Google Maps and Earth – Post-tornado mapping

This past week, several devastating tornadoes struck across a wide swathe of the southern United States. Our Crisis Response team is activating to provide data and imagery we hope will be useful to first responders and the general public.

In cooperation with our satellite partner GeoEye, we have imagery of the aftermath of several tornadoes, including in Tuscaloosa, Alabama as shown below. We have created several before-and-after comparisons in a Picasa album.

Left: Google imagery from late 2010. Right: GeoEye imagery from Thursday, April 28.
Top: Charleston Square Apartments, Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Bottom: Towns of Pleasant Grove, Concord, and Hueytown, Jefferson County, Alabama. Click to see enlarged.

This imagery, as well as data sets such as Red Cross shelter locations and tornado touchdown reports, are available in this collection on Google Maps. We will continue to add imagery and data as it comes available.

Our heart goes out to everyone affected by this tragic event.

Update: You can now access the satellite imagery directly in Google Earth. Make sure the Places layer is enabled, then go to Alabama. Click the image of a tornado to find links to load the images.

Using My Maps for your summer sublet

[Cross-posted from the Google Student Blog]

Today’s guest author is Katie Corner, an Electrical and Computer Engineering student at University of Colorado, Boulder and a Google Student Ambassador. Check out more tips from students on the Google Student Blog, or submit your own to share.

The spring semester ends, and the frenzy begins: Quick, everyone find someone to sublet your apartment for the summer!

Hundreds of students in your university town will be simultaneously advertising their apartments to potential summer subletters. How can you help your apartment stand out among the crowd? Bring in Google Maps to save the day. Google Maps has a feature known as My Maps, which enables you to quickly and easily build a personalized map highlighting the locations you care about — all on one map! Simply share the map link with your family or friends to let them see it too.

Everyone knows that when looking for a summer sublet, it’s all about location, location, location. Where are the closest grocery stores? What’s fun to do nearby? There’s a running path along the creek just two blocks away? And the local bus picks up on the corner? Nothing sells these points better than an easy, personalized map.

It only takes minutes to create your own My Map. To start, sign in to your Google account and go to Click on the link in the upper-left corner labeled “My Maps.” By clicking the “Create new map” link, you can pick a title and get to building your housing map.

To start finding locations of interest and placing them on your new My Map, search for those places in Google Maps, for example “park in boulder co.” After finding the location you are interested in, simply click on the red pin on the map, followed by the “Save to…” link. From here you can easily select the new My Map you created.

After adding a number of specific locations to your map, you can also customize and edit the map to fit your style preferences. To access your map thus far, click on the “My Maps” link in the top left corner of the page, and select the map you are interested in editing. By clicking the “Edit” button, you are now in editing mode on the map and can easily make changes to the names of locations or the style of icon. To make a change to a specific place, just click on that location. On the map, an editable box appears where you can easily make changes, such adding as some notes about the place.

The end product is a unique map showcasing why your sublet is the right option to pick. Here’s an example I used for an apartment in Boulder, Colorado.

Stand out in your next apartment rental posting with My Maps today!

Tips for creating a free business listing in Google Places: business types

Are you curious about what kind of businesses are eligible to appear in the free listings that appear on Google and Google Maps? In this second post in our blog series about how to create a clear and effective business listing via Google Places, we’ll help you to determine if Google Places is right for your business.
Business types and models that work with Google Places
Google Places is meant to facilitate customer interaction with brick-and-mortar businesses and service providers. Therefore, the business owner or employee who is officially authorized to represent their particular business location must have a physical address in order to comply with our quality guidelines.
Having a physical address means that your business has a specific location (typically including a street name and a street number), can be visited by potential customers or business partners, and has a specific phone number at that location where you can be reached during operating hours. Including your physical address in your free business listing helps customers figure out where they can find you.
Examples of business listings displayed on Google Maps

Businesses that aren’t right for Google Places
Here are a few examples of business types that are not currently eligible to use Google Places:
  • Web shops that operate exclusively online and have no office for visitor traffic or direct client interaction
  • Businesses without actual physical locations (your living room, the airfield where you offer paragliding lessons, nor the river where your rafting tours start do not qualify as business locations)
  • Companies with non-permanent locations like a farmers market stall, a mobile hot dog vendor, or a one-time concert event at a local café
  • Real estate companies that don’t have a central office and are trying to advertise individual apartments where no one can be reached in person or by phone
For operations like these, rather than appearing in Google and Google Maps search results associated with a physical location, other online tools might better fit your needs. One option is to advertise and generate awareness about your business activities through Google AdWords. This cost-effective program enables you to get the word out about your business, website or event via online ad campaigns, and does not require you to have a brick-and-mortar business address.
How to create a free listing if you’re eligible
If you’re a business with a physical office location that is open to customers and staffed both in person and via phone during regular business hours, we encourage you to create a free listing by signing in to Google Places here. For example, a real estate company with a corporate office can add the services it offers, the apartments it sells, and so on in the description field of the listing.
Be careful to create just one listing per physical location and to create listings only at places where your business is actually located. For example, if you run a DJ service and your office is at 41 Broadway in New York, you should only add that location in Google Places, even if you also DJ at 32 Main Street and at 14 Smith Street.
How to indicate service areas
For businesses that have one physical location but also offer their services elsewhere – such as the aforementioned businesses as well as locksmiths, translation services, delivery pizzerias, cleaning services and the like – you can use the Service Areas feature in your Google Places account. Marking a service area enables you to show your potential customers the range of places where you work.
Businesses that require travel to meet customers can define a radius around their main location or select specific areas they serve. If your main location is your home address and only used to receive business-related mail and phone calls, you can also hide that address and only show the service area in which you operate. This might be the case for babysitters, DJs, household services or IT repair services. Detailed instructions about how to set up this feature can be found in our help center.
Taxi and courier companies are particularly good examples for the use of the Service Areas feature. They offer a service that is location-independent and therefore shouldn’t be associated with fixed locations on Google Maps. Even if you can find taxis often in front of train stations or airports, these are not locations owned by the business. The service area feature allows taxis to indicate the area in which they operate. If the taxis are coordinated over a dispatch centre, that can be listed as one physical location, otherwise the address should be hidden.
How to verify a listing
In order for your free business listing to appear on Google and Google Maps, you must verify your business via Google Places. This simple process includes providing a verification code by mail, automated call or text message. The phone number used for this process will be shown in your listing, so be sure that the number directs calls to your business.
We hope this information helps to explain our Google Places quality guidelines around setting up a free business listing. If you have any further questions about the types of businesses that are eligible for inclusion in Google Places, please visit our Google Places help forum.
Posted by Lina Paczensky, Local Search Quality