Location Category Markers Update

Store Locator Plus® was updated with a small, but important, change to how location map markers are displayed when users are interacting with the category selector.   Users of the Professional level offering have the ability to create location categories.   Locations can belong to more than one category, for instance a location can be both a “Retail” location and a “Service” location.    Some locations will be only “Retail”.

Category Map Markers

Each location category can also be assigned a unique map marker.   All yellow map markers are retail, and blue markers are for service.     For those locations where they offer both retail and service , Store Locator Plus® would always display the yellow map marker based on the default “marker is the first category, chosen by alphabetical order”.

While there are some caveats to this general rule, there were some confusing results.    If you created a map with a category filter that allowed users to pick “either retail” or “service” locations and the user selected “service” they could see a map with both yellow and blue markers.    How is that happening when all service locations are supposed to be showing blue markers?

The answer — those dual-purpose locations that are in both the retail and service category.   Prior to the late-September update, the marker for the location would ALWAYS pick from the “highest ranked” category which would default to “retail” by the alphabetical rule noted above.    All locations that were service only would be displayed alongside a handful or retail-and-service locations.

Multiple Categories Marker Change

In the late-September update that went online today, IF a user is filtering the list of locations by a SINGLE category, the map marker that is displayed will be filtered as well — in essence filtering out the yellow “retail” marker if the user has elected “show only service location” with the blue marker.     With this update only blue markers will appear.

For another description of how this works along with an “explainer” video, check out our Categorical Location Markers article on the documentation site.

Still using the legacy WordPress plugins?   This feature is part of the Power 5.5.7 release.

How To Make A Map

how to make a map

There are thousands of articles describing how to make a map. There are a plenty of tutorials and descriptions — mostly about how to use Google Maps to accomplish this. Unfortunately a good number of those How To articles and videos focus on how to use the maps.google.com site to make your own version of a Google Map. A map that they host and control access to — which means it can change or go away at any time. Or Google can even decide to start suddenly charging fees for this free service — much like they did with Google Maps API Keys.

Making Maps The Hard Way

If you get beyond the “here is how to login to Google Maps and add your places to THEIR maps” articles you may find some “How To Make YOUR OWN Map” content. If you are running a website and want to put a map in your content, these articles are a good start. This is the type of “map making” you want to be looking into if you want to have a map on your site where you control a lot more of the look-and-feel. More importantly you control which PLACES appear on the map.

Typically you’ll start with getting to know the Google Maps JavaScript API. The How To articles will describe how to embed the basic JavaScript snippet on your site to get the map to appear. A little more coding and you can even drop your own maps pins on that map.

Making Maps The Hard Way
Making Maps The Hard Way

Once you get your map up-and-running you’ll soon find that you are looking for even more articles. Articles that take you deeper into things like “how to hide the places Google force-feeds onto your site” — sometimes showing competitors locations alongside yours. Or articles on how to change the marker style. Or hide secondary roads.

Before long you are months-deep into full-blown map development. If you can do these things yourself you may only be spending time. Often businesses are paying a web developer or web marketing agency a fairly hefty fee as they learn map building for your site.

Making Things A Little Easier

Thankfully many web presence service like WordPress, Weebly, Wix, and Squarespace offer pre-built solutions. Some of these solutions are free but you pay for add-on services — much like the way our Store Locator Plus® WordPress plugins work. Nearly all of these services also require you obtain your own Google API Keys; Google has gotten too expensive for many of these pre-built map solution providers to include an “all you can eat buffet” of map views in their one-time purchase pricing.

Store Locator Plus® Map Software for WordPress
Store Locator Plus® Map Software for WordPress

These pre-packaged management tools make it a lot easier to build and display a map on your site. Often you can upgrade to versions of these apps to provide access to the HTML, CSS, and advanced JavaScript rules to fully customize the user experience. Some tools even make a lot of the most-used features a simple mouse-click option on a menu of user experience options.

How To Make A Map – The Easy Way

While pre-packaged map making software can save a lot of time and money over build-it-yourself maps, it still requires you or your web team to manage things like Google API Keys. You’ll want to know how to properly secure those keys so nobody else can steal them from your web source code. Not too mention you’ll want to keep a close eye on your billing and web traffic — at $7 per 1,000 map views and geocoding requests it can add up quickly to hundreds-of-dollars per month in Google fees.

There is another option that takes the map software a step further. Software as a Service apps are popping up every day. These services are often far easier to use than working with Google directly. All of the better solutions completely manage your Google API keys while providing the flexibility and power available in the self-managed apps.

Store Locator Plus® map maker saas
Store Locator Plus® map maker saas

Many of our WordPress plugin users have found that moving over to our SaaS offering has freed up resources. They no longer are paying web experts to upgrade and update plugins. Make sure backups are saving their hours-and-hours of data entry in case one of those updates goes wrong. They also can stop worrying about security and people snarfing their Google API keys from their site.

Instead, they get to focus on their business. Building their products. Improving their services. And hopefully adding new locations to their maps as they grow.

Store Locator Address Accuracy

My Store Locator Plus® was updated this weekend with new software. While we were at it the MySLP servers were upgraded.

Better address accuracy outside the United States

The biggest change to the My Store Locator Plus® software was the implementation of region data handling. The map domain, aka “region” setting under Store Locator Plus | Settings | Map influences the accuracy of the results returned for new location addresses as well as user searches.

Users in countries like Australia or parts of Western Europe should see a notable improvement in the accuracy of locations returned when searching for an address. The map engines, primarily Google, that are used to geocode addresses are more heavily influenced by the region setting in those countries.