I am basically addicted to Google Maps. I use it for nearly everything.
If I’m looking to order food, a lot of times I’ll just do a quick Google Maps search, especially if I’m away from home and not exactly sure what’s in the area. All it takes is a quick search on the desktop or the Google Maps app.
When I moved to Chicago, it was my No. 1 tool for apartment searching. A quick search of the address I was looking at gave me a great idea of what’s in the neighborhood in terms of transportation, fitness centers, bars and restaurants.
If I’m somewhere in Chicago or another city and need directions to the nearest L stop or whatever my preferred destination is, all I need to do is grab the Google Maps app on my iphone and get directions.
Bottom line, is if I’m looking for the location of anything, I nearly always turn to Google Maps.
And I’m certainly not alone in this. Google Maps is huge, meaning that businesses should be taking advantage of Local SEO. If you have a physical location, it should be verified on Google My Business, to make sure it’s showing a maps location. This will also help you show up in the local three-pack for Google searches, both on desktop and mobile searches, as well as searches on the Google Maps app.
Please see the screenshots below for examples of the three-pack on desktop and mobile devices.
There are a number of features on Google Maps that make its use on desktops, as well as the mobile app, that much better.
Here are five of my favorite underrated Google Maps features. If you’re looking to help your business rank locally, please check out these local seo tips.
Google Maps now highlights different events
Recently, I noticed when looking at maps that Google was now highlighting the different festivals and events in Chicago, which is complete money during the summer. In the screenshots below, you can see that Google mentions the Cubs game time, as well as West Fest, one of Chicago’s annual street festivals in the West Town community area.
I like this for two reasons. For one, it lets users know about an event that’s going on that they didn’t realize. Maybe someone is searching and learns about the random festival, and ends up going sometime that weekend.
On the flip side, someone may see that and may want to avoid said area. If you were looking at going somewhere near Wrigley, driving north on Clark Street would probably be a bad idea.
Maybe you went to the same event last year and this will just serve as a reminder that it’s going on. There’s a million things you can find on Google Maps that give you great information, and this is another good feature to supplement that.
Busy areas are now highlighted
In the screenshot below, I’ve highlighted what’s basically considered downtown Chicago – the Loop and Near North Side community areas. As you can see, there’s light brownish highlights all over the place. This is what Google considers its “areas of interest.” Google determines this by an algorithm determining the areas with the highest concentration of things like bars, restaurants and shops. Someone just visiting Chicago can see that Wells Street in Old Town is a pretty popular place, where as anywhere east or west of Wells is fairly residential.
So, when you’re on vacation in say, South Beach, you’ll see your fair share of highlights.
Living in Chicago, I take public transportation all the time. Pretty much every day, in fact. That means that a lot of times, I’m taking multiple modes of transportation to my destination. That’s where Google Maps’ multi-stop directions come in handy. I can see how long a train ride is, as well as a subsequent walk or another L ride after I transfer.
For example, let’s say I’m going to the North Avenue Beach. Google Maps lets me know the distance on the Brown Line, as well as the fact that it’s an 18-minute walk from the train station to North Avenue Beach.
A good example of when this tool comes in handy is when I need to go to the airport. For me, that requires three different legs of travel to O’Hare, which can obviously get a bit complicated.
However, with this tool I get a perfect glimpse of roughly how long it will take to get me from Lakeview to O’Hare Airport, which Google estimates is roughly under one hour.
This definitely comes in handy living in Chicago.
Real time traffic
Thankfully, I don’t have to drive a lot. But if I do have to drive, getting real-time traffic numbers from Google is a huge plus. If I’m making a short Midwest trip to, say, St. Louis, it’s normally about a four-and-a-half or five-hour trip.
However, that all can change depending on how severe traffic is. Which, as we know, Chicago traffic can be pretty awful.
Google Maps lets you know how long a trip takes in current traffic, where the traffic is bad and the location of crashes that are halting traffic.
You can see inside different facilities
Maps not only allows you to see what’s in your area, and what type of places are on the way to your destination. You can now see what exactly is going on inside certain buildings.
At a Bears game and want to see what type of concessions or beer stands are in the area? Just open up Google Maps and you can get a great view of everything in the stadium.
Heading to Union Station for either your Metra or Amtrak trip and have some time to kill? Just look at Google Maps and see what type of food that’s in the station if you wanted to grab a bite to eat.
As you can see, Google Maps has come a long way since it was introduced in 2005.
Hopefully you, as a user, can take advantage of these different features that you may or may not know about.