It has been a busy week for WordPress and all the updates and patches going around. For those on our MySLP managed service, sit back and relax. You’re good. While you may wait a little longer for some new features and a couple of minor patches you are not going to be affected by software updates. You’re good.
For WordPress users we’ve been busy chasing down some notable functionality issues with Store Locator Plus and the Add Ons for WordPress since WordPress 4.9 and 4.9.1 hit the update queue on your sites.
How important is it for people to find a location nearest them? “Near Me” has been a top-ranked search term on Google for the past seven years. This may be the number one reason to use a location sensor. Research indicates that the common phrases of “near me” in Google searches is a top-ranked query. The phrase “handyman near me” might return a cloud based app that in turn redirects the users search to some popular apps but how does your browser, Google Maps or other platform know where you are?
Enter location sensor, a browser-based tool that detects where a user is at the time of search. On GPS-enabled mobile devices it returns the precise location using the device’s built-in GPS sensor. For the Store Locator Plus users the location sensor can be enabled by checking a box under General Settings. WordPress Plugin users will need the Power add on. MySLP service users will need to be subscribed to the Power, Professional, or Enterprise plan.
Using HTTPS Improves Sensor Performance
Google Chrome’s v 50 and higher ( the most popular browser with the largest market share at this time) requires site urls to be served over a secured site before it will allow the location of the user to be transmitted. They have stated that location is sensitive data and determined that HTTPS versus HTTP be required to protect the privacy of your users’ location data. Other popular browsers , such as Mozilla Firefox, may submit a pop-up box asking the user to grant permission for their location to be known.
In short, if your site is using the location sensor feature it must get an SSL certificate and be serving pages on an https address. Many browser disable multiple features if you are not a secure site, including the location sensor. It won’t be long before ALL browsers disable location sensor support if you are not hosting an https site.
Location Sensors Can Increase Sales
If you have a physical location that counts on people walking in the door to make a sale, adding Google Maps and employing the location sensor can have a notable impact on your walk-in traffic. Your first step is to get an SSL certificate on your site so you can serve secure pages; This also helps boost your Google search rank. Once you have that completed put Google Maps software that supports the locations sensor on your site. Add a couple of posts to your site that relate to your business such as “Boutique Near Me” and drop the map code on that post. It won’t happen overnight, but as your site starts to generate traffic the map will lead people to your store.
Google Maps is the most prevalent map service available today. Their routine updates to the public website constantly adds new features that go well beyond “where is this place?”. The reason they have become the go-to map service lies elsewhere. Their application program interfaces (APIs), the language that apps use to talk to each other, have pushed Google into a majority of website and mobile apps. One of our favorite things about Google Maps is the fun, and sometimes useful, lesser-known features of the service.
Lesser Known Features
While most people know about Google Maps and use it frequently for doing searches for “pizza near me”, one of the most-searched phrases for 5 years running, there are a lot of cool and fun things going on in the Google Maps world. Sometimes, while in the middle of hacking up our own maps software for MySLP and WPSLP, we get sidetracked discovering one of the many tidbits Google leaves lying around. We find some of these side trips most interesting such as exploring planets, checking out 3D views of Earth, and zooming in on satellite view in our own mini-version of “What On Earth?”.
Maps Of Space
Yes, you can even explore space with Google Maps. There are plenty of cool places they’ve mapped with a little help from NASA and international space agencies. One of our favorites includes the International Space Station with its 360-degree view from inside one of the pods. How cool is that?
Some of the other places on the Google Maps “Interplanetary Exploration” list include Venus, Mars, and Europa. You’ll find a half-dozen planets and a dozen moons or other extra-terrestrial objects on the list. We’re anticipating Google will add driving directions to these places in another decade-or-two, once Elon Musk gets SpaceX on routine runs back-and-forth to Mars.
Time Travel With Google Maps
Another lesser-known feature of Google Maps is the ability to see how a place changed over time. The feature, dubbed “Time Travel” by some Google insiders, is available in Street View mode. Open Google Maps, and drag “stick man” onto the map to get a street-level view of the area. For places on the map that have a historical record of photos available to Google you will see a clock icon that allows you to view the location in the past.
Another cool find, fitting for an October post, is Google’s list of Most Haunted Places In America. Apparently if you are afraid of ghosts, the Northwest is a great place to relocate. If you’re going out trick-or-treating this year these are some places you may want to avoid, or go out-of-your-way to visit, depending on how adventurous your spirit is. We were hoping to see photos of these places on Google Maps, but apparently that has not been added yet. Maybe in a future version.
Have some favorite features you’d like to share? Let us know!