How does Google Maps make money?

Google Maps is a web and app-based mapping platform that offers aerial photography, satellite imagery, terrain data, street maps, route planning, and real-time traffic information. 

Google Maps is an immensely popular platform. In the United States, there are approximately 154 million active monthly users with this number increasing to well over 1 billion worldwide.

But with so many users, it may surprise some to learn that Google has until recently done little to monetize the service directly. 

Morgan Stanley predicts that Google Maps revenue will hit more than $11 billion by 2023, noting in an article on Yahoo Finance that:

Google Maps is a utility-like service (similar to Search) and in our view, remains the most under-monetized asset that we cover.

With the above figures in mind, let’s explain below how Google Maps makes money.

Google Maps revenue generation

The reasoning behind Morgan Stanley’s prediction of $11 billion in revenue is simple to understand when you consider Google’s revenue from search and related services.

In Q4 2021, the company reported that $61.2 billion (or 82%) of total revenue came from advertising alone.

This means the bulk of Google Maps revenue comes from advertisers who use Google Adwords to promote their businesses and will continue to do so in the future.

However, a lesser-known source of income is derived by selling access to the Google Maps API.

Below is a look at each revenue source in more detail.


Google makes money from advertising in three ways.

Search listing ads

Search listing ads appear when a Google Maps user searches for a particular business or type of business, such as a gas station, mall, or their nearest Walmart. 

Advertising here works the same as it does for a Google search; paid listings are shown at the top and businesses are only charged when a user clicks one of their ads. 

Branded location pins

In some situations, Google Maps will show branded location pins irrespective of whether the user is searching for that company.

Branded pins are available to any business provided their ad spend and ad quality is of a sufficient level.

Businesses must also have a square logo (favicon) uploaded to their My Business accounts and have configured their location extensions for each ad campaign.

Retail locations as navigational landmarks

Less common is the use of retail landmarks when receiving directions from the automated voice within the app.

Some users have reported receiving messages such as “Turn right after the Burger King” or “Turn left at the Starbucks.”

Google Maps API

Google also makes money by selling the Google Maps API to other businesses and app developers that require mapping or navigation services.

These include Uber, Lyft, Snapchat, Accenture, and Square.

API services come in three forms:

  1. Routes – for example, Uber incorporates Google Maps into its app so that drivers do not need to switch between two apps to determine a route.
  2. Places – this encompasses geocoding, where street addresses are converted into geographic coordinates that can be used as place markers. This form also includes current place, time zone, place photos, and autocomplete for geographic search terms.
  3. Maps – these are maps that consumers see embedded in real-estate websites or food-delivery apps, for example. Customers may also choose from static or dynamic maps and static or dynamic Street View.

Each of these API services comes with various fees, but Google offers $200 credit (equivalent to 28,500 map loads) for free every month.

Key takeaways:

  • Google Maps is a web and app-based mapping platform that offers aerial photography, satellite imagery, terrain data, street maps, route planning, and real-time traffic information.
  • Most Google Maps revenue comes from advertisers who use Google Adwords to promote their businesses. Some of the ad formats include search listing ads, branded location pins, and retail locations as navigational landmarks.
  • Google Maps also makes money by selling its API to interested parties. API services are categorized as either Routes, Places, or Maps and will suit the majority of business applications.

Read More:

Related Business Models Case Studies

Google Business Model

Google (now Alphabet) primarily makes money through advertising. The Google search engine, while free, is monetized with paid advertising. In 2021 Google’s advertising generated over $209 billion (beyond Google Search, which comprises YouTube Ads and the Network Members Sites) compared to $257 billion in net sales. Advertising represented over 81% of net sales, followed by Google Cloud ($19 billion) and Google’s other revenue streams (Google Play, Pixel phones, and YouTube Premium).

Google Revenue Model

A hidden revenue business model is a pattern for revenue generation that keeps users out of the equation, so they don’t pay for the service or product offered. For instance, Google’s users don’t pay for the search engine. Instead, the revenue streams come from advertising money spent by businesses bidding on keywords.

Google Other Bets

Of Google’s (Alphabet) over $257 billion revenues for 2021, Google also generated $753 million from a group of startup bets, which Google considers potential moonshots (companies that might open up new industries). Those Google’s bets also generated a loss for the company of over $5.2 billion. In short, Google is using the money generated by search and betting it on other innovative industries. 

Google Organizational Structure

Google (Alphabet) has a cross-functional (team-based) organizational structure known as a matrix structure with some degree of flatness. Over the years, as the company scaled and it became a tech giant, its organizational structure is morphing more into a centralized organization.

How Big is Google

Google is an attention merchant that – in 2021 – generated $209 billion (over 81% of revenue) from ads (Google Search, YouTube Ads, and Network sites), followed by Google Play, Pixel phones, YouTube Premium (a $28 billion segment), and Google Cloud ($19 billion). Over $31.5 billion went toward R&D (12.3% of its revenues).

YouTube Business Model

YouTube was acquired for almost $1.7 billion in 2006 by Google. It makes money through advertising and subscription revenues. YouTube advertising network is part of Google Ads, generating more than $28B in revenue by 2021. YouTube also makes money with its paid memberships and premium content.

Google Traffic Acquisition Costs

The traffic acquisition cost represents the expenses incurred by an internet company, like Google, to gain qualified traffic – on its pages – for monetization. Over the years, Google has been able to reduce its traffic acquisition costs and, in any case, keep it stable. In 2021 Google spent 21.75% of its total advertising revenues (over $45.56 billion) to guarantee its traffic on several desktop and mobile devices across the web.

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