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So today I had a nice surprise waiting in my inbox:

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I dove right in:

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A simple search for “coffee, Westport, Kansas City, MO” yields the following:

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Notice none of the businesses are highlighted in red, meaning that none of them are my “anchor” right now.

 

This is where it gets interesting. After clicking on Oddly Correct Coffee Bar, the businesses shown on the map immediately change to the following:

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Oddly Correct Coffee Bar is red as my anchor business with additional details in the top left panel. From the panel in the top left I can jump to directions or reviews of the business very quickly.

 

At this point: What if I change my mind about what I’m looking for? I decide to click on “Cupini’s” – one of my favorite meeting places, right opposite the Google Fiberspace:

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As expected, Cupini’s is now shown in the top left panel, but Google Maps remembers that I first began my search looking for “coffee”, so it keeps the coffee shops highlighted in larger dark bold as the main emphasis.

 

Now let’s go way off of our initial search path and click on the Frank Rushton Elementary School:

Note: All ugly red circles added by myself for emphasis.  

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New schools have been added in bold light gray to the map, but again, the underlying theme is still “coffee shops”.

The cool thing to mention here is that I’m enjoying this experience. I feel like I’m browsing a directory of services, not looking at a map. When I click on the different businesses, I’m immediately thrown into the context of that additional click, without losing my place from my initial thought of “coffee”.

 

But what if I want to abandon my initial pursuit of looking for a “coffee shop”? How do I remove that anchor and initiate a completely different line of inquiry? In the detail panel for the Frank Rushton Elementary School, I click on “kindergarten”:

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Suddenly my bold anchored map locations have changed. My primary inquiry is now “kindergarten” and the original path of inquiry into “coffee shops” has been abandoned. Perfect!

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Now if I return to my initial search, but this time I opt to filter by my circles:

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I see a review by a friend of a coffee shop with “Westport” in the name, but the coffee shop isn’t actually present in Westport.

 

Filtered by “Experts” or Top Reviewers:

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I can also click anywhere on the map (even where business names do not appear) and the small thumbnail of the street view is displayed in the detail panel:

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After further clicking on the “street view” in the detail panel …

Again: Ugly red notes added by myself for emphasis.  

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There are some really nice new details added to the street view, like the street name “embedded” into the roads so you never get that “what street is this?” feeling. The mouse pointer is a much larger circle and feels more fun and tactile than the previous treatment.

Back in the map view, you may have noticed the persistent link to Google Earth:

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After clicking the Google Earth link (and some quick tilting):

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Conclusion:

I love the way the new Google Maps focuses on browsing. Each click changes your context, but not in a way that you feel lost or that you can’t return. Each click feels like I’m moving towards a goal, because I’m focusing and refocusing my context each time, narrowing my search with each click. It’s surprisingly fun!

The new Google Maps also seems to more dramatically elevate businesses that have a strong online presence, whether that be via reviews from people in your circles, so called “experts” that have written about them or presumably from traditional google search rankings. This makes it more important than ever to have a strong, positive, representation of your business in every possible online avenue.

The only negative takeaway might be that, by very definition, this contextual focusing of your search also blurs information that Google Maps deems less relevant. I could see some businesses getting lost in the blur if they don’t quite match what the maps algorithm is looking for.

Request your own invite to the new Google Maps today!

Posted on Friday, May 24, 2013 3:12 AM | Back to top


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