Showing your address and locations with Google Maps is not just useful to site visitors; it can also help your SEO. With WordPress, there are different Google Maps plugins that can create specialized use-cases for showing maps on your site, which are helpful, timesaving and a lot more interesting than simply embedding a Google map manually.
In many cases, using Google Maps on your site with a map plugin can be really essential. Some of these plugins take care of the organizational ‘thinking’ you’d need to do for displaying location-related details in an easy-to-find way. And of course, they do save you a lot of coding work.
This article will go through a few options for plugins that can be used to display Google Maps and business locations, and explain why you’d want to use these in different scenarios.
Yoast’s Local SEO plugin
This is Google Maps plugin is a premium plugin built by the same people behind the ever-famous WordPress SEO plugin. Based on that, you can guess it will be quality-made, and set up for ease-of-use for non-coders. The focus of this plugin is being able to implement location-based Schema.org tactics to your site, to help the way it appears in search engine results pages (SERPs).
Schema.org structured data in your code can tell search engines things about your business that would be hard to interpret without these specialized tags. For example, you could list your address, but how would a search engine know if those strings of numbers were actually an address, and not a phone number, or price, or product SKU code? There is a way to specify what kind of information meta robots are scanning, so they can deliver more accurate and detailed results to searchers. You’ve probably seen star ratings, for example, on SERPs before. These are possible with Schema meta data.
If you code these data tags incorrectly, or don’t update them to their latest standards, you could lose out on their benefits. That’s why a premium plugin like this one with a team of developers behind it is useful – it saves you from the work of worrying about getting it right, and usually releases regular updates.
The useful thing about the Local SEO plugin in particular is that if you have multiple locations, it can handle that with its store locator option. It also has built-in widgets you can use to display maps, and different options for how you want the maps to display (i.e. as “Roadmap,” “Satellite,” etc.). It also has a route planner built into it as an option for your users.
Store Locator Plus by Charleston Software Associates
This is a very extensive Google maps plugin that has longevity and history within the WordPress plugin-o-sphere. Its base version is free, but it has several paid add-ons to enhance the functionality and look of the map plugin. There are also some free add-ons, like extra icons. Just search the WordPress plugin repository for “Store Locator Plus” to find out what’s currently available.
With this plugin, you can use custom map markers out of the box, and display a lot of information for each location. You can get as specific as setting up the longitude and latitude.
The way the map displays data is also very detailed in the settings of this plugin. If you are from a particular country, you can specify for example that the map to be used should be from a particular domain (like maps.google.ca if you are in Canada). You can set the zoom level and language, in addition to things like the display size and map type.
If you know CSS, you can customize the look of the map and results (which may come in useful when setting it up for some responsive media queries). With extensions like the Enhanced Map, designers can get creative by providing a starting image on the location search map, so it doesn’t show a generic map until users enter a location. You can also opt for additional themes from the creator, to save you the hassle of coding your own styles. The Enhanced Map extension can also allow you set a specific map marker for each individual location.
Here is an example of what results look like with a site that customized the plugin’s CSS:
There is a lot more this map can do with its extensions, and we recommend checking them out and their details here.
Mapping Events with Calendar Plugins
We won’t say much about this since we wrote about some great WordPress calendar plugin here. However, it’s worth noting that if you are hosting several events, one of the main questions your attendees will have is about the venue. Not just where it is, but how to get there, what’s nearby (such as hotels, restaurants, or transportation hubs), and so on.
And so, when you pick a calendar plugin, this may be something to consider – what Google map display works best for you? Here is an example of what The Events Calendar plugin looks like when showing a map on an event listing:
Geo-locate Your Posts
You know how on Facebook and Instagram you can set a location for the update you are sharing, so all your friends know exactly where you have been? Well, you can do that with your blog posts too! This is a fun thing to do for travel blogs, or multi-contributor blogs where writers are in several locations.
You can do this a couple ways (but feel free to suggest more in the comments below!):
1) Use our Explorable theme, which is designed to add locations to all your posts. We wrote about it here. It can also handle visitor ratings, filter searches and translations into different languages.
