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Business and service icons appearing on Google Local maps
Robert Charlton

 9:11 am on Feb 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

I'm just noticing icons, similar in style to those you see on freeway exit signs, identifying various types of business and services, now appearing on Google Local maps. There are name identifications along with the icons.

More icons appear as you zoom in. When the map scale (in the lower left) reads 2000 ft, I'm seeing a bed icon for a local resort hotel; and some tree icons in the green areas indicating parks. In part, the scale at which the icons appear depends on the size/ importance/ popularity of the business and the space available on the map. Also, at 2000 ft, a 35mm movie film icon appears at the site of a large and popular movie theater.

At 1000 ft, knife and fork icons show up for several high-reputation restaurants; a pair of silhouetted kids appears at the locations of various elementary schools; and a shopping cart appears with the name of a particularly popular supermarket. Some other supermarkets (physically larger but less popular) are not identified.

At 500 ft, lots of businesses and services start showing up... many more knife and fork icons (for delis and bakeries as well as restaurants); coffee cups for cafes and coffee shops; martini glasses for pubs etc.

At 200 ft, envelope icons appear to indicate post offices. At 100 ft, dollar signs pop on for ATMs and banks; there are several icons for various business types; and doctors get red medical bags marked with white crosses... etc etc. At 50 ft, I see an insurance company also with a dollar sign icon. I'm thinking that someone must have had a lot of fun designing these icons, but a lot of thought clearly went into the system.

Particularly interesting is the granularity of the icons in relation to business types. Google's clearly using some sort of a taxonomy here... the dollar sign is a good tipoff. It's hard to say how precise they're trying to get with their classifications, but I would assume they're not being unnecessarily sloppy.

These icons, btw, don't link to the Google Local business description pages, at least not now. They just indicate what's there.


Robert Charlton

 5:24 pm on Feb 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

PS to the above... just to note that whatever categories and priorities Google uses are for map display purposes, but not necessarily related to 7-packs in the regular serps, popularity factors that affect rankings in other Google Local search listings. My first take on this, though, is that there are some parallels.


 9:00 pm on Feb 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

Yes, I'd actually written an article describing these near the end of last year -- I refer to them as "Landmark Icons".

As you noted, more popular business types tend to show up at the higher zoom levels, such as restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues.

I believe that attaining landmark icon status means that Google rather trusts your business listing, and that you've got slightly higher popularity.

However, I can point to lots of instances where relatively boring/unpopular businesses also are appearing, including lawyers and accountants.

What's really interesting is to zoom into dense shopping centers like malls and office buildings, to see which businesses in them appear as icons on the map.

Many/most are linked to their Place pages when I've explored them.


 1:20 am on Feb 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

Been there for some time now:


These icons, btw, don't link to the Google Local business description pages, at least not now. They just indicate what's there.

Depends on which icon you click. If there isn't any detail of an otherwise known landmark, maybe not, but the restaurant ones do lead you to the speech bubble, which leads you to the LBC page.

The ones in the map on the Google Maps blog are mostly clickable.

Robert Charlton

 9:32 am on Feb 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

Well, to quote the title of the LatLong blog entry, "I didn't know that was there!" Not sure why they didn't register before. "Landmark Icons" is a good name for them. There was something very enjoyable about just coming across them... almost like playing with a toy train set.

Yes, I see that many icons are linked, but it's surprising how many of the local business icons aren't.

Several businesses and landmarks that I checked have Wikipedia articles. Speech bubbles for these include roughly 60-70 words from the article quoted, much larger than the normal speech bubble. The quotes apparently correspond to the Wikipedia quotes pulled for the Place Pages.

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