Google already knows where you are! Think about it. A few decades back, that statement may have sounded to some like the tagline for some 1960s-era William Castle movie about a malevolent overlord from outer space. But today, with all our reliance on technology, it sounds to most like a long-overdue upgrade to one of the most powerful and popular web mapping services in the world. And, according to a posting on the Google Lat Long Blog by Andrey Salaev, Software Engineer at Google Maps, it’s all true!
Since February of 2005, when Google Maps was officially launched, the online map service has quickly become the go-to resource for finding any address, building, restaurant, or business in any town. But, in the past, one of the more annoying features of Google Maps was that you had to manually enter your current location. Frustrated mappers were constantly typing in their address or city as a starting point whenever they wanted to use Google Maps to plot a course to any given destination. Thankfully, the recent update to Google Maps has solved this problem. If you launch Google Maps today, you’ll notice that your location is auto detected (listed in the upper-left-hand corner of the screen). You’re clearly ready to begin exploring. Of course, if the location listed in Google Maps is, for some strange reason, incorrect, you can click on the “Correct it” arrow and enter a different location. If you’re already signed in to your Google account, Google Maps will save your location for you and make it available next time you launch the Maps site.
So, what’s the big deal, you ask? Aside from the fact that the update to Google Maps will save you a few keystrokes and get you out the door and on the way to your destination with a few extra seconds to spare, the auto location detection is good for helping you to quickly discover local businesses, restaurants, and attractions around your current location (this is particularly helpful if you happen to be traveling through an unfamiliar city with Google Maps launched on a mobile device).
For businesses, the recent changes to Google Maps present an opportunity. Keep in mind that the three governing principles for Google Maps are comprehensiveness, accuracy, and usability. Each of the principles is important, but usability is the real key here. Google is attempting to give us a better starting point for finding things in our world. The better able we are to discover, the more likely we will be to continue discovering. Businesses should take this idea to heart. Obviously, there has been a big push to get businesses listed on Google Places for Business (formerly Google Local). Those businesses that are listed stand a better chance of being found by folks searching around their current locations (again, particularly if they’re using a mobile device).
In some respects, Google is placing a magnifying glass to our current locations. So much more can now been seen around us – with 75% of the world now covered by Google Earth’s high-resolution imagery, and 5 million unique miles of roads captured by Street View. It’s clear that Google hasn’t even really begun to leverage the power of Maps and the data fed to it through Places. What we do know is that we now have a starting point that best suits our every search.
Of course, those of us in the web marketing business are currently performing tests to see if this auto-detect mapping service change will have any positive or negative effects with businesses listed at Google local.