Google launches YouTube-style embeddable maps

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Google Australia this morning showed a new iteration of Google Maps launching about a week from now.

First up if you know how to embed a YouTube video in your blog you’ll be able to embed Google Maps in your website Google promises.

It’ll be as simple as cutting and pasting a bit of HTML code into your website just like a YouTube video.

The embedded maps have the full functionality of Google Maps — they provide satellite view map view or hybrid view and users can click and drag the maps around.

The development has substantial ramifications for the web: any business will now be able to include a map of their location (or locations) and users going to their website will be able to get driving directions to the business in a couple of clicks.

Petrol prices plotted onto Google Maps

Find cheaper petrol via Google Maps: any third party data provider such as a petrol prices website can plot their data onto Google Maps using Mapplets

Google also showed how people can now integrate data such as petrol prices with maps. Google showed a Google Mapplet provided by a petrol prices website which shows the cheapest petrol stations and their locations in your area.

Mapplets can also be combined together. For example a website that provides vineyard listings has the results plotted onto Google Maps and this can then be combined with another Mapplet from a website called Panoramio which shows photos from different places. Result? You can see photos from vineyards in a region to plan a scenic weekend away.

Paid listings for maps

Google also revealed that it is now be accepting paid listings for maps. Businesses will be able to go to the Google “Local Business Centre” and bulk-upload all their locations in an Excel spreadsheet.

Paid results will appear in mapping search and are clearly differentiated with a blue background different icon and “sponsored links” label — just like web search. However the sponsored results do appear at the top of the list of map search results.

“The key thing here is you control your messaging” said a Google spokesman. “You get a huge branding opportunity you get a great location element… at least 50% of search queries are of a local nature. You can take advantage of this and also stand out.”

Google showed an example of Hertz located on a search for “car rental Melbourne” which included a Hertz special offer and logo appearing on the search result.

Paid results on Google Maps: Hertz has marked its territory in trademark yellow.

Google says it has already seen significant uptake of this kind of ad from advertisers. “Companies are taking this up at a very quick rate” he said.

Google working on integrating Australian public transport info

According to Google Maps’ Carl Sjogreen Google Australia is “actively looking for data in Australia” for Google Transit which is a Google Labs product that provides public transport-based routing.

“We’re somewhat dependent with local government agencies” he said.

“Some of them have expressed concerns about how frequently they can provide information to us so that it’s accurate so we’re working on those issues.”

However Sjogreen said there were various websites that already provide public transport routing and that “mapplets is another great way to expose some of the existing transit routing sites in Google Maps.”

Write reviews on businesses on Google Maps

Restaurant review: reviews have to be longer than a certain length as an anti-spam measure according to Google.

Google is now allowing users to add reviews to any business or location listed on Google Maps.

However it admitted that there is a challenge around defamation laws. Restaurants have been particularly litigious in suing Australian newspapers but no doubt Google isn’t short on cash to fund its legal team (already defending the search giant from umpteen lawsuits over copyright infringement on YouTube) so perhaps it is just taking a shoot-first answer -questions-later approach with user reviews too.

The challenge with reviews in general is it’s hard for us to know in a one-off case whether it’s a legitimate user or a competing business.

We have systems in place to stop widespread spamming of reviews but we’ll also look into complaints on individual reviews.

Google maps in cars and planes

According to Google Australia BMW and Volkswagen are installing Google Maps and Google Earth into their cars and Virgin America and JetBlue are also installing it into the back of their planes so that people can zoom in on the ground and see what exactly they’re flying over.

Hi-res satellite imagery coming back to Australia: no APEC conspiracy

Google claims the disappearance of hi-res satellite imagery in Australia is not a conspiracy with the Australian government to protect the 21 world leaders including US President George W. Bush visiting Australia in September.

“It’s a commercial issue with one of our photography suppliers” says Google Australia’s Rob Shilkin. “We’re really hopeful of getting high-res imagery for Sydney and other cities in Australia back up as soon as possible. I hate to ruin a good conspiracy theory but that’s the boring reality.”