How to Create Google Maps with Google Docs

by Helen Bradley

Build your own Google maps and post them on your small business website to let your customers quickly find your store or other places of interest. Helen Bradley shows how easy it is.

build your own Google Maps; small business marketing
To create a Google map you need a list of addresses and, optionally, data for the map's tool tips.
(Click for larger image)

How do you show your customers where your stores are located or where they can find nearby places of interest? Well, you could try to draw your own map to post on your website, but a quicker and smarter solution is to have Google Docs do it for you. You'll be done in minutes instead of hours -- it really is that easy.

The Google Maps gadget helps you create a map to publish on your small business website or on your blog. You can plot street addresses in little more than the time it takes to type the address, and you can add your own tool tips that provide specific information about each location you list on your map.

This mapping tool is handy as an adjunct to your small business marketing campaign -- use it to show anything from where your bricks-and-mortar stores are to the location of tourist spots, restaurants and other sites of interest.

How to Make Google Maps

build your own Google Maps; small business marketing
Select the "Map by Google" gadget to add to your spreadsheet.
(Click for larger image)

To start your map you need a list of the street addresses that you want to plot on the map. Then head to Google Docs and sign up if you haven't done so already -- it's free. Google Docs provides you with a range of small business software applications, and it's the spreadsheet you will be using for this project.

Open a spreadsheet and enter your data in two side-by side-columns. The first data column contains the street addresses; you can start in any cell and place one full address in each cell in the column. If any of the addresses are non-U.S. locations, add the country after the address, but still make sure you enter the entire address in one cell. In the cell immediately to the right of the address, type any tool- tip text that you want to appear when visitors hold their mouse pointer over this map point.

Once you have entered your data in the two columns, you're ready to create the map. Select the two columns of data (but omit any column headings you may have used) and choose Insert > Gadget. Click the Maps group, locate the Map (by Google) gadget and click Add to Spreadsheet.

Add the Gadget

build your own Google Maps; small business marketing
Configure the settings for your map gadget.
(Click for larger image)

When the Gadget Settings menu appears, check that the listed range corresponds with the range containing the addresses and tool-tip information. Type a title for the map in the Title box -- this should describe what the map illustrates.

Choose the map type from the available choices: Hybrid, Normal or Satellite -- in most cases Normal is your best choice. select the Zoom using mouse wheel checkbox to give users this option and, if you included a column of tool tips, check the Last column as tool tips checkbox too. Click Apply and Close to create your map.

When the map appears, you will see pointers to the locations that you have identified. When you click an icon on the map, you'll see the details that you included as a tool tip for that item. You can move the map to another position on your spreadsheet by dragging on its title bar.

Publish the Google Map

build your own Google Maps; small business marketing
Click on "Publish Gadget" to generate the HTML code you need to add the map to your Web page.
(Click for larger image)

Save the worksheet and then click the Gadget title to display the menu, and choose Publish Gadget to publish the map. You will be provided with a piece of code that you can select, copy and paste into an HTML document on your small business website or into a blog post. When published on the Web, the page or blog post will display the map that you have created.

Update the Google Map

If you need to make changes to your map, all you need do is to return to Google Docs and open the spreadsheet for editing. Add or change any of the data in the two columns, and the map in the spreadsheet will update automatically -- although the published one will not. To update your published version, save the spreadsheet and then choose Publish Gadget again to get the new code. Replace the current code in your website or blog with this new code to update the map.

Google Maps save you a lot of time and effort when you need to show a visitor key physical locations. They're easy to create, publish and update. Better still; the map tool it uses is familiar to everyone who has used Google Maps before. Your visitors don’t have to learn a new mapping tool to interact with your map.

Helen Bradley is a respected international journalist writing regularly for small business and computer publications in the USA, Canada, South Africa, UK and Australia. You can learn more about her at her Web site, HelenBradley.com.

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This article was originally published on Wednesday Jul 27th 2011
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