2) Use the Map My Posts plugin. With this plugin, you can geo-locate your posts and display them on a map.
Create a Directory with a Locations and Listings-Based Theme
Here is where it is useful to use a theme if your need to display locations is extensive. We’re talking like directory sites to display several businesses or real estate listings. You would use these themes if you want to offer this as a service to your organization members (such as an association that lists its members, similar to the Better Business Bureau), or if you are in a niche market that sells directory listings, similar to BeTheBoss.ca, which specializes in franchise searches.
We wrote about these types of theme options here, so we won’t get too detailed on the options in this article. Go check out that post!
If you want to focus on real estate listings, these definitely need maps, and are kind of like directories too. Try our Elegant Estate theme. Whatever real estate theme you choose though, make sure it is not just pulling MLS listings from an external service, but will actually allow you to control your own listings and map details through a Custom Post Type function.
Word of the wise though, if you plan to set up a directory as part of an SEO scheme, read up on the latest research that indicates this may not be the best strategy. Here is just one article on the topic from Moz.com, which is a leading source for information on search tactics and news.
Also keep in mind that directory sites are different from membership sites! If you are looking for a membership plugin, check out our article on this topic here. However, you could theoretically have both of these types of plugins running on a single site, but operating separately.
Embed a Google Map Manually
Yes, this is still an option for the most simple of cases. Keep in mind though that sometimes Google map embeds in WordPress can be finicky, and you’ll need to be comfortable working in the “Text” based editor in WordPress, where you see mostly HTML.
If you are into cool map designs, check out this great resource for ways to custom code the coloring of your map embed. Designers will drool over them!
Other Dummy-Proof Ways to Get Simple Google Maps on your WordPress Site
Now, we realize that sometimes your need for a Google map on your website is not as complicated as the options given above. You might not need a directory, since you only have one or two locations. Or you may not like manual embeds, and would rather go for a nicer interface that is more ‘dummy proof’ so you don’t have to deal with coding at all. In these cases, try a Google Maps Plugin that is designed for these simpler needs.
Here are a few you can try:
WP Google Maps plugin – this is a highly rated and downloaded plugin on the WordPress repository. It uses shortcodes and allows you to drag map markers to a location and also supports Google Street View. There is a pro version you can buy too.
Google Maps Widget plugin – also well rated and downloaded, this is meant to be used as a widget and the neat thing about it is that it opens up a map thumbnail in a lightbox for a larger view. It also doesn’t require you to get an API key, which can save a step. It’s free and the makers also have a pro version that goes by another name, 5sec Google Maps PRO.
Also, keep in mind that our Divi theme has a very easy-to-use Map Module that can display multiple pins on a map, and can help you make easy customizations to your map, such as text that shows when someone hovers over a pin.
To Conclude, Google Maps Plugins are Usually a Good Idea
Sometimes businesses don’t want to show their address or location on their website, even if they have a physical location. Reasons include not having a suitable walk-in store or office (for those warehouse operations, or work-from-home businesses), or wanting to appeal to customers from more than one city. These are valid reasons, but choosing not to display a location with a Google map can affect your SEO if you are a local business trying to optimize for localized searches.
In these scenarios I often recommend finding a physical address that can be used, either through a mailbox service (not a P.O. Box), or a friend’s office, or something. You can easily state on your site that it is a mailing address only and that there is no public access.
Other times, companies have lots of reasons to show locations, because they may have many branches, or need to demonstrate where events are happening, or houses are going up for sale. Listing these out using a plain text editor in WordPress is a very arduous process and one that is difficult to keep up to date. Not to mention, you’d really need to know what you’re doing if you want to take advantage of Schema tactics.
In either scenario a Google Maps plugin or store locator would be extremely helpful. If you are developing a site for a client, also keep in mind that a map plugin will help relieve your duties for update calls, since it makes nominal address changes a cinch for the technically faint at heart.
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