December 15, 2008

Blogger's new Geotagging feature (and how to use it!)

The Blogger team have added a new "Geotagging" feature to Blogger in Draft which enables you to add a location to each of your blog posts. This will then display in your post-footer section (near your post labels, timestamp, etc), and will act as a link to a page on Google Maps where readers can learn more about the location.

Here's an example of how this would appear, as taken in screenshots from the explanatory post on the Blogger in Draft blog:
When you click on the linked location, this will open a new page from Google Maps which shows you the exact location which the author has attributed to the post, like this:

RSS support for Geotags

Your post locations will be included in your blog's RSS and Atom (XML) feeds using GeoRSS which is a web standard for Geotagging. This is important as it allows feed readers, map readers and search engines to associate your posts with particular locations. For example, if you tag your blog posts "New York", these posts can be found more easily by those searching for content based on the New York area.

How to tag your posts with a location

In order to Geotag your posts (add a location) you must create or edit your post through Blogger in Draft. This is because this feature is still experimental, and has not yet been rolled in to the main post editor.

When you create (or edit) a post through Blogger in Draft, look to the left of the Labels area to see the "Add location" link:

This will bring up a pop-up box which appears like this:

Type the location you would like to add in the search box near the top of this pop-up box, and press "Search". You may need to refine your search by adding more details (eg: country, city name, street address) in order to find the location you require.

Once you have found the correct location, you can zoom in (for more accuracy) if you prefer, and finally save your location.

Important: once you have geotagged a post, you cannot remove this tag!

If you do need to remove your geotag for some reason, Blogger recommends that you copy the content of your post and create a new one, then delete the old geotagged post. At present, this is the only way to "remove" a geotag, though it is more of a workaround than a proper solution ;) I suspect the Blogger team will enable us to properly delete or edit a post's geotag before this feature is rolled out for the main post editor.

How to make your Geotags appear beneath your posts

The first step to making Geotag links appear beneath your posts is to enable this setting in the Blog Posts widget.

To do this, go to Layout>Page Elements while logged into Blogger in Draft, and click the "Edit" link for the Blog Posts widget. On this pop-up page, you will notice a new checkbox for "Location". Ensure you have ticked this checkbox, and save your changes.

If you have recently changed your template to a default Blogger theme (or have recently started a new blog), this simple change of setting will enable you to see Geotag locations beneath your posts straight away. If you are unable to see your Geotags after this change of setting, you need to follow one of the instructions below instead.

Since this is a new Blogger feature, your existing template may not currently include the code required to make geotags appear for each of your tagged posts.

If you use a default Blogger template, the simplest way to enable the Geotags for your posts is to pick a new template. Simply go to Layout>Pick new template in your Blogger dashboard and choose the template you would like to work with. This can be the same template you are currently using.

This method refresheds the template code and adds the section required to make the Geotags appear in the post footer section. Alternatively, you could "Revert the widget templates to default" on the Layout>Edit HTML page of your blog. This has the same effect as choosing a new default template.

If you use a customized or third party template, you will need to add the code required for the Geotags to display manually by editing your template code.

To do this, go to Layout>Edit HTML in your Blogger dashboard and ensure you have checked the "Expand widget templates" box.

We need to add the required code to the "post-footer" section of the main blog posts widget. The easiest way to locate this section is to use your browser's search function to find the following line of code:
    <div class='post-footer'>
    <div class='post-footer-line post-footer-line-1'>
 If you cannot find either of these lines in your template code, search for "post-labels", "post-icons" or "timestamp" to locate the appropriate section of your template instead.

Once you have located this section of your template, you need to add the following section of code:

<span class='post-location'>
<b:if cond='data:top.showLocation'>
<b:if cond='data:post.location'>
<a expr:href='data:post.location.mapsUrl' target='_blank'><></a>

Be sure to add this outside any other tags! If you did find the <div class='post-footer'> tag (or similar) in your template, the safest place is to add the code immediately after this line.

Then preview your template. If all is well, you should now see Geotag links appear beneath any posts you have Geotagged with a location (though none will appear on posts which have not been tagged).If you have made any errors when adding the code above, you'll receive a message that your template cannot be parsed. In this case, simply "Clear edits" and attempt to paste the code again.

Is Geotagging a useful feature for Blogger?

I personally feel that Blogger's integration of this new feature will prove very useful for a large proportion of the Blogger community. So far the comments I have read on the introductory post for this new feature have been very positive, and it seems many creative coders have already expanded their ideas for how Geotagging can be intrgrated for widgets and other useful features.

However, this may not be a feature which is beneficial for us all. Here on Blogger Buster, for example, the location where these posts are typed does not complement the content and has no added benefit for readers (I like to think the content posted here has international appeal!).

What are your opinions of Blogger's new Geotagging feature? Will you be using this feature to complement your own blog posts?

Please feel free to let us know your own opinions and comments by leaving your message below.

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