Google Maps Pricing Change

Google Maps email 2018.It’s the morning of the 11th June. You’ve just unlocked the door to the artisan bakery you own in the village. You sit at the counter, croissants and sourdough slowly turning stale on the shelves behind you. Where is everyone?

Unbeknownst to you, your website has a problem. That cool Google Map that used to point your customers to your shop has gone. It is but a grey box. No zoom in and out. No street view. Not even that cutesy little marker pin that does that playful little bounce right on the roof of your bakery.

Here’s the thing. Earlier this month, Google started emailing any web developers and designers that had connected Google Maps with websites they had created for their clients. This connection is made every time someone wants a map on their contact page, or a cool little function that allows customers to get directions to a location. It’s a perfectly valid and usual request for a web designer to fulfil.

Now, up until they started receiving these emails, web dudes would obtain something from Google called an API key (the nuts and bolts needed to connect Google and the client’s site together). The best thing? The API keys were free. We could just get on with it. You got your map. Your pains au chocolat flew off the shelves. Everything was hunky-dory.

Google, in their wisdom, then decided that they would change their business model so that the web dudes have to provide payment card information to access the API service. And, from the 11th June, if the API key that was being used on a website wasn’t linked to an account with payment information, it’s a rather miserable goodbye to the Google Map.

In many cases, those web dudes either aren’t web dudes anymore, or they might just think that as they might never be able to recoup any money that Google might start charging, they simply won’t bother.

So where does that leave our artisan baker? If they are still in touch with their designer, they can persuade them to supply payment information to Google. But they may ask, why on Earth would a web designer hand over payment details to Google, not knowing when they might get charged (or for how much), for a website they created a couple of years ago and haven’t charged a cent for since?

The worst case is that they are no longer in contact with their designer or developer. In this case, they may decide to try and obtain an API key from Google themselves. Not an easy task at all. Alternatively, they may need to find a designer or developer willing to provide access to an API on their behalf.

There is some good news. For web designers and developers who have done some research on this, they will quickly realise that Google are still committed to providing up to $200 worth of API calls per month. This is a huge amount and should allow them to continue to provide API keys to clients such as our artisan baker for the forseeable future. The problem however, is scale. What about when they have 10 clients? Or twenty? Or two hundred? You simply cannot have a business model where you keep providing API keys for free ad infinitum. Eventually, those API keys will add up to over $200 per month, and then which of your clients do you ditch? Which client’s Google Map do you switch off? Something has to give.

The solution I use is to recommend an ongoing support careplan. A monthly fee that covers heaps of stuff, but can also cover unlimited API calls to Google Maps. With more providers opting for a subscription-based payment model, that subscription fee needs to be gently pushed back to clients.

One last thing. If you are an artisan baker in the Hertfordshire or North London areas of the UK, I’ll keep your Google Map in tip-top condition. All in exchange for a weekly pain au chocolat…

Ben Roberts

Thank you for reading! I'm Ben, a web developer from Hertfordshire. I love writing about problems I've been able to solve, or very ocasionally, those that I can't. Sometimes I write about other things, such as cybersecurity, which has always fascinated me. If there is anything you'd like help with, or explained better, let me know in the comments below.