Marketing Gets Mashed Up With Maps

New interactive mapping software goes beyond giving directions to help you market your listings and your services. The best part? They’re easy to create, even for novices.

May 1, 2007

You've probably been using online mapping software for years to find the quickest route for getting from Point A to Point B. But Web-based maps have come a long way since their inception. A new host of easy-to-use programs can help your clients and prospects explore neighborhoods, find listings, and learn about your services — without ever having to step away from their computer.

These new maps, sometimes referred to as “mashups,” let you combine basic mapping data with information from another source, such as listing data, photos, or video. As a result, clients and prospects who access your customized maps can click on particular homes or landmarks to see the additional images or data that you’ve added. These maps can serve as great marketing tools for properties, neighborhoods, or your services.

One example that’s already garnering lots of attention is Google’s free My Maps. Released in April, the software allows you to easily embed photos, video, and text to landmarks on an online map. You can even view the map you created in Google Earth.

Some other mapping programs include:

  • Yahoo! Maps. Create and publish personalized maps on Yahoo!, share them, or incorporate them onto a Web site. Like Google Maps, the site includes a number of application programming interfaces (or APIs), which you can use to build maps or combine with other content for mashups. A free registration is required.
  • Microsoft’s Windows Live Local. Web surfers can search the map database and use Microsoft MapPoint Web services to tap a programmable Web service for integrating maps, driving directions, and information on an area into a Web site. The developer center includes a number of resources explaining what’s available and how these mapping tools can be used. There’s also a tutorial on linking maps and directions to your Web site.
  • MapsAlive. Insert landmarks in maps or floor plans that link to additional information or photos. There’s a 30-day free trial period; thereafter pricing starts at $19.95 per month.
  • Map Solutions GeoLocator. Create maps of an area with listing information from a property database or MLS, and a CMA report on the map page. Annual subscription is $169.
  • Real Estate MapBuilder. Use tools for linking listings on maps to whatever real estate data subscribers choose to include. There’s a free seven-day trial, thereafter the service costs $19.95 per month.

So, How Do I Use It?

All of the above services simplify the process of creating and distributing customized maps that can help consumers learn more about a home or neighborhood.

The challenge for you comes in deciding what information you’d like to include on maps to provide practical benefits to potential buyers and sellers. The key is to make your maps as relevant as possible to your clients’ needs.

For instance, a real estate brokerage with many local offices can create a map that pinpoints every location and provides directions, staff listings, services offered, and contact information.

Or, you may want to create a customized map of your individual market area, complete with schools, photos of parks and local landmarks, and information about restaurants and entertainment.

Get on the Map

With Google’s pervasive influence, its release of My Maps is guaranteed to create more awareness of and interest in these mashups, especially since they are so easy to develop now with simple online prompts to walk you through the process.

The service also gives you the option of keeping maps private, for personal distribution, linking to them from your Web site, or publishing them for public access through Google search results.

Such mapping software will allow you to easily provide quality, detailed information about your properties online and give your prospects a chance to explore, wherever they are. In an industry whose mantra will always be “location, location, location,” these new mapping solutions can certainly bring value to the work you do.