There are so many tools available from Google that it is almost difficult to keep track of them all, with new tools being introduced on a regular basis. In general, these tools enhance the Web experience and make it easier than ever for people to find information online, including information that relates to your business. In many instances, these tools provide opportunities for your business to save money, replacing existing paid services with free alternatives.
Google Maps Street View
Are you familiar with the Street View component of Google Maps? This is the feature where you can zoom into a map beyond what is otherwise the most detailed level, and then drag the “pegman” icon onto a mapped roadway to view panoramic photos of a neighborhood. Introduced in 2007, Google Street View started as a complex process involving vehicles with 9 directional cameras, GPS units, and laser scanners that captured a 360° view of stitched panoramic images. By June of 2012, Street View had covered over 5,000,000 miles of roads in 39 countries.
Less accessible areas (initially places like national parks and ski resorts) are mapped using Google Trikes and snowmobiles. Now Street View Treks has introduced portable mapping where the equipment is worn like a backpack, producing everything from treks into the Grand Canyon to climbs up the Eiffel Tower to descents to the Great Barrier Reef. The current generation of cameras uses 11 lenses and is producing high-definition images and 3-D renderings.
Get Your Campground Mapped
Did you know that you can ask Google to create a street view of the roadways on your property? For a campground, this means that you can ask Google to create what is essentially a free virtual tour site map that will tightly integrate with the other features of Google Maps.
Many campgrounds have included site maps on their websites that allow visitors to view specific sites by hovering over or clicking links on the map. An expensive and time-consuming process to create, especially if a campground has a large number of sites, it is a far cry from panoramic 360° views. Like so many paid services that have been rendered obsolete by new free services from Google, if you are willing to wait your turn, it may no longer be necessary to invest hundreds or thousands of dollars into a 360° virtual tour of your campground’s road network. Google will now do the work for free. Several added bonuses include integration with Google Maps, the ability to embed the content into your website, and no hosting or recurring fees. Weather is taken into consideration, and your mapping will not be done on a rainy day.
According to my conversations with Google associates, there is no guarantee when – or, in fact, even if – Google will get around to mapping your campground; however, it is unlikely to happen unless you get the ball rolling from your end. Currently, most college and university campuses are waiting to be mapped, and I would expect that those would be considered a higher priority than the typical campground. (For example, in the entire state of Pennsylvania, I am told that only Penn State’s main campus has been mapped so far.) That said, there is nothing to lose. Google is quietly expanding this program, and I highly recommend that campground owners sign up using the following link:
More Extensive Virtual Tours
Do you want to include virtual tours of your cabins, store, or rec hall? Entirely separate from its Street View mapping project, Google now maintains an extensive network of Trusted Photographers who you may hire to produce virtual tours of facilities within your park, at competitive rates. There are over 100 Trusted Photographers based in California alone. They are all professionals with the equipment that is necessary to photograph tight spaces under difficult lighting situations. They are using conventional digital SLR cameras, shooting stitched panoramas of high-definition images that you own and that may be used on your website, brochures, or any other purposes.
Google retains usage rights to the images taken by people in its Trusted Photographers network, meaning that your photos will appear online in searches, generally a positive feature, since many people perform searches based upon images. One limitation is that Google will not deal with releases and will not allow these photographers to include people in their photos, somewhat counterproductive from a marketing perspective. If you can deal with that restriction, I would suggest that you search for photographers in your area, visit their websites to view their portfolios, then contact them to discuss (and negotiate) rates. Start at the following URL:
The bottom line today is to get on board with Google before you decide to commit hundreds or thousands of dollars on a virtual tour of your campground. Weigh your options. One step at a time, Google is changing the way that we view the world, the way that the world views your business, and the way we run our businesses. Take advantage of these tools in order to maximize your competitive edge!
This post was written by Peter Pelland