(Cross-posted on the Lat Long Blog and the Small Business Blog.)

When we initially announced the Business Photos pilot program, we wanted to give business owners an easy way to get customers in the door online using interactive, high-quality, 360-degree images of places on Google Maps and on Google Search results. With thousands of businesses under our belt — from salons to gift shops — we’ve been hearing the same question again and again from both business owners and photographers alike: How can I participate?

Well, with the overwhelming success of the first pilot, we’ve decided to unveil a complementary initiative that will help us reach more interested business owners, more quickly: Trusted Photographers.

Click and drag to view the inside of Spice Market, New York City.

It’s simple. Visit our new website and search for a Google Trusted Photographer in your area. Either email or call a photographer in your area to schedule a time and agree on a price that you will pay the photographer for a photoshoot of your business. This self-serve model makes for easier scheduling and quicker turnaround, while also supporting the local photographers in your community. During the hour it should take for the shoot, you can collaborate with the photographer about how best to display and capture your business. When finished, the photographer will upload the images to Google, and shortly thereafter, you’ll see 360-degree panoramic views of your business on, Google Maps and on your Google Places listing.

See how Business Photos has helped Toy Joy of Austin, Texas.

Trusted Photographers are available in 14 U.S. cities, as well as in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and France. Don’t see a photographer in your area? Let us know, as that will help us determine where more Trusted Photographers are needed.

Posted by Gadi Royz, Product Manager, Google Maps

(cross-posted on the Inside AdWords Blog

More and more people are falling in love with Valentine’s Day. According to a recent survey by ORC International, Valentine’s Day is now the number two gift giving holiday, right behind Christmas, with 88% of Americans saying they plan on giving a present to their loved ones. This should be great news for businesses, but marketers still have trouble making a love connection with consumers based on charts that look more like dated EKG readings than real-time insights into the heart of the consumer.

Since getting the affections of one person is hard enough, below are some timely insights from Google’s “database of intentions” to keep you ahead of the game as you create your Valentine’s Day campaigns.

Search is where the heart is
Already we’re seeing Google searches related to Valentine’s Day increase 35% compared to last year. Not only are more people searching, they’re searching earlier - last year people began looking for Valentine’s Day ideas on January 9th. This year the upward trend began two days earlier, on January 7th.

Across categories, jewelry is seeing a 42% increase in mobile and desktop queries compared to January of last year; gifts jumped 27%, and flowers saw an 18% spike.

Girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice
The results from this graph show women look for gift ideas earlier and more often than their male significant others. Maybe men are more last minute about buying gifts than women, but it doesn’t mean they’re cheap about it! In 2011 the average man spent $158 for Valentine’s Day, about $80 more than women.

Looking for a change of heart?
Valentine’s Day is less than three weeks away, which means that this is this is the great opportunity for marketers to influence people with their products since consumers are still searching for ideas. If you look at the word cloud below (spoiler alert!), a good chunk of people are searching for “diy valentines gifts” and “valentines day baskets,” which means there will be quite a few people unwrapping homemade gifts or pre-made gift baskets this year. The biggest cluster of phrases, “valentines day border,” “valentines day drinks,” and “valentines day meals,” signal that people are also planning on celebrating in style. Now would be a good time to promote recipes and decoration ideas in your campaigns.

For more useful trends and tips for your campaign, download and review the 2012 Valentine’s Day Consumer Intentions Deck on Think Insights. Hopefully it helps you steal away some hearts!

Posted by Christina Park, Product Marketing Manager, Think with Google

Well, it’s been just over a week since we wrapped up another exciting CES with some very innovative new product displays. From the world’s thinnest tablet (and a concept tablet...and a waterproof tablet!), to a range of smart tvs, to a surge in ultrabook designs, and of course who could leave out the sleek new smartphones, this year’s show had many talked about products.

But what will have consumers buzzing the remainder of the year, as many of these products gear up for their official releases? While it’s tough to predict that, we did want to take a quick look at what happened after CES last year, to glean insights into some trends we can look for this year.

Insight #1: CES week search volume could be a good indicator of launch week popularity

Insight #2: CES 2012’s Top 5 Products had 50% more Google Searches than CES 2011’s Top 5
ASUS Transformer Prime looks like a potential big winner based on Google search volume, and its volume was even greater than two of last year’s hottest products, the HTC Thunderbolt and Motorola Atrix.

Insight #3: Samsung made a much bigger splash this year with 3 of top 5 mobile searches, while in 2011, HTC had 2 of the top 5 products. Top products are determined based on query volume.

Insight #4: Among top launches, the Nokia Lumia was the most frequent 2012 product searched in a single session on and heavily searched on YouTube. The ASUS Eee Pad and Transformer Prime were cross-researched on most often with the Lumia. User activity on Youtube showed top term Nokia Lumia with 1.3 million video views for the Nokia LumiaTV ad.The ASUS Eee Pad had ~400K video views for review and there were about ~540K views for “Ipads2 vs ASUS”.Consumers are searching primarily for products and product reviews on & YouTube to learn more about new launches during CES.

Keep checking our Tech blog for other insights and trends over the course of the year. Here’s to a great 2012!

Posted by Nina Thatcher and Amy Liu, The Google Tech Team

(cross-posted on the Official Google Blog)

In the amount of time it takes you to read this blog post, roughly 382 Android phones will be activated, 250,000+ words will be written on Blogger and 48 hours of video will be uploaded to YouTube. The world is moving faster than ever before, bringing us instant access and split-second connections to people and information.

