A business owner’s guide to Google Maps API

Our step-by-step guide to obtaining your Google Maps API Key so that customers can find your business on maps and get directions from your website.
How to use Google Maps API

If you want to include a map of your location on your website, you will most likely want to use Google Maps to do so as they are the most up to date and most widely used maps for people wanting to find out where things are, and also to get directions.

Google enables you to “embed” a map on your website using what is known as an API, which stands for Application Programming Interface.  Effectively it means that when someone uses the map on your website, your website sends a message to Google and in return, Google provides your website user with the most up to date information (in this case, a map).

How it all works is not our concern, what we are interested in is how you can obtain an “API key” which gives you permission to put a Google map on your website.

Prior to July 2018 this was generally available at no cost, however Google now requires you to sign up for an account, and to provide them with your credit card details.

Note for most businesses it will still be free to have a Google map on your website as they only start charging after you have hit quite high levels of usage.

As they require your credit card details, your website designer will usually ask you to complete the sign up process and obtain your own API key, and then provide it to your website designer to incorporate it into your website.

Step-by-Step Guide to Obtaining your Google Maps API Key

Here are the five steps to setting up your Google Maps API key:

  1. Sign up for a Google Cloud Account
  2. Create your project
  3. Set up billing
  4. Enable Google Maps Platform
  5. Restrict the API key’s usage

Step 1: Sign up for a Google Cloud Account

Go to https://cloud.google.com/maps-platform/  and click on “Get Started” either in the middle of the page or top right.

Once you have clicked on Get Started there will be a pop up window, click on the check box next to Maps.  You can leave the other checkboxes blank.  Then click on Continue.

You will then be asked to choose a Google Account – if you don’t have a Google Account already, you will need to create one – you can use your usual email address (it doesn’t have to be a gmail account).

Click on the account you want to use (you may then be prompted to enter your Google password), then click on Next, and you will be returned to the sign up screen but it will note that you are now signed in.

Click on Continue.

Step 2: Create your Project

You will now be asked to enter a new project name.  We recommend using the name of your business as the project name.

You will need to confirm that you agree to the Terms of Service by selecting Yes, and then you can click on Next at the bottom of the page.

Step 3: Set up Billing

You will now set up billing on your account.

You will see the following message appear on your screen:

Click on “Create Billing Account”.  You will then be taken to a screen which offers you a free trial of the Cloud Platform.

This free trial lasts 12 months, and offers you up to US$300 of credit for free.

It is important to note that for most businesses this will be enough to mean that they won’t incur any charges in the first 12 months.

Choose your country from the drop down list, then click on the check box to indicate you agree with the Terms of Service, and choose whether you would like email updates, then click on Agree and Continue.

You will then need to either create a payment profile, or choose an existing one if you already have one associated with your email address from another Google product.  You then need to enter information about your business including your business name and address, and then at the bottom of the page you need to enter your credit or debit card details (card number, expiry date, CVC and cardholder name), and confirm whether or not the billing address is the same as the business address you entered earlier on this page.

Then click on Start my Free Trial, and you will get a confirmation message:

Step 4: Enable Google Maps Platform

Following successfully setting up your Google Cloud Platform account (and billing), you will then be able to set up your Google Maps API key.

Click on Next and you will see the following screen:

The long string of letters and numbers is your API key, and this is what is needed in order to make Google Maps work on your website.  If you click on the two overlapping rectangles it will copy the API key and then you can paste it into the appropriate place in WordPress (if you are doing it yourself), or you can send it to your website designer so that they can add it to your website.

Before you click DONE, there’s just one more step…

Step 5: Restrict the API key’s usage

Since your credit card is attached to this API key, you don’t want just every Tom, Dick or Harry getting hold of it.  So, you can restrict its usage by clicking on the API Console link on the screenshot above.

Go ahead and select “HTTP referrers (web sites)”, and then you will have the ability to enter the address of your website to allow your website to use this API key.  Don’t forget to include the http:// or https:// at the front of your website address.

Then click Save.

Now you are done!