Oct 17, 2011

In the article on making a guest information book I mention providing leaflets and maps for local attractions. But it can also be helpful to share maps ahead of time, and when people have inquired, to help them understand where your property is in relation to local attractions. This can be important in the decision on which property they want to rent.

We do this by creating custom maps using Google Maps. I'll provide the steps at a high level and then drill into more detail on each, as well as ways that these maps can be shared with prospects and guests.
  1. Go to Google Maps
  2. Click My Places
  3. Click Create Map
  4. Enter a Title and Description and decide whether to make Public or Unlisted
  5. Click Save
  6. Search for the address of your vacation rental
  7. Click Save to Map and pick your new map
  8. Click on the new marker and change the title and description for your property
  9. Search for other attractions nearby
  10. Click Save to Map for each
  11. Once you have added all the attractions click Done
  12. Share the map

Google Maps / My Places

Google Maps / My Places
After you click on My Places a Create Map button will appear below. Click this and you will see a form where you can enter a title for the map. Name it something like "Attractions near my Vacation Rental". The description can contain more details or perhaps your web site url. If you make the map public, then people can find it searching on Google Maps. If you intend to add a marker for the precise location of your vacation rental you may decide not to do this. Even if you make the map unlisted, you can still share it with people. Once you've entered this information, click Save.

Adding Locations to your Map

Now you need to add markers for the various attractions that you want to show on your map. Probably the first of these is the location of your property. The simplest way to add this is to search for your address, and then click "Save to Map" below the result.

Google Maps / Save to Map

Once you have done this and picked the new map that you created, a new marker should appear on the map. If you click this, you should see that the title is pre-populated with the address of your vacation rental. At this point you can change the title - perhaps to the name of your property - and also fill in some details in the description - again perhaps your web site. You can also drag the marker either to the correction location - if Google Maps has it wrong - or to a nearby spot if you wish to obscure the exact location.

Google Maps / Edit Marker

You can also click the marker icon in the upper right of the window to change the marker color or shape. For example, when adding attractions, you could pick the swimmer icon for the swimming pool. Once you have edited the marker to your satisfaction click OK. Repeat the above steps to search for and add each attraction that you want to appear on your map. Once you have added all the attractions, click Done in the left panel as shown here.

Google Maps / Done

Sharing the Map

You now have a couple of options for sharing the map. If you're responding to an inquiry by email then the simplest approach is to include a link to the map. Make sure that the map you just created is open. If you navigated away, then go back to My Places and click on your Map. All your markers should appear as you entered them. Now click the link icon in the upper right.
Google Maps / Link

We always use the "Short URL" checkbox to make the URL shorter. This reduces the odds that email programs will corrupt the URL by wrapping it.

The other way that the map can be shared is on your web site. By default Google Maps creates the HTML for the map to appear in a 425x350 frame. But clicking "Customize and preview embedded map" allows this to be modified. You'll end up with the HTML for an iframe which can be cut/paste into a page on your web site. For example, here is the map on our Beech Mountain Bliss web site.

In addition to adding markers, you can draw shapes on a map. Perhaps you want to represent an area. You can also draw lines. You could also create a similar map showing details of your neighborhood by zooming in and adding markers, lines and areas. 

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