For our MySLP users, these types of issues do not affect you. All of the MySLP servers are running PHP7 with the latest security patches. Ahhhh, the benefits of using a managed service. Sit back and relax, PHP compatibility is one less issue to worry about.
An update to SLP , Power, and Premier 4.9.1 are in development that will restore PHP 5.3 compatibility. Those updates are slated to be release by the end of November, 2017. Experience is not impacted by this issue.
For our PHP 5.2 users, unfortunately we can no longer support that release of PHP. We are using a new architecture based on a PHP function that was added to PHP in February 2012. That change in SLP 4.9 means sites using PHP 5.2 can no longer use PHP.
PHP Recommendations and History
For all users it is recommended you upgrade to PHP 5.6 at a minimum. There are dozens of security patches in PHP between each point release (5.2 => 5.3 => 5.4, etc.) some of which are significant.
For reference, here is the PHP Version Release History. Supported until means the last date the PHP language was fixing problems and patching security holes.
6 January 2011
14 August 2014
3 September 2015
21 July 2016
If your host is not allowing you to upgrade to a newer release or a WordPress plugin or theme breaks on PHP 5.6+ you should ask why. WordPress (and Store Locator Plus) run perfectly well on PHP 7 which is the current recommendation from WordPress due to the notable performance improvements in version 7.
Google Maps is the most prevalent map service available today. Their routine updates to the public website constantly adds new features that go well beyond “where is this place?”. The reason they have become the go-to map service lies elsewhere. Their application program interfaces (APIs), the language that apps use to talk to each other, have pushed Google into a majority of website and mobile apps. One of our favorite things about Google Maps is the fun, and sometimes useful, lesser-known features of the service.
Lesser Known Features
While most people know about Google Maps and use it frequently for doing searches for “pizza near me”, one of the most-searched phrases for 5 years running, there are a lot of cool and fun things going on in the Google Maps world. Sometimes, while in the middle of hacking up our own maps software for MySLP and WPSLP, we get sidetracked discovering one of the many tidbits Google leaves lying around. We find some of these side trips most interesting such as exploring planets, checking out 3D views of Earth, and zooming in on satellite view in our own mini-version of “What On Earth?”.
Maps Of Space
Yes, you can even explore space with Google Maps. There are plenty of cool places they’ve mapped with a little help from NASA and international space agencies. One of our favorites includes the International Space Station with its 360-degree view from inside one of the pods. How cool is that?
Some of the other places on the Google Maps “Interplanetary Exploration” list include Venus, Mars, and Europa. You’ll find a half-dozen planets and a dozen moons or other extra-terrestrial objects on the list. We’re anticipating Google will add driving directions to these places in another decade-or-two, once Elon Musk gets SpaceX on routine runs back-and-forth to Mars.
Time Travel With Google Maps
Another lesser-known feature of Google Maps is the ability to see how a place changed over time. The feature, dubbed “Time Travel” by some Google insiders, is available in Street View mode. Open Google Maps, and drag “stick man” onto the map to get a street-level view of the area. For places on the map that have a historical record of photos available to Google you will see a clock icon that allows you to view the location in the past.
Another cool find, fitting for an October post, is Google’s list of Most Haunted Places In America. Apparently if you are afraid of ghosts, the Northwest is a great place to relocate. If you’re going out trick-or-treating this year these are some places you may want to avoid, or go out-of-your-way to visit, depending on how adventurous your spirit is. We were hoping to see photos of these places on Google Maps, but apparently that has not been added yet. Maybe in a future version.
Have some favorite features you’d like to share? Let us know!
Should I Go Direct To Google?
One option to consider is going direct to Google. Why get too many people involved when you can go “straight to the source”? It is a great option if you have the technical skills to implement the map code and the time to maintain it.
With a variety of third party solutions that deal with the Google changes for you, there is little reason to go directly to Google to put Google Maps on a website.
Free Google Alternatives
Google’s map service is free, at least until your site gets a lot of traffic, but it is not easy to setup unless you have technical expertise. There are a lot of quality services and plugins available from reputable vendors. Many of the Google Maps vendors have been around for a while and are not likely to vanish overnight. This should alleviate any concerns that your map will suddenly disappear from your website.
Depending on which platform you are using, there are multiple free services to choose from. For businesses that use WordPress as their website platform, our Store Locator Plus plugin is one such free option. Maps are implemented with a shortcode and managing your locations is handled via an easy-to-use web form. You also get the added security of owning the software.
Low-Cost Website Maps
Another way to put Google Maps on a website is to use a paid service. If your business relies on local customers or clients, a map of your locations is paramount. According to research by Comscore as well as many marketing agencies, business address information is the number-one item people look for when researching a local business. With Google Maps playing such an important role, paying a little more for a mapping service is a smart investment.
…address and location are the primary pieces of information sought by local searchers.
Paid services include a lot more than taking care of the technical challenges of putting a map on a website. Free plugins and services do a great job of hiding the complexities of putting Google Maps on your site, however they often take care of only the basics. Paid services add extra features and management tools so you can focus on building your business.
For example, with most free services you will still need to get “permission” from Google to show their maps on your site. That means registering for an API key and configuring the settings of your product. Our own Store Locator Plus for WordPress plugin works that way. With paid services such as our My Store Locator Plus service, the API key is taken care of for you. No extra configuration required on your part Add your locations and paste the embed code that is generated on your site and you are done.
Software As A Service
If you choose to use a subscription-based service we recommend using a hosted or “SaaS” service. Software-As-A-Service (SaaS) is a term for any software that you “rent” on a month-to-month basis that is managed by the company that makes the software. If you have ever used web-based email such as gMail or Yahoo! Mail, you have used SaaS.
When it comes to putting Google Maps on a website, SaaS has many advantages. With a service like our MySLP offering, you do not have to worry about updating the software whenever a new update comes out. You also don’t need to subscribe to a backup service to ensure you don’t lose your locations; Any reputable Software-As-A-Service provider will be doing that for you. There can also be significant performance advantages, meaning your website visitors see the map and your location faster. Most SaaS providers are running in the cloud on high-performance server with more bandwidth than most businesses get with their hosting provider.
How To Put Google Maps On A Website?
One thing is certain, if you have a local business you need to have a Google Maps on your site. If you have multiple locations it is critical. Which option should you choose?
You are technically-inclined and don’t mind spending some time every few months updating your code: going directly to Google is an option.
If you would like to add visual flair to your maps, want to let someone else worry about the latest changes to the Google service, and only want to focus on building your business then consider a free service.
Want a custom style that matches your brand, have multiple locations, rely on local traffic at your business, or want to hand-off everything but “keeping our map loaded up with the latest address information”? You’ll want to go with a SaaS-based service.
Regardless of which option you choose, studies have proven that businesses that rely on local customers generate more business by having their address and map on a website.
Have questions about how to put Google Maps on a website? We can help.