New company helps businesses compete in the Google world with virtual tours

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By Martin Kidston/MISSOULA CURRENT

There was a day not long ago when customers searching for a local business turned to the Yellow Pages and jotted down the address on a piece of scratch paper. But Roxane Rinard says those days are long gone.

Unfortunately, she adds, most Montana businesses haven’t made the transition.

“Four out of five customers use the web to find out more about local businesses, but only 37 percent of businesses have claimed their business listing on Google,” said Rinard. “That means 37 percent of our businesses are doing it and the rest are missing the boat. When they miss the boat, they lose, our community loses and our state loses.”

Rinard and business partner Roxanne Duffy, both of Arlee, have launched Developing Wings to help other companies convert to the digital age and appear on Google maps.

Rinard, a former software developer and Google-trusted verifier, and Duffy – a professional photographer – have taken the process one step further by producing digital tours of companies claiming a brick-and-mortar location.

“When people go to Google maps, they can click on your business,” said Rinard. “By having the virtual tour, you get to see what the inside looks like so when you get there, there’s a comfort level that wasn’t there before, and that really helps.”

Rinard’s new business is the product of an evolving Internet. In the early days, she custom coded webpages – a time consuming and costly endeavor. But as technology would have, templates simplified the process, making it more affordable for a new business to find its place in the digital world.

Watching her own business as a coder dwindle, Rinard realized that while new businesses appeared on the Internet, they didn’t understand the importance of a search engine optimization. It created new problems she was eager to solve.

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Roxane Rinard

“I backed up and took a look at what I was doing, and how I could adjust my business to change with this,” she said. “I really wanted to help the entrepreneurs get started. I was also wondering how Google was handling the fact that most businesses don’t understand search engine optimization, even though they want to have all the business information.”

The information included in a Google listing includes the business address, a map to the location and contact information. Without it, Rinard said, a business won’t appear in a Google search – an oversight on the part of the owner.

As a Google-trusted verifier, Rinard helps complete the process. Developing Wings can also create a virtual tour, giving customers an inside look before they ever reach the front door.

“I am not a Google employee. I have partnered my business with Google,” said Rinard. “Once I had my certification and had gone through all the tests, I can use the badge and have on my card that I can do a Google trusted tour.”