There are a multitude of different symbols you’ll encounter on Google Maps, but unfortunately the lack of an official key for these symbols often makes them difficult to decode. Business owners can add their own custom symbols to Google Maps, which further adds to the problem. However, these symbols are often designed specifically to tell you what the business does, so they can usually be decoded logically. Finding out about the most common symbols, some common user-added ones and how to find the meaning of a symbol you don’t understand helps you get the most out of Google Maps.
The most common symbol on Google Maps appears when you search for a particular business or type of business in your area. It looks like a pin with a rounded top, or an upside-down tear shape, and it will have a letter inside. These symbols show you the location of a business when they’re red, the destination point for directions in green and the source of user-generated content in blue. A red circle without a point on the bottom indicates the approximate location of a business. A clear white, speech-bubble like symbol is a sponsored result. Smaller red dots show less relevant results for your search.
Smaller icons are used to show the type of business found at a specific location when you browse Google Maps. There are many of these, and they’re generally self-explanatory. A tree symbol represents a park, a handbag symbol shows a retail shop, a bed symbol indicates a hotel, a knife and fork gives the position of a restaurant and a martini glass shows a bar. Google also uses “£” symbols for banks and “H” for hospitals.
Without standardisation, decoding user-submitted symbols is much more difficult. These are usually designed to be easy to understand, however, so you can often work them out without any assistance. Within restaurants, for example, a vegetarian restaurant can be shown with a vegetable symbol, such as a carrot. Likewise, a steak symbol indicates a steakhouse, a burger and drink symbol shows a fast food outlet and a pizza symbol is often used for a pizzeria. There are other symbols used for different types of businesses, but they use similarly simple symbols, such as a computer game controller for a computer gaming shop and a computer symbol for a computer shop.
Determining the meanings of the symbols isn’t always easy, but you can use an easy method to decode them. All of the symbols in Google Maps can be left-clicked. Click on a symbol to bring up a window displaying information about the location. The amount of information you get about each entry depends on how much the business owner has filled in, so some entries will be more detailed than others. You can then ordinarily Google the name of the business or location to find out more information.