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Google Maps API Pricing Changes (and how it probably affects you)

Posted on July 17, 2018

Events Manager 5.9.5 and Events Manager Pro 2.6.4 were released to address the new Maps API price changes by Google. This blog post get into the what and why:

Let’s start by saying that we’re fans of Google. They’ve provided lots of valuable services to us all, most of them free to the masses, and have pushed and shaped the internet into a wonderful resource of information and productivity. That said…

As of July 16th, Google Maps has changed the pricing structure of its API by reducing its free limits and significantly increasing the usage price. For many users, this likely won’t affect you, for many others it means Google Maps will no longer be a free service in its current state.

The intention of this post isn’t to alarm you, but the reality is that these changes are alarming for a multitude of reasons (of which we won’t get into here). Our intention here is to put the price changes into perspective, and also inform you about how Events Manager will react to this.

The Price Changes

For many years, Google was quite generous with its free usage allowance but slowly, over the years, this has changed and yesterday marked the biggest one of all. The difference between using the Google Maps API service has jumped up from by %1400 up to %2800 depending on the service used. Yup, that’s not a mistake, we’re talking THOUSAND percents from one day to another!

The bigger impact of this originates from the fact that alongside this price hike, they’ve also significantly lowered their free allowance which translates roughly to a %750 decrease in value/usage allowance for loading dynamic maps, or a whopping %2600 decrease in free map loads! Previously, you were able to load Google Maps on your site 25,000 a day (750,000 a month), now were you to only load Maps on your site, you’d have a 28,000 load allowance per month.

We’re referencing Google’s old pricing and comparing it with the new pricing. It’s hard to put this into numbers, because aside from a previously reasonable API pricing structure and (admittedly) generous free usage limits, the pricing structure was fairly simple to understand, whereas now every API call has a different price.

To put this into perspective, we’ve made some conservative (i.e. low) daily usage estimations for a somewhat popular events site and compare the price difference, based on a 30-day month.

Map API Use Type API Calls / Day New Price (Monthly)
Location(s) Map Display (Dynamic) 1,000 $210.00
Search Autocomplete 300 $51.00
Geocoding (Adding Locations) 300 $2.00
Credit Allowance -$200.00
Total $63.00

That’s a new $63 monthly cost for a site where their event/location pages containing maps are loaded 1000 times a day (not visitors, page loads), 300 searches are attempted per day using the location auto-completion feature, and adding 10 locations per day. We consider this to be fairly conservative and likely a quota many users will meet. If your traffic doubled, your bill jumps to $325, if it goes up tenfold, that becomes $2145.

How to manage and reduce API usage costs with Events Manager

We have created some new documentation pages that describes our new map load types, what APIs we use and how to optimize API usage.

Sadly, our hands our tied with regards to Google. If you want to continue using Google Maps as-is, you may face some steep cost increases depending on how much traffic your site gets. We have little option but to roll with the punches and attempt to provide the best balance between functionality and price possible.

Fortunately, we have figured out some ways that’ll drastically reduce (or mitigate entirely) the cost of using the API based on this current pricing structure. We’ve done this mainly by providing alternatives to dynamic map loads, which are likely to be the most expensive and crucial feature to website owners.

With Events Manager 5.9.5 you can opt to use Embedded Maps , which is a slightly different way of loading maps, but is completely free. The downside is that you have little control over what gets displayed on the map and around your location. For many, this will be an attractive option though.

With Events Manager Pro 2.6.4, we have also included integration with Google Static Maps, which is significantly cheaper to load than Dynamic Maps, affording you much higher monthly usage limits, along with caching which will optimize load times and further help stretch your budget. Aside from this, to provide a good user experience to your visitors, we also provide linking and click actions on these static maps so that users could open the map on a (free) maps page, or load a dynamic/embedded map when clicked on. The idea here is to reduce the loading of expensive maps to when specifically requested.

Thinking ahead…

These price changes were only announced just over 2 months ago, affording us little reaction time. Our primary priority was to react accordingly with the current Google integrations we had, in order to reduce usage costs to plugin users as much as possible. We were forced to shift our focus from other features we’re currently working on to address this, we’ll be shifting that focus back on some awesome features (although one actually includes some Google API integration :/).

However, whilst we will still certainly continue to integrate with Google services, this recent price change has prompted us to think about where we go from here…  The harsh reality is that Maps and location-based services will not be free in larger volumes, but there are alternatives, many alternatives which are certainly significantly cheaper at higher volumes.

We have been looking at multiple alternatives, talking to Mapping service providers and are still exploring our options. However, one thing is certain, we will over time work towards decoupling the Google Maps functionality in Events Manager so that other services can hook into Events Manager and take over to display maps instead. This won’t be immediate, but it is now something we’ll be keeping in mind with every key we press whilst dealing with anything location-related. We look forward to providing you with further mapping-related announcements in the near future!

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