Natural Search Blog

Google Maps for Europe & the Rise of GeoTagging

A couple of weeks ago when I was writing the joke article on optimizing roof ads for Google Maps, I happened across this weird satellite picture when browsing the downtown area of my city, Dallas:

Google Maps Oddity

(This weird situation of buildings apparently leaning into one another is caused when two or more satellite pictures, each taken at different angles to the buildings, are stitched together. This phenomenon is referred to colloquially as the “Google Escher Effect”.)

I thought it was particularly amusing, so I posted the screen capture to my account on Flickr, and then sent it out to a few friends, and lazily posted it to a number of groups in Flickr that would have an interest in the pic. When researching appropriate related groups in Flickr, I noticed that there are quite a few groups dedicated to “GeoTagging” — this new and rising trend is something that’s got a lot of potential which businesses involved in local search may not be aware of yet, so I thought I’d mention just a few details and ideas on the subject in conjunction with Google Maps expanding their level of detail for European maps.

Simply defined, GeoTagging is the act of associating geographic location data to other media such as sites, webpages, RSS feeds, images, video files, etc.

Most commonly, the geographic location data is in the form of a longitude and latitude pair of values, called geocodes. (Longitude and Latitude are the standard coordinate values which can be used to plot any point on the Earth — think of them as being similar to X/Y coordinates, if you’re unfamiliar with the terms.)

So, how might an image be GeoTagged? Let’s look at this example in Flickr — a picture of a child eating ice cream in London — the photographer added three tags to this photo:

The latitude and longitude of the geotag associate the photo with the location in Great Britain. Below the photo’s caption, there’s a link called “Fly to this location” which requires that you have Google Earth software client installed on your PC. If you have that software installed, when you click on the link the software will launch and visually zoom you over to a satellite pic of of the location of the cafe in London’s Chelsea neighborhood where the photo was taken.

The rising popularity of Google’s Maps, coupled with the ease of their use has made it so that more people are GeoTagging by just linking things directly to their associated location as shown in the Google Map. For example, see this photo of a farmer’s market that is linked to it’s location in France on Google Maps.

The attachment of geolocational info with various media is interesting, but is it going to be generally useful?

Well, I can see a number of possible applications just off the top of my head — here’s a few:

The concept of GeoTagging is a very strong one, and the more interlinkages that are produced between different types of items and their associated locations are going to continue to produce some really fascinating opportunities.

We’re already seeing all sorts of interesting mashups of things which have been produced with the Google Maps API, so you can look forward to seeing even more interesting applications occur when people begin exploiting the data tie-ins that are going to be possible through the use of GeoTagging data. As Google expands their Maps to Europe and other countries, the incentive to usse their Map API only increases, too.

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