While Google generates a major portion of its revenue by selling advertising to local businesses, the company’s “free” services can also be great marketing tools for your company. (In coming months, we will be exploring these tools and explaining how to use them. We’ll be posting the how-tos here on our help stream and on the SmallBusiness.com WIKI.)

One of the lesser known (but coolest) services Google provides free to Main Street shops, restaurants and consumer-oriented service businesses (like day spas, salons) is a feature that is an extension of Google Maps “Street View”  called, “Business Photos.” This feature brings “Street View” inside your business and provides users to experience your space via a 360-degree, interactive tour. You’ll sometimes notice a link that says “See Inside” that will launch it.

One of the smartest features of the service isn’t its technology, but its use of local photographers you can contact to take photos of your business. The photographers are “certified” by Google but are not employed by them. They set their own fees, but are required by Google to have “fair market prices” as part of their “trusted photographer” certification. Using one of these photographers is a good idea as you know they will take pictures in the way that fits the Google Maps format and other requirements.

Another awesome feature: Your Google Maps virtual tour can be embedded in pages on any website, like we’ve done with a few below

Examples of 2 Google Maps Business Photos

(There may be a delay in the photo appearing. Click “View Larger Map” to see it on Google Maps.)

She (Highland Park, Ill.)

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San Diego Pier Cafe

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