Google Maps is a very useful tool for a lot of tourism websites.
Used well, it can pinpoint a location for your visitors, and let them zoom out to get their bearings.
But there is a gotcha to do with map points – if you aren’t careful with map points, it can go horribly wrong.
Why? Well, Google Maps doesn’t always show the locations and features you might want it to. It might not show the locations you describe on your website (which is what your customers will probably look for). It might well show locations and markers that highlight other locations and businesses – possibly your competitors.
If the map you show doesn’t show your location, it can be downright misleading to your visitors.
For this reason, if you want to use Google Maps on your website, you should always check exactly what your customers will be seeing.
I’ll give you an example. Rottnest Express are one of the Rottnest ferry operators. There are various ferry departure points around Perth, and multiple departure points in Fremantle.
The Rottnest Express website tells you they depart from B Shed, ’5 mins walk from Fremantle train station’.
The website doesn’t make it easy to find a map showing where B Shed is. Once you give up trying to find the map and decide to call them and ask, you’ll go to the Contact page … and find the map there.
Rottnest Express Map on their Website (click to enlarge)
Now, the map is an embedded Google Map, with a clear marker showing the (alleged) location of B Shed.
Trouble is, it isn’t where B Shed is located. If you bothered to print off this map and follow the instructions (an easy 5 min walk from the train), you’d wind up walking the wrong way and if lucky meeting the friendly security guards from Customs.
If you bothered to look at the map in detail, you might notice Google show a marker for the Perth-Rottnest ferry, and show a clearly marked ferry departure point a bit further up the river – just past the bridge.
If you walked further that way, you’d then be at totally the wrong place – again. That is the departure point for one of the other ferry operators.
If you finally gave up and tried searching Google Maps for B Shed Fremantle, you wouldn’t find it, as it isn’t on their map at all.
Decoding the Rottnest Express Map (click to enlarge)
Moral of the story: if you want to use Google Maps for your tourism website, check out how your map will appear to your customers. If your location isn’t listed, you can still set a marker using an exact latitude/longitude measure, which will at least ensure the visible marker is in the right place.
I hope Rottnest Express are successful in updating their map marker. I did call them to let them know their map needed updating – I worry about all the backpackers who’ve done the walk up river on a hot day!
PS: If you bothered to walk up river to the map marker, this is what you’d see:
The Alleged Location of B Shed (click to enlarge)