Point Map with Google My Maps

TODO BELOW: Explain how Google My Maps is different from Google Maps; mention at the top there are more options than points; DECIDE if this sample data about Nigerian airports is the best fit, since it’s great to have international examples but unsure if Shapefile-to-CSV transormation makes sense here, as new users probably need to tool to geocode their data.

My Maps is Google’s service that allows users to create custom maps using Google Maps platform. It is perhaps the fastest ways of building point and basic polygon maps, although it limits your styling options.

My Maps is most powerful when it comes to collaboration. The platform functions within Google Drive, and so allows you to invite other users with Google accounts to work on the map.

In this section, we will look at building a point map of airports in Nigeria, as is shown in Figure 8.17. We will create a map, change a baselayer, import point data, style points, and share the map.

Figure 8.17: A map of airports in Nigeria built using Google My Maps.

Create a New Map in My Maps

Navigate to Google My Maps. In the upper-right corner, click + Create a New Map button, as shown in Figure 8.18.

A map of airports in Nigeria built using Google My Maps.

Figure 8.18: A map of airports in Nigeria built using Google My Maps.

You will see a typical Google Maps with no data. Click on the current title (Untitled map), and add appropriate title and description in the modal window that appeared (see Figure 8.19 for inspiration).

Add title and description to your map.

Figure 8.19: Add title and description to your map.

Before we add any points, let’s change the basemap to something less boring. At the bottom of the control window, open Base map dropdown, and pick one of nine available basemaps. For this tutorial, we chose Dark Landmass.

Let’s now proceed to the most important step—adding data. You can download a dataset of Nigerian airports that we got from the World Bank as a Shapefile and then converted to a CSV.

Under Untitled layer item, click Import button, and drag-and-drop the CSV file. Once the data file is uploaded, My Maps will ask which columns contain location data. In our case, these are LATITUDE and LONGITUDE columns, as shown in Figure 8.20.

Check LATITUDE and LONGITUDE as your location columns.

Figure 8.20: Check LATITUDE and LONGITUDE as your location columns.

Once the two boxes are checked, click Continue. Another window will pop up, asking which column to use to annotate points. Choose City, as shown in Figure 8.21, and then Finish.

Choose City as the title for your markers.

Figure 8.21: Choose City as the title for your markers.

It will take a few moments for My Maps to create a new layer, which will be added to the layer menu as nigeria-airports.csv. Once the layer is created, My Maps will center the map to fit the points.

Let’s replace the original blue markers to orange airport symbols. In layers menu, hover over All items and click the paint bucket symbol on the right. Change “All items” text to “Airports”, choose orange color, and click on More icons to find an airport symbol (we recommend using Filter to search for “airport”, or simply scroll down to Transportation section). The marker in the layers menu will change to an orange airplane, as shown in Figure 8.22.

In My Maps, you can change marker colors and icons.

Figure 8.22: In My Maps, you can change marker colors and icons.

Click on the layer name, which by default is set to the name of imported file (nigeria-airports.csv), and change it to Nigerian Airports. Alternatively open a kebab menu to the right of the layer name, and choose Rename this layer.

You can accompany each marker with a label. Click Uniform style under the layer, and choose Alt_name in the Set labels dropdown menu. You will see alternative airport names, such as BENIN, displayed to the right of the markers.

Click Preview to see how the map looks like outside of the My Maps editing studio.

Share Your Google My Map

If you are happy with the result, click Share, and click Change to anyone with the link (see Figure 8.23), just as you would with any other Google Drive document.

Make sure anyone with the link can view your map before you share it.

Figure 8.23: Make sure anyone with the link can view your map before you share it.

You can now generate a code snippet to embed the map as an iframe. From the main kebab menu to the right of the map title, choose Embed on my site (Figure 8.24). You can use now use this iframe code to embed your map to your Wordpress, Squarespace, or any other website.

My Maps can generate an iframe code to include the map on your own website.

Figure 8.24: My Maps can generate an iframe code to include the map on your own website.

Going Beyond Points

Google My Maps has more powerful features for map making. Instead of uploading datasets with latitude/longitude pairs, you can use simple addresses (and My Maps will take care of geocoding), or add markers by clicking on the map using Add marker feature. You can classify points based on a property, and use different colors to represent them.

You are not limited to just point maps. You can also draw your own shapes, including lines and polygons. You can add data to multiple layers. Unfortunately, Google My Maps has no comprehensive documentation, so you have to explore the studio yourself if you want to create more complex projects.