Friday, January 27, 2023

Here’s how Williamsburg businesses are climbing to the top of the Google search page

Despite Williamsburg’s colonial and historic character, some area businesses are modernizing their advertising approach by working to climb to the top of the Google search page. Seen here, Old City Barbeque on York Street participated in a city grant program to get on the map with a virtual Google restaurant tour. (WYDaily/Courtesy Google Maps)
Despite Williamsburg’s colonial and historic character, some area businesses are modernizing their advertising approach by working to climb to the top of the Google search page. Seen here, Old City Barbeque on York Street participated in a city grant program to get on the map with a virtual Google restaurant tour. (WYDaily/Courtesy Google Maps)

Here’s a riddle: If you’re looking for a crock pot beef stew recipe, the best common household cleaner to remove crayon from the walls, the highest-rated Vietnamese restaurant in town, and information on what jellyfish are made of, where do you turn?

Google.

Since its modest start as a Stanford University research project in 1995, Google has become a staple of the American household — as common as finding a flashlight or a pair of scissors in a kitchen junk drawer.

Despite Williamsburg’s colonial and historic character, some area businesses are modernizing their advertising approach by working to climb to the top of the Google search page.

In the City of Williamsburg, there are grants for that.

Since April 2016, the city’s Economic Development Authority has awarded 43 Google interior virtual tour grants totaling more than $12,300. The grants require a match, meaning a business must pay 50 percent of the total bill from a Google-certified photographer.

“Especially when it comes to lodging, they want to see what they’re getting,” said Billy Scruggs, owner of the Williamsburg Fife and Drum Inn on Prince George Street.

Those who search for the Fife and Drum Inn on Google Maps can click a small thumbnail on the left hand side of the screen, which transports the viewer to the inside of the inn. From there, the viewer can click into full 360-degree views of each room.

Having an interior virtual tour online can help rank a business above other related items in a Google search.

Those who search for the Fife and Drum Inn on Google Maps can click a small thumbnail on the left hand side of the screen, which transports the viewer to the inside of the inn. From there, the viewer can click into full 360-degree views of each room. (WYDaily/Courtesy Google Maps)
Those who search for the Fife and Drum Inn on Google Maps can click a small thumbnail on the left hand side of the screen, which transports the viewer to the inside of the inn. From there, the viewer can click into full 360-degree views of each room. (WYDaily/Courtesy Google Maps)

City Economic Development Specialist Yuri Adams said the grant program generated more than 263,000 new views on Google for the businesses who received grant funding in fiscal year 2019.

The virtual tour isn’t only helpful for those in the lodging business.

Old City Barbeque on York Street also signed up for a Google virtual tour shortly after the restaurant opened in August 2017, which shows the interior of the restaurant, including a side dining room, a front patio and a view from the bar.

“I think for folks who haven’t been here, especially all the out of town guests that we get, it really helps them see what they’re going to get themselves into,” said Vernon Geddy IV, restaurant co-owner. “People like to see if its updated, see if everything’s looking shiny.”

The total project cost $720, $360 of which was covered by grant funding.

“The grant money was obviously the big incentive for us to do that,” Geddy said. “Providing 50 percent of the cost was a thing that made it from a ‘Maybe’ to a ‘Definitely.’”

Both Scruggs and Geddy said it’s difficult to track the impact the virtual tours have had on their businesses, but in Geddy’s words “it never hurts” to give more information to potential customers.

The city EDA may request additional funds next year to keep the program going.

In a preliminary draft funding request, the EDA requested $5,000 from the city to support the virtual tour grant program.

The official funding request for FY 2020 is due in January and subject to change before that deadline.

“What researchers are finding, especially in the current generation … is people are researching businesses online before seeing them in person,” Adams said. “Besides trusting reviews or what the owners are saying about their stores, people can actually click through and see what the 360-degree tour looks like.”

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

Related Articles

MORE FROM AUTHOR