Have you ever a placed a pin on Google Maps only to come back a few weeks later and find the pin moved? What happened? Why does Google think your business is down the road?
The answer is surprising and lies in those long forgotten geography classes.
Google Maps might be doing laps
You see the pin itself didn’t move, rather the physical address it was referencing has shifted. Usually in Google Maps if you click on a random point, a pin will pop-up and you’ll be given a URL such as this:
In this URL you’ll notice that it’s pointing to a set of coordinates. If you click on it, you should be led to a point somewhere near the Great Pyramids of Giza. Seems straightforward so far; however, the exact spot in the pyramid complex you’ve been directed to may be a different spot to where I clicked when I first shared the URL. This is because although the coordinates are the same, the physical point on the earth may be different!
let’s go back to that Geography class for a minute
The earth’s surface is in a constant state of motion due to the movement of tectonic plates. These seven large plates which formulate the earth’s lithosphere cause physical objects that are on top of them to move as well. Assuming ceteris paribus – all things being the same – you would be seeing these movements have a greater effect on mapping systems with pinpoints moving further and further away from each other.
Fortunately, ceteris paribus is not the natural order of things. There are teams of people who work to adjust coordinates to ensure they remain consistent. This means it is normal to see coordinates move ever so slightly on a map since they are constantly being adjusted in relation to the movement of tectonic plates.
The effect of these movements is more pronounced in different parts of the world depending on where they are, such as Australia. In Australia, we sit on a plate that’s moving at a faster rate than other tectonic plates. In the past this has meant that the coordinates for our continent had to be adjusted by 1.5 metres in 2016.
So, how does plate moving affect digital marketing?
Essentially, all the science talk means that if you are solely using coordinates as reference points for features on your website i.e. a directions button, you should expect that the places users are being led to vary with time. Say for example you have a store located at 204 Street Road and you link to it within a map feature on your website using coordinates. Over time, these coordinates may lead your customers to 206 Street Road or 208 Street Road.
On the other hand if the location you’re referencing covers a large area, tectonic plate movements shouldn’t have a big impact on your customers.
How do you remain visible to Google?
A good way to mitigate this constant movement is to make sure the URL of the pin you’re sharing via Google Maps links to a specific address. This would mean that when users click on directions for 204 Street Road they are led to the directions page for 204 Street Road rather than the coordinates that might have shifted over time.
Going back to our previous example of the pyramids, a more suitable URL for directions to a precise point would look like this:
As you can see in the URL, this link would lead it’s user to the ship of the Pharaoh Kufu near the Great Pyramid.