Speed is important in technology, but equally essential in business. Consumer expectations are rising as we learn to take speed for granted; today’s email is tomorrow’s snail mail. In our hyper-real-time world, nanoseconds matter—which means we need to question old assumptions. How will we respond to consumer expectations as the demand for instant access to everything intensifies? How will we keep pace in a world that moves at web speed?

The new Speed issue of Think Quarterly explores these questions and more. Our SVP of Engineering Urs Hölzle shares our efforts to speed up the Internet, while Astro Teller, Director of New Products, dreams about the amazing inventions these improvements will unleash. Paul Gunning, CEO of Tribal DDB, talks about the rise of real-time marketing. And journalist Jeff Jarvis wonders if we’re really that fast after all.

We hope you enjoy the issue. Let us know what you think on +Think With Google. And if you’re at CES this week, drop by our Room to Think in the South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center and tell us your thoughts live. We’ll also host a Google+ Hangout there with Astro Teller, author of Speed of Dreams, on Thursday at 2pm PST.

Posted by Allison Mooney, Think Quarterly Editor

(Cross posted on the Official Google Blog and the YouTube Blog)

Every year in the tech world, thousands of us pack a bag with all of our gadgets and head to Las Vegas for the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES). It’s a tech lover’s paradise where you can check out new technologies and talk about the trends of the future with visionary members of the industry. If you’ll be joining us, here are a few places and dates where you can find Google and YouTube.

We’ll kick things off at 3:00pm PT on Tuesday, January 10 with chairman Eric Schmidt speaking at CNET Presents - The Next Big Thing in CE, in Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) North Hall N255-257. On the following day, January 11, we have a bunch of events across topics:
  • Google’s senior policy counsel Rick Whitt will participate in the Innovation Policy Summit Session: Spectrum for Wireless Broadband: Putting the Puzzle Pieces Together in LVCC North Hall N264 at 10:15am PT.
  • On the education front, Angela Lin, manager of YouTube EDU, will present on “High Tech U”—digital tools and services that are changing the traditional ivory tower—at 3:00pm PT in LVCC North Hall N256.
  • End the day at 5:00pm PT with CNET's Women In Tech panel, featuring Marissa Mayer, VP of product management, in LVCC South Hall, Upper Level Lobby - CNET Stage.
On Thursday, January 12 at 10:00am PT, YouTube will be keynoting the Entertainment Matters program in the Las Vegas Hilton Theatre. Robert Kyncl, VP of global content, will share his thoughts on the evolution of the entertainment industry, and he’ll later be joined by partners and friends for a panel discussion.

Don’t forget to check out Google TV around CES this year. Recently announced new partners LG, Marvell, MediaTek join Samsung, Sony and Vizio having new devices to play with at their booths. You can also find YouTube demos on TVs and devices around the LVCC show floor at LG, Panasonic, Samsung, Toshiba and other booths.

For first-timers, here’s a video overview of the show from the Official CES Channel:

Stay tuned for updates on our +YouTube page and on Twitter—pack your smartphones, tablets, laptops, netbooks, televisions, E-readers and of course, your battery chargers, and see you in Las Vegas!

Posted by Matt McLernon, Communications Manager, YouTube

When it comes to online marketing, retailers often have significant opportunity to expand their presence. However, limited budgets and/or ROI goals restrict them from reaching many customers seeking the types of products and services they sell. Geo-targeting allows retailers to accomplish their goals without an overwhelming incremental investment. Here are four strategies:

1. Increase sales while maintaining ROI goals.  
Identify campaigns with low impression share. Then pull an geo report (under the "Dimensions" tab in AdWords) for those campaigns to find local markets with high conversion rates. Develop separate campaigns targeting these markets and increase your CPC bids to ensure your ad is showing up in a top position.

2. Earn market share. 
Identify local markets where competitors are attracting more customers, either in-store or online. Beyond your internal competitive intelligence here are other ways to identify these markets:
  • Use syndicated data like Hitwise or Compete to pull a report that compares each DMA's percent traffic contribution to your site and your competitor's site. Set up campaigns targeting those DMAs that contribute a larger percentage of total traffic to your competitor's site.
  • Use the "Regional Interest" map on Insights for Search to see which states or metros index high against search volume on your competitor's brand terms, yet index on search volume for your brand term. See the charts below as an example. You can see on the heat map that search volume for "Staples" is higher in New England and the Mid Atlantic while search volume for "Office Depot" is higher in the south and west coast. Office Depot could implement geo-targeted campaigns to a few New England markets while Staples might want to consider geo-targeting markets like Miami, Dallas, Austin, New Orleans and Las Vegas.
Regional Interest in the term "Staples" for the last 30 days (report pulled on 1/3/11)

Regional Interest in the term "Office Depot" for the last 30 days (report pulled on 1/3/11)
Once you have identified your markets, develop separate campaigns geo-targeting these markets and increase bids to push your ad into a top position. Ensure your ad is showing up against relevant non-brand terms and implement geo-targeted display campaigns to heighten awareness of your brand among local consumers. Success metrics for this strategy should be a change in share of sales or new customers, click & impression share and an increase in local searches on brand terms.

3. Increase in-store traffic. 
Identify markets where you have a large store footprint and put a higher value on online influenced in-store conversions in those markets. For example, let's say a retailer has 2 stores in Nashville and 10 stores in Boston. When calculating ROI, on your online campaigns your Boston in-store multiplier should be higher than your Nashville multiplier. This should allow you to implement heavy-up campaigns targeted to Boston while maintaining ROI goals.

4. Promote new stores. 
If you are expanding your store footprint into new markets, heavy up on geo-targeted search & display campaigns to promote your store opening. Remember to include all promotions, events and offers associated with the store opening in your copy.

Posted by Eva Barbier, The Google Retail Team