlikely to become obsolete; it's a key touch point in a customer's journey and usually the best performance channel for digital advertisers," he said. "Programmatic buying definitely has a place within the digital landscape, but let's not forget that we also have algorithmic optimisation tools for PPC too.

"And we can even go for building our own optimisation plug-ins. Overall, I think programmatic is a new way of buying that is very efficient for agencies, and ultimately, the client. But we can also find efficiencies within PPC, it just depends on our knowledge of the discipline."
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