How Google Might Automatically Insert Links to Google Maps in Web Pages

Will Google start inserting links to Google Maps on web pages when it finds location information on those pages? A recently published patent application from Google describes how it might identify location information on web pages, verify the locations found on those pages, and insert links to maps after finding and verifying them.

The patent filing explains that while many websites include an address or addresses for their locations and for the locations of other businesses and organizations, those sites don’t often include maps or directions to help make it easier for people visit in person. There are a few reasons why sites might not include those types of features on their pages:

  • Including a map or a link to a map might involve the payment of licensing fees from some map providers.
  • It can take some work to integrate a map onto the pages of a website.
  • Many of the maps available to web site owners don’t provide features that are particularly helpful to potential visitors.

I know that I’ve cut and pasted many addresses from web pages in the past into Google Maps to get directions to places I’ve wanted to visit or find out more about. If Google made it so that I could press a button on my browser, and any address information on a page would automatically link to a Google Map for that address, I would probably use that feature. That browser button approach is one alternative to address-linking described in the patent filing.

Another alternative might involve Google automatically inserting links into pages when it found location information, though Google might also let webmasters control whether or not to insert map links onto their pages and set preferences for how that kind of information might be displayed.

This process might involve inserting links directly onto a web page, or providing links in a sidebar or in another manner that doesn’t involve directly changing the code found on a page itself.

The kinds of location information that might be linked could include postal address information, telephone numbers, names of landmarks and other points of interest, airport codes and others.

Pages where location information might be found and may have links inserted within them could include an organization’s or business’ web site, news articles that mention a location, directories that include locations for specific businesses and organizations, word processing documents that include addresses, and others.

System For Automatically Integrating A Digital Map System
Invented by Lars Eilstrup Rasmussen and Jens Eilstrup Rasmussen
Assigned to Google
US Patent Application 20100251088
Published September 30, 2010
Filed: May 28, 2010

Abstract

A method and system for integrating a digital map system with a source document is disclosed including detecting a location description in the source document, and replacing the detected location description with a hyperlink linking to a depiction of the location description.

Another embodiment may include a method and system for integrating a digital map system with a source document including detecting a location description in a source document, verifying that the location description describes an actual location, and integrating a hyperlink linking a depiction of the location description into the source document.

Detecting Location Information

The patent filing tells us a little about how it might find address information on a web page.

As the search engine parses through the text on a page, it may look for a number of different indications that an address is being shown, looking for fairly simple to identify things such as an abbreviation for a road, such as Rd, Dr, Blvd, and Ave. These often indicate that a postal address is being displayed. If one of those is found, it may look for a number preceding that identifier to determine if it is a postal address number. A zip code, a two-letter state code identifier, and other location information is also looked for such as telephone numbers, and airport codes. The more of these “location description identifiers” are found, the higher a level of confidence may be assigned to a location included on a page.

The patent filing notes that this kind of information might not only be taken from textual information found on web pages, but also by using an optical character recognition system which might identify address information found within images of text found on pages.

If sufficient address information is found on a page, the search engine might insert a link from that address to a map of the location, which can include a way to get directions to the location as well.

But, the search engine may take some steps before displaying a link, such as verifying that the address indicated actually exists by checking databases resources that contain things such as postal and telephone information.

Conclusion

Google is investing a lot of time and effort into making Google Maps as useful as possible, and inserting links on web pages to Google Maps when Google identifies verifiable location information could significantly increase the amount of visitors to Google Maps.

We don’t know if the process described in this patent filing is something that Google will move forward with, but it’s possible that they will.

The patent application tells us that this could be implemented a few different ways, from the use of a button on a browser that people could push to add location links to a page, to the automatic insertion of those kinds of links without a viewer taking action. Site owners might also be able to set preferences about whether and how location information might be shown and/or displayed on their pages if Google decides to insert map links on their pages.

If Google decides to move ahead with these kinds of links, it might not hurt site owners to spend some time with Google Maps, verifying their businesses if they haven’t already, and doing things like including a good description of their business, categories, and adding images and/or videos.

