How Does Google Maps Decide To Show Labels (Points of Interest)?

Sep 2, 2010 • 8:46 am | comments (4) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Other Google Topics

Yesterday I reported Google is testing "sponsored map icons" in the US. They are basically enhanced point of interest icons using the company's logo, instead of the basic POI (point of interest) icon Google uses on the map views.

Here you can see some POI icons, also known as "labels." They include a doctor icon, a bed and breakfast icon, a synagogue icon, a lawyer office icon and them some generic squares.

google maps poi

Clearly, when you define your business category in Google Places, Google knows which icon to show for your business. But why are only these businesses showing? There are literally dozens of businesses near mine, which is RustyBrick. I work in an office building, so why is RustyBrick shown and not the 100 or so other businesses here?

Google has a help document that explains:

The place labels shown on Google Maps are determined algorithmically based on a large number of factors, so there is no way to guarantee placement of your business on the map as a place label. One factor these algorithms consider is the accuracy of the business listing and the richness of the content associated with the listing, so you can improve the chances that your business will receive a place label if you claim it in Google Places.

Right, that doesn't say much, does it? But when I spoke with Google Product Manager, Matthew Leske yesterday, he dropped some hints as to how Google decides which icons to show at what level. He told me the following factors go into making this up:

Google looks at the listings:

  • Quantity of citations
  • Is there Wikipedia entry (he specifically mentioned that)
  • Search volume for business
  • and "other relevant information"

He explained it is more like a web search relevancy algorithm than anything else.

Forum discussion at Google Places Help.

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09/02/2010 01:13 pm

I find the "Search volume for business" point to be to be very interesting as I've been thinking that this also plays a role in organic rankings.


02/20/2012 08:02 pm

Ok.  So that means I have no way of making the label appear--it is up to Google?


02/20/2012 08:02 pm

So, that means I cannot manually add the label and icon? Google determines the label showing?


03/04/2014 05:44 pm

the google earth that I am using has stopped showing POI and other business locales. how can I get it back?

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