Five years ago I wrote about using Google Fusion Tables to create your own maps. Unfortunately, Fusion Tables will be “turned down” (isn’t that a pleasant euphemism for something that’s going to simply stop working?) on December 3 of this year.
But there’s another option
Fortunately, there is still a relatively easy way to create a map of locations for those of us who aren’t skilled Geographic Information System (GIS) users.
Google offers My Maps, which works much like Fusion Tables by letting you import a list of addresses and populating pins on a Google Map for each address. Follow along to see how easy it is to create a map…
Let’s create a map
Start by creating a CSV (comma-separated values) file or an Excel spreadsheet (it must be an .XLSX file) with the data to be imported and mapped.
In a real-world scenario, you might want to map meter reading routes or all the accounts on the cut-off list. For this example, I didn’t want to compromise a customer’s actual data, so I chose data that is readily available on the internet. I bank with Bank of America and know they have a list of banking locations on their website. I harvested the location data from the bank’s website, and using some of the data manipulation tools I wrote about recently, I converted the data into a pipe-delimited text file:
I then opened this file in Excel and added column headings, which are required by My Maps:
Your file can have the full address in one column (as this file does), or it can have separate columns for Address, City, State, and ZIP Code.
In order to show an address error for illustration purposes, I changed the address for Lynnwood Collection to a PO Box.
Now we’re ready to import the file and create your map. Start by going to Google My Maps – https://www.google.com/mymaps.
Click on CREATE A NEW MAP.
Click on Import.
Drag your Excel spreadsheet or CSV file to the window or click on “Select a file from your device” to import your file with addresses to be mapped:
Click the column (or columns) containing the address. This is what My Maps will use to locate the placemarks on the map:
Choose a column to identify the title of the markers on the map. In a real-world scenario, this might be the service address or name of the account. For my illustration, this is the bank branch name.
Now, click Finish and My Maps will create your map.
Once the file is imported and the map created, if you have any bad addresses (for example, PO Boxes) that can’t be mapped, this message will be displayed:
Click on “Open data table” to correct the addresses. A grid similar to this will be displayed:
The addresses with errors will be listed at the top of the data table. You can correct the error right in the data table, without having to fix your original input file and begin the process all over again.
By default, My Maps will draw the map with all the markers having the same color:
However, you might want to see different color pins on the map for different addresses. For example, different colors based on the services provided, or to distinguish between manual and radio read meters on a meter reading route. In my example, I want to be able to visually see the difference between full-service banks and ATM-only locations.
To do this, click on the Uniform style hyperlink:
From the window that pops up, change Uniform style to the field in your data you want to use to determine the color of the marker. In my sample data, this is the Type field:
Google will randomly assign the colors of the map pins, based on the criteria you specified. If you want to change the colors, click on one of them, then click on the paint bucket icon at the bottom of the window and select your desired color.
I chose purple for full-service banking centers, blue for ATM-only locations, and green for Bank of America Advanced Center, whatever that is!
Congratulations, you’ve created your map!
Now, if you want to share your map with others, you can do so by clicking the share button for your map:
Then select the method you want to use to share the map:
Questions about creating your map?
If you have questions about creating your map, please give me a call at 919-673-4050, or email me at email@example.com and I’ll be glad to try to assist you.
© 2019 Gary Sanders
Before we get to the topic of this post, the last Utility Information Pipeline included a poll asking how you handle temporarily inactive accounts. Here is a recap of the responses to the poll (clicking on the chart will open a larger graphic in a new window):
I was pleasantly surprised to see that a majority of the poll responses do charge temporarily inactive accounts, whether it’s continuing to bill them or by assessing a fee.
Google Maps error
I was involved in a sales presentation last week and had an interesting experience when I clicked on the Mapping link within Logics’ Utility Management software. I always set the service address of my demo account to the prospect’s office address so they recognize the map.
The pushpin for the address appeared in the correct place, but the Google Business icon for the utility office was on the house next door! I commented on this and the utility staff laughed and said, yes, customers often drive past their office and have to turn around next door.
I said “Let’s fix that.” and clicked on the “Report a map error” link in the lower right corner of the inset map (this link is called “Send feedback” if you are in native Google Maps). I was able to drag the icon to the correct building on the map and, within minutes, received an email from Google confirming my correction had been made.
Step-by-step instructions to correct a map error
Back in 2012, I wrote about updating your listing in Google Places (now called Google Business). In case your Google Map listing is misplaced, as was the case with Auburn Water System, here are the steps to correct it.
As you can see from the screen shot below, the pushpin was between two buildings rather than directly on the Auburn Water System office:
- Click the “Send feedback” link in the lower right corner.
- Select “Edit the map” from the Send feedback menu.
- Click on the icon for the business you want to correct, in this case Auburn Water System.
- Check “Marker is placed incorrectly on the map” beside Location on the Suggest an edit menu.
- Drag the marker to the proper place on the map.
- Click submit.
- A message will pop up thanking you for improving Google Maps.
