How Does Google Maps Make Money?

Google (GOOG) is a popular search engine that has dominated the Internet landscape since its creation in 1998. As intertwined as this company has become in our day-to-day lives, most of the company's popular products remain free to use to the end-user or customer.

However, Google–along with its parent company Alphabet–has transformed from merely a search engine into a company that offers several products and services, including Google Cloud, Gmail, Google Books, YouTube, and Google Maps. Google Maps, in particular, is a popular navigational tool that is just as powerful on a mobile device as on a desktop computer.

Although Google doesn't charge the end-user searching their websites, the company has generated billions of dollars through fees, advertising revenue, and ad-sharing programs.

Key Takeaways

  • Google offers several products and services, including Google Cloud, Gmail, Google Books, YouTube, and Google Maps.
  • Google doesn't charge the end-user searching their websites, but the company earns billions of dollars through fees and advertising revenue.
  • Google's Ads platform allows businesses to place ads on Google's websites.
  • Google earns 81% of its revenue from ads placed on their websites, including Google Maps.

How Google Maps Makes Money

Google earns the majority of its revenue through advertising on the company's various websites. Google's Ad program allows businesses to place ads on Google's websites, including its search engine, map, video, and email platforms. In turn, Google charges those companies to advertise while the companies get the benefit of brand exposure to the millions of people that use Google products.

For example, a search for a map of Boston on Google.com would yield, among other things, a detailed map of the city via Google Maps. The Maps program allows users to zoom in and out and move the map to search neighboring areas.

Along the right side of the search results screen are a number of small advertisements for Boston-based businesses, hotels, restaurants, and links to other sites selling hard-copy maps of the city. This type of paid advertising is the primary way in which Google earns its revenue.

Google also generates revenue from its AdSense program. Companies can have advertising on their websites, which use Google's proprietary algorithms based on the user's Google search activity. In other words, AdSense ads are similar to Google’s onsite advertising but instead, are placed on a company's website. These companies–called members–get paid from the advertiser when a visitor clicks on the ad located on their website. Google is paid a portion of that advertising revenue.

Google's Revenue

Although Google does not report specific figures identifying the financial performance of its Maps product, the financial statements show the revenue by segment.

Google's revenue is outlined below according to Alphabet's year-end report or 10K as of Dec. 31, 2021.

  • Revenue from all of Google's advertising, which includes advertising on YouTube and its search tool, was $209 billion.
  • The bulk of Google's ad revenues come from ads on its search tool; 71%.
  • Total revenue from all segments was $257.6 billion in 2021.
Google Revenue by Segment 2021

Google

We can see from the financial results that Google increased its total revenue by $75 billion from the previous year; 41%.

Business Listings

Google also generates income from its free Maps program through another, more subtle, form of advertising. Google maps are highly detailed. Each map shows individual businesses on the street level, making it easy to find an exact location.

Each type of business has a different symbol associated with them, such as hotels, restaurants, banks, bars, and retail stores; however, it can still be challenging to locate a specific company without knowing its address.

As of March 25, 2022, Alphabet (Google) is the fourth-largest company in the world by market capitalization.

As a result, Google allows businesses to use their company logos instead of the generic icons–for a fee. For example, Hilton (HLT) can pay a fee to have its signature H logo embedded in each map, instead of having the usual bed icon used for hotels.

The logos are in full color and easier to identify versus the generic icons. For those who travel, finding a familiar coffee shop or hotel is much easier with the brand logos, which might include Starbucks (SBUX) or the Holiday Inn (IHG).

Although each Maps user might not convert to a business transaction for each company listed on Google maps, the site essentially provides advertising and brand recognition.

Google Maps Platform

Google also earns revenue through its Google Maps Platform from companies and industries that need navigation, tracking, and mapping. Google Maps API is geared towards businesses that benefit from having a tailored version of the Maps in their online or mobile applications.

For example, ride-sharing companies could connect their app–or software application–on their website to Google maps. Drivers and customers can track each other's movements to help communicate where and when to meet as well as help reduce wait times.

Trucking or delivery companies, for example, could use Google maps to track the whereabouts of specific trucks in the fleet. The program helps companies analyze costly trips and make efficiency improvements.

Google charges various price points depending on the level of use from the company. Google also offers 24-hour technical support and the ability to sell products with Google Maps integrated into them, along with increased search and request capacity, higher-resolution imaging, and advertising control.

Who Is Richer, Alphabet or Apple?

Apple has a larger market cap than Alphabet; $2.8 trillion versus $1.9 trillion. In 2021, Apple had revenue of $366 billion while Google had revenue of $257 billion. Apple is a wealthier company by those standards.

What Was Google's Revenue in 2021?

In 2021, Google (Alphabet) had a revenue of $257.6 billion. The bulk of that revenue comes from ad sales, primarily from ads on Google's search tool.

Does Google Maps Make Money?

Yes, Google Maps makes money. Maps generates revenue from two primary means: (1) local ads that businesses post in order to attract customers and (2) custom maps using APIs that businesses can use for a variety of reasons that Google charges a price for.

The Bottom Line

Google Maps is a powerful tool that allows users to navigate the world we live in. Like most of Google's products, Google Maps makes money off of advertising. Businesses can list their ads on Google Maps, even creating profiles that allow their businesses to be found more easily.

In addition, Google Maps allows businesses to use APIs for navigation, tracking, and mapping, all of which it charges for.

Article Sources
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. Google. "From the Garage to the Googleplex."

  2. Alphabet Inc. "Form 10-K. 2021."

  3. Google. "Where Your Ads Can Appear."

  4. Google. "2 Million People Use AdSense - for Good Reasons."

  5. Companiesmarketcap. "Largest Companies by Market Cap."

  6. Google. "Make Your Business Profile Awesome."

  7. Google. "About Google Business Profile."

  8. Google. "Pricing That Scales to Fit Your Needs."

  9. Statista. "Revenue Comparison of Apple, Google, Alphabet, and Microsoft from 2008 to 2021."

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