Why Google Maps Isn’t Perfect

Google Maps is an amazing service. Much of the civilized world has now been mapped through its data sources, ranging from satellite data to its ubiquitous camera-mounted vehicles. The result is a tool that allows you to find a location, link to local businesses, or virtually drive anywhere from downtown Paris to rural Mexico.

However, if you use Google Maps to validate addresses in a business, it is a little like trying to find a lifelong mate for your grandmother on Tinder: it is possible, but with a tool that wasn’t necessarily designed for that purpose. So let’s look at the differences between this service versus professional address validation and geolocation tools.

Google Maps versus address validation

Let’s start with the most important difference: Google Maps is very complete, but sometimes wrong. How wrong? Mistakes can range from bad directions, wrong street names, and bad addresses to wrong country borders, omitting large cities and everything in between. Once, in a mistake Google acknowledged, a Texas construction firm even demolished the wrong house when Google Maps sent them there.

Another difference is where the data comes from in the first place. Google Maps uses a variety of sources including administrative boundaries, parcels, topographic features, points of interest, trails, road features, and address points or ranges. It also accepts data from “authoritative” organizations as well as individuals, subject to a vetting process. As a result, however, it is possible for mistakes to be introduced and/or made when aggregating or consolidating the data.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, Google does not know exactly where every address is. When it does not have rooftop level data to pinpoint the address it will estimate where an address is using techniques such as address interpolation. Sometimes an address may also be wrong because an individual claimed the location and entered the information incorrectly, or changes such as new municipal or postcode boundaries were not updated.

What the pros do

By comparison, professional address validation and geolocation tools don’t guess at results, because their focus is more on accuracy. Tools such as Service Objects’ DOTS Address Validation and Address Geocode capabilities are focused on delivering an accurate and precise response, versus settling for “close enough.”

To get specific, if our address validation tool cannot correct and validate that an address is real, we will fail it and will not guess. By comparison, Google may just use the closest approximation, which can lead to issues. Similar rules apply to geocoding latitude and longitude coordinates from address data: where necessary, Service Objects will move down a gradient of accuracy/precision, but will still often be closer to the correct coordinates than Google.

Another key difference lies in our data sources. For example, DOTS Address Validation uses continually updated USPS, Canada Post and international data in combination with proprietary databases, to create near-perfect match accuracy. Likewise, for Address Geocoding addresses and coordinates are validated against our master database, the US Census Bureau, TIGER®/Line file, USPS® ZIP+4 tables, and other proprietary databases, ultimately yielding a 99.8% match rate accuracy when translating an address to its latitude and longitude coordinates.

Use the right tool

We like Google Maps. Without it we wouldn’t be able to easily visit major world cities online, find a good sushi bar near our hotel, or get directions to visit Aunt Mildred. But when you need professional-grade accuracy in address and location data for your business, be sure to use the right tools. Need more specifics? Contact us for a no-pressure consultation, and our team will be happy to explore your specific needs.

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