- Once your edit has been approved, you will receive an email from Google Maps letting you know it was a success!
The end result is the pushpin is now directly on the Auburn Water System office building! I guess now I should do the same thing for Choctawhatchee Electric Cooperative, who share the same building with Auburn Water System. (I’m unsure why they didn’t show on the “before” map…)
Last chance for the 2017 Utility Fee Survey
This is your last chance to participate in the 2017 Utility Fee Survey. The survey will be closing at the end of the day, June 30, so if you haven’t already done so, please click here to complete the survey. It should take less than five minutes to complete. For an idea of what to expect from the survey, here are the results of the 2015 Utility Fee Survey:
If you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 919-232-2320.
Thank you in advance for your participation in the 2017 Utility Fee Survey.
Reviewing your policies?
If you’re in the process of reviewing or updating your policies, please give me a call at 919-232-2320, or email me at email@example.com for more information about how a business review could help you review your entire office operation.
© 2017 Gary Sanders
Three years ago, I wrote about being sure your utility is listed in Google Places. You can read that article here.
Get Your Business Online
Google has introduced a new program called “Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map” to help facilitate getting small businesses online. As part of this project, they have created an online tool to see how your utility shows up in Google Search and Google Maps. You can access it at gybo.com/business.
This will prompt for the name of your utility and then will display one of two results pages, depending on how complete your information is.
You’re on the map
If your information is complete, you will see a screen similar to this:
Then, as you scroll down, it will show a preview of how your listing appears:
Your business info is incomplete
On the other hand, if you information is incomplete, you will see a screen that looks something like this:
If your information is incomplete, all you have to do is click the “Complete your information” button. The tool will take you through the steps to update your listing.
Of the handful of utilities I checked while researching this article, the most common reason for an incomplete listing was not having their hours listed, followed by no picture (logo). According to Google, the number one thing people look for online is hours, so be sure yours are up to date!
Still time to complete the 2015 Utility Fee Survey
If you haven’t yet participated in the 2015 Utility Fee Survey and would like to, please click here to complete the survey. It should take less than five minutes to complete.
If you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 919-232-2320.
I’m looking for as much participation as possible in the survey, so please feel free to pass this on to your colleagues at other utilities.get
Thank you in advance for your participation in the Utility Fee Survey.
© 2015 Gary Sanders
Do you have a listing in Google Places? If you don’t or if you don’t know what Google Places is, keep reading…
Customers look for you online
I haven’t opened a phone book in years and, apparently, I’m not alone! According to Google, “97% of consumers search for local businesses online.”
When your customers Google your utility, can they find you? If you have an up-to-date listing in Google Places, they can. Even if you don’t have a website!
An example of one utility’s Google Places listing
Mallory Valley Utility District (MVUD) in Franklin, Tennessee has a listing in Google Places. If you search for “Mallory Valley Utility District”, Google returns the following screen:
The first entry in the left column is MVUD’s website. Underneath, is their Facebook page. You did read Utility Information Pipeline #35 and now have a Facebook page, don’t you…?
To the right of the website links is a map with a push pin locating the MVUD office with their hours below the map. Clicking on the push pin opens a larger map in Google Maps and clicking on that push pin opens Mallory Valley Utility District’s Google Place listing as shown in this screen:
As you can see, the Google Place listing shows the office address, phone number and logo and provides a link for driving directions to the office.
Why create a Google Places listing?
Jenny Clarke, Office Manager at Mallory Valley Utility District says, “I created the Google Places listing because more and more people use Google to find telephone numbers and addresses these days than they use the phone book, so it made sense to us to create a Google Places account. Customers can easily view our location now through Google.”
Jenny goes on to say, “Plus, we had a problem… Google was listing our address and phone number incorrectly. It was pulling a phone number and address to one of our pumping stations. With the Google Places account, I was able to correct the error and that has been very helpful.”
It’s easy to create your Google Places listing
To create your listing, go to www.google.com/places and click the “Get started” button. You will be prompted to enter your office phone number. If Google already recognizes your phone number, it will offer you the opportunity to edit the existing information and add additional details.
If your phone number isn’t recognized, you will be prompted to enter your organization’s name, address, phone number, e-mail address and website. You may also enter a description and a category for your listing, your office hours, methods of payment you accept and up to 10 images. These images can include your logo, as MVUD’s listing does, or photos of your office.
Finally, Google will mail you a PIN within two weeks to verify your listing. Once you enter this PIN in Google Places, your listing will be active.
Even if you don’t have a website, Google Places can provide a web presence for your utility. Without your own website, your Google Places listing solves three of the eight common website mistakes to avoid that I wrote about in Utility Information Pipeline #34.
What has been your experience?
Do you already have a Google Places listing? If you do, how has it benefitted you?
Better yet, if reading this has inspired you to create one, I would love to hear about that, too. In either case, please click here to post your comments.
If you have questions about Google Places or creating your listing, please contact me by calling 919-232-2320 or e-mailing me at email@example.com.
© 2012 Gary Sanders