If you own a business or run an organization, and you don’t have a web site, it may still be helpful to sign up with Google Maps and verify your business or organization and work to make your Google Place Page attractive to potential visitors. The reason why – if your business or organization is listed within a directory or other page on the Web that you don’t control, along with location information, Google may create a link from that mention to Google Maps.

Should Google start inserting maps to locations found on websites to Google Maps?

Would they do this only for businesses or other organizations, or would they even include links for personal addresses? The patent filing really doesn’t address that issue.

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34 thoughts on “How Google Might Automatically Insert Links to Google Maps in Web Pages”

  1. I imagine the use of RDFa or other microformats when addresses are published on a web page would be even more help to Google. But I wonder what a publisher has to gain from providing that information.

  2. It’s really great if they . Google Maps will grow in importance and like you said the verification of Google Maps is going to be even more crucial in the following years.

  3. Incredible! Imagine this feature on any of the existing apartment-for-rent sites and you’ve got yourself a huge leap in usability and user satisfaction.

  4. It’s really interesting
    It could change the way of doing seo for sites related to tourism

  5. This seems like a good idea but I rather think that this may prove to be one step too far for an integrated a Google product. Although I can see the possible uses, I don’t believe that it would provide sufficient benefits over the existing Google Maps to warrant the R&D time. I short, the web-monkeys are well capable of inserting anchors to Google Maps.

  6. Hi Jeremy,

    With more location based applications on mobile devices, I can’t help but believe that Google Maps is going to grow in importance and usage by a lot over the next few years.

  7. Hi Dan,

    The patent uses an example of a pizzeria finding site, with addresses for pizza places being linked to – I think you’re right – if links to Google Maps automatically showed up in apartment rental places, or on Craig’s list postings, that would be interesting.

  8. Hi Alex,

    Good point. I can envision a number of different kinds of sites that might become much more user friendly if Google does come out with this.

  9. Hi Ray,

    There’s a difference between being capable of doing something and actually doing it.

    I run across a lot of sites that include addresses to places but don’t link to a map or provide directions.

    I could see a big boost in the use of Google Maps if Google started doing this.

  10. Hi Bob,

    Google seems to be encouraging people to use microformats as well when they do place address information on pages, telling us that using RDFa makes it more likely that Google will use the correct information on their place pages:

    In their page on Rich Snippets for Local Search, they tell us for instance that:

    Your addition of structured markup simply helps to resolve ambiguities by clarifying that 1) you are in fact referencing a business (e.g. you mean “Shalimar” the restaurant rather than “Shalimar” the city), and 2) you’re referencing a very specific location (e.g. the Shalimar in Sunnyvale rather than the Shalimar in San Francisco).

    Now they don’t necessarily say that anyone using Microformats might rank better in local search, but they are saying that if you use something like RDFa, it’s more likely that they will get business location information correct. I’m not sure how many people have gone through the process of marking up their addresses with microformats though. I have for my contact listing in the sidebar, though I’ve had to tweak that a few times.

    I’m not sure that I gain much, but the sites that show rich snippets, like the number of stars in a review in their snippet may get more traffic because of it.

  11. Pingback: SEO Strategies: Microformats in Web Development
  12. This is great. I agree, “Google Maps is going to be even more crucial in the following years”. I just hope that they can eventually speed up how long sometimes it already takes to load Google Maps.

  13. All of the above said, in order to really revolutionize usability here the embedding process has to be webmaster friendly. I’ve had to deal with Google Places positioning for a client a few months ago, and let me tell you – the issues I’ve had with their bulk upload file generation were as annoying as they get.

  14. Very interesting concept here – they would have to do this through the google Tool bar or a Chrome /FF Extension or something? Kind of like how Skype can pick up phone numbers I guess….

    Or, knowing Google, it will be a “logged” in thing – as in if you are logged into your Google Account, it will put an overlay “click here” button on any site you visit with an address.

    and as Bob Said above, addresses would have to be in a microformat.

