When Google launched its personalized mapping tool, My Maps, the company said it would soon be integrating user-generated content. It appears that is now happening on many Google Maps searches (hat tip to NLC Marketing Blog).
Here are some example searches:
At the bottom of the results pane on the left (scroll) is a link to “user-created content.” Clicking through gives you a parallel map populated with third-party pushpins. Some of this is professional content and some is from individuals. For example, in my “Seafood, London” search above, the user content link takes you to this page. These are pushpins created by a variety of others (not Google).
It gets even more interesting if you click on the “F” pushpin. That takes you to this page, a list of personal favorite lunch spots in London (or should I say “favourite”?).
In areas where Google doesn’t have data, it’s using this strategy to provide map content. See, for example, Moscow Hotels.
Any of these user-created listings or traditional results can now be saved to My Maps.
Google said it may integrate some of this content into its regular results at some point in time, but not in the immediate future. Yet this third party and user-created content has the potential to dramatically enrich the database. User-created content, as with the London lunch spots example, provides recommendations and other content that might otherwise not show up in Google Maps, making it much more useful and interesting.
A search for “Best Hotels Paris” yields a list of hotels with “best” in the name (e.g., “Best Western”). Clearly that’s not what I want. The user-created results for this search aren’t much better right now. But over time you can see how these results get more and more interesting as greater numbers of people participate in My Maps creation.
(According to Nielsen, MapQuest and Google Maps are top travel sites, getting more traffic than sites such as Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz.)
Equally on the local search side, user-recommended locations and businesses potentially greatly improve the content available through Google Maps. Currently Google offers this information indirectly through ratings and reviews from partner and third-party sites (e.g., Yelp and Citysearch).
Yahoo, for its part, is taking a more diversified approach to getting at similar information with direct solicitation of user reviews on Yahoo Local, Yahoo Answers content and its Trip Planner travel site. And Microsoft has “public collections” that allow for similar content discovery on Live Local/Virtual Earth.