Product Support

Locations Map

Shows a customizable Google map with location markers for all your Participants Database records.

Product Setup

First install and activate the plugin. This will add the “Locations Map” menu item to the Participants Database admin menu. Click that item to open the Locations Map settings screen. The first step is to get your API key.

Getting Your API Key

To use Google maps services, you must have an API key. It’s no big deal: they are free, you just have to have a Google account, and then set up the API access through Google Developers.

  1. Visit
  2. Click on Get Started
  3. Select Maps, click continue
  4. Select or Create a Project: Just create a new project and give it the name of your website
  5. The project will be created, it can take several seconds
  6. Set up billing: Google requires that you have a billing account in case you start to run up charges (you probably won’t…see below)
  7. The Maps API will be enabled
  8. You will then be given your API key. Copy this and paste it into the “API Key” setting in the Locations Map settings
  9. You can get your API key any time on your Google Cloud Dashboard, make sure you have the right project selected.

Google Maps Dev Site: Getting your API Key

Google Maps Services is Free—To a Point

For each service used, Google provides a limited number of free loads (every time someone loads a page with a map on it, that’s one load). Unless your site has very high volume, it won’t cost you anything to show maps. This plugin uses three Google services: Dynamic Maps, Static Maps and Geocoding.

Every time a page with a dynamic map is opened on your site, it will generate a Dynamic Map load. You can have up to 28,000 of those per month for free. You’d probably have to be getting several thousand visits a month (with them all seeing your map) to hit that.

Static Maps has higher limits: you