How to get your information into Google Maps (6): User generated data

If you want to publish information into Google Maps that isn’t a business location, you cannot use the Local Business Center, or the local ads option. You could use local AdWords ads, but that won’t display your information on the map.

Another way of adding information into Google Maps is by creating your own data sources. There are a few different ways of doing this and this article shows you how.

KML

All solutions are based on the fact that Google started indexing KML files. The exact moment they started doing this is unknown, but the first public announcement was begin this year when Google started encouraging users to create KML files and link these in their sitemaps.

After this KML support was showing up everywhere:

And the latest news about KML support was last month, when Google announced MyMaps. The biggest news in this announcement wasn’t about creating your own maps, but about searching user generated content:

The user-created results include KML as well as maps made through My Maps.

All KML files Google finds when crawling the web, can be searched from Google Maps! So it’s interesting to find out how you can create your own KML files.

Manually

Because KML is ‘just’ an xml format, you could create it with a normal text or xml editor.

Here’s a very simple example:


<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<kml xmlns="http://earth.google.com/kml/2.1">
  <Placemark>
    <name>Million Pieces</name>
    <description>This is my location</description>
    <Point>
      <coordinates>
        4.99941388888889,52.35555555555555,0
      </coordinates>
    </Point>
  </Placemark>
</kml>

You could use this option for one location or maybe a few locations. But if you need to add more locations, or if you want to use more advanced KML-features, it’s better to use one of the other options.

Google Earth

Google Earth is all about KML. The name, ‘Keyhole Markup Language’ refers to the Keyhole company which originally created the Google Earth application (name of the application was Keyhole). Most of the data used in Google Earth is stored as KML. This includes the default layers, the layers you can download from the internet.

Besides viewing KML files, it’s also very easy to create your own KML files with Google Earth.

First start the program and go to a place you want to mark. You can find a place by manually searching the globe using your mouse, you can search for an address using the ‘fly to’ option or you can find a business location by using the ‘find business’ option.

If you found the correct location, use the ‘add placemark’ button from the toolbar.

Google Earth's toolbar, use the add placemark button

In the window you’ll get next, you can add the the name and description for the marker. You can also change some other properties, eg color of the icon and the color of the label.

Add placemarker infowindow

The same way you can also add polygons, paths and image overlays.

When you’re finished, you can save the marker by right clicking on the location in My Places and select ‘save as’. This file needs to be placed somewhere on a webserver, but more about this later on in this article.

If you want to create a kml file which contains multiple markers, overlays, polygons, etc you’d better start by creating a folder under ‘My Places’. Place all the markers in this folder and select ‘save as’ on the folder.

Google MyMaps

About a month ago Google announced the MyMaps feature.

This feature allows users to create custom maps. But even more important, every created map is accessible as a kml file and is also being indexed by Google. So your maps can show up in the search result of a Google Maps search.

To create your own map, you’ll need an Google account. If you have one go to maps.google.com. If you don’t have a Google account you can also use this link, here you’ll find more information about creating an account.

On the homepage of Google Maps, there’s tab named ‘My Maps’, it’s next to the ‘Search Results’ tab.

My Maps tab

Here you can create a new map and give it a title and description. You can also make it public or unlisted. Public maps will be included in the search results on Google Maps (and Google Earth).

Create a new My Map

You can add placemarkers, lines and shapes to your newly created map and give these a title and description. The description can be normal text, but also html. It’s even possible to include flash videos.

Create a new placemarker

Save your map and you’re done. The map will be automatically indexed by Google.

Mashup

This is a completely different approach than the onces discussed before.

You can use the Google Maps API to create your own Mashup.

Google Maps mashups are a great way of adding information on a map to your own website. If you have location related information stored in a database it’s easy to publish on a map with the Google Maps API, but it’s also not too difficult to create a KML file with the same information. This way you can make sure the information is not only displayed on your own website, but it’ll also be indexed by Google. How Google finds your kml file? Keep on reading.

Sitemap

A sitemap is an xml file1 which contains a list of pages that are available on a website for crawling. It is a list of urls with some metadata about the urls (change frequency, last modified, etc).

Sitemaps are supported by all major search engines and are even auto discoverable. Just upload the file to your server, add the location to your robots.txt and the crawlers will find it.

If you have a kml file you can upload it to your website and add the url to your sitemap, like this:


<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9">
   <url>
      <loc>http://millionpieces.nl/mylocations.kml</loc>
      <lastmod>2007-05-10</lastmod>
      <changefreq>weekly</changefreq>
   </url>
</urlset>

Next time Google downloads your sitemap file, the KML file wil also be scheduled for indexing.

Future

At this moment Google is the only search engine that indexes KML files. Maybe in the future others will follow (especially those with their own local search or maps).

At this moment KML is the only geo related format Google indexes, at least that I’m aware of. The Google Maps API and the Google Maps website also support the GeoRSS format. GeoRSS information can be displayed on the Google Maps website and on your own Mashups by using the Google Maps API, so it’s not unthinkable Google will start indexing these also.

This was supposed to be the last article in the series about how to get your information into Google Maps, but I think I’ll write 2 more. The next one will be about Coupons and the last one will be a summary of all articles.

If you have any questions or comments, you can use the feedback form on the contact page (comments will be enabled very soon!).

1 It can also be a text file, but the features of a text file are limited

3 Responses to “How to get your information into Google Maps (6): User generated data”

  1. Gonen Shoham Says:

    Thanks for a great Google MyMaps !!!

    My question is about changing the order by which the placemarks I added to My Map. Currently it’s being always added to the bottom of the list. Will we have an option to MOVE UP / DOWN a place within the MyMap placemarks ?

    THANKS !!!

  2. Alberto Gobbi Says:

    Interesting article.

    I have a question.. I’m trying to know how can i get information from google maps exporting this information into a txt file?
    Do have any idea? I looking for some kind of “information retrieval” from Google Maps.

    Thanks.

  3. Alberto Gobbi Says:

    Finally I found the answer.. Everything is on Google Maps API. It’s just that I was looking for a program, but no matters, i can do it by myself. Thanks

Leave a Reply