Some times a picture truly is worth a thousand words. However, a map can be worth many times that when you’re trying to show where an event, an unusual town or any other object is.
However, maps are copyrighted materials, just like any other images. Though the information isn’t, the images are. As such, just copying and pasting map images can land a blogger in trouble.
Fortunately though, there are several great ways to embed a map into your site for free. Even better, these maps are dynamic ones that the user can interact with. These maps can be zoomed or used for directions, making your site and your information more interactive.
How do you do it? There are several different ways, ranging from the easiest and most basic to the most complex and powerful.
As the default map product of the world’s most popular search engine and one of the most powerful free mapping tools, Google Maps is one of the first stops for most direction seekers.
However, it should also be one of the first, if not the only, stop for those wanting a map for their site as Google’s tools make it amazingly easy to incorporate their map with your site.
First, find the map that you want to bed by putting in the city, address or coordinates you want to pass along. Then click the “Link” button in the upper-right hand corner of the map area.
That will open up a dialog box that will provide you both a static URL that functions like a permalink to the map and a block of HTML code that can be put into a post or page to embed it.
By clicking the “Customize and preview embedded map” link you can then alter the size of the embedded map ensuring that it will fit in your template.
Though Google Maps by itself is very impressive, if you want to take things further and add weather information your map, you will likely want to use Weather Bonk’s “Add to Your Site” feature.
Weather Bonk uses Google Maps as its base but imports data from various weather sources and displays temperatures and weather conditions over the regular map.
As with other Google Maps, this map is also dynamic, allowing users to pan, zoom, etc. You can also hover over the different points and read more about the specific weather conditions and, if available, view a webcam.
This is a great tool for sporting sites or other sites that cover outdoor activities where the weather is likely a serious factor.
Many sites use these APIs with very interesting results. For example, SpotCrime uses Google Maps to create dynamic crime maps. Antennae Search uses it to map nearby cell towers to approximate cell phone reception. Finally, PackageMapping uses it to create visual maps of the path your packages take to your door.
If you are a skilled programmer or know someone who is, there is a million different ways you can create custom mashups of Google Maps and other mapping APIs.
The limit is really only your imagination and what can be put on a map.
If you want to get a map on your site, there are many ways to do so. They range from the brain-dead easy copying a few lines of HTML code, to the complex, namely programming using an API.
There is no reason to copy and paste map images and risk being cited for copyright infringement by mapping companies. Though such cases are few and far between, when legal maps have so many additional features, using these embed codes is a true win-win.
Whether you are running a blog for yourself or your business, adding features to your site to help readers get the information they need is always a good thing. Given the nature of the dynamic Web, it isn’t just what readers want, it is what they expect.
With it being so easy and free, there’s no reason to do mapping right, if you’re going to use it at all.