  15. I will be curious to see how this Google application will handle items such as Post Office boxes. In the case of businesses located in my hometown, a Post Office box address will reflect a place on the map up to 11 miles (in some cases) from their physical location.

  16. I too use often Google maps, and it would really useful to access a location from a webpage. It will save me a lot of time.

  17. HI Ted,

    I hope they can speed those up as well. Sometimes it takes a while when you try to zoom in or out on a map, though I’m often willing to wait because there really aren’t many places I can go to get the same type of visuals and information.

  18. Hi Dan,

    The bulk uploader can be a little bit of a challenge sometimes.

    I think the focus of this process is upon making it easier for people to connect addresses to maps. I’ve put some Google Maps on pages, and while it wasn’t too difficult, I’d do more of it if it were easier. Linking to a particular Maps page really isn’t that difficult, but I don’t see a lot of people doing it.

  19. Hi Christopher,

    Good points. It’s possible that Google could offer this either way – through a browser or a browser addon, or while you’re logged into Google.

    But, the patent doesn’t mention microformats, microdata, or RDFa a single time, and instead provides a glimpse at an algorithm which might try to interpret text found on a page to see if it might be refering to an address.

    It might be easier for Google to do that if the location information was in a microformat, but it doesn’t seem to be required.

  20. Hi Greg,

    I’m not sure that Google would provide a link to a map for an address that uses a post office box number.

    The idea seems to be to make it easier for people to find maps for locations found on web pages, rather than giving people an approximate location or a link to a place page.

    It’s also possible that many people using a post office box number may not really want a map link to their approximate address anyway.

  21. HI Dylan,

    I think that’s one of the selling points of this approach to me, too. I’m much more likely to click on a link to a map then to cut-and-paste an address, go to Google Maps, and do a search.

  22. Hi Carl,

    I think the emphasis is on “usable,” too, though I wonder how many webmasters might find this invasive if Google made it easy for people browsing a page to see a link to Google maps on their pages that the webmasters didn’t place there themselves.

  23. Sounds like most feel that this would be a usable google feature…I too would benefit from the function.

  24. Hi Brian,

    Thank you. I’ve also created a few Google “My Maps” which I’ve embedded in posts as well, such as a map that shows the locations of local wineries in my area, for a blog post on the topic.

    Google has devoted a lot of time and energy and resources into Google Maps, and it’s likely going to continue to grow, especially with a host of location based services and mobile applications being developed these days.

    Improving how well you rank in local search can make a big difference in the number of people who contact you. I think it’s important for more businesses that haven’t verified their listings in Google to do so, and gain more control over what is actually included in those listings.

  25. Enjoyable post Bill. I have recently had a Google Map integrated into my new website on the advice of the company that designed it. I also have a good friend and previous colleague who has experienced great success attracting local traffic over the past 6 months. Like you, I too think that Google Maps is going to grow in importance over the next few years.

  26. The only issue here is the added convenience for novice users. All the base technologiy is already in place. As geocoding engines improve automation is inevitable. It’ll give naysayers something more to complain about but it’s really only yellowpages for the 21st century.

  27. Hi Greg,

    I agree with you that the main benefit out of this patent is primarily for novice users, though I think there are many advanced web publishers who may avoid including maps or links to maps for reasons other than a lack of knowledge of how to do so.

    I have a feeling that Google Maps is going to evolve into a pretty impressive yellow pages for the 21st Century.

  28. Oh I agree! What’s exciting is how they’ll put it together..It’s a complex task…I’m looking forward to it

  29. We are actually integrating Google Maps and its pinpointing system in our hotel booking and directory listing websites. Users simply love to see where this or that hotel is located or where any shop is located.

  30. Hi Louis,

    I was looking at the Google Maps API pages earlier today, and there’s a lot that you can do with those.

    I think including the Maps on your pages can be really helpful to potential visitors.

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