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
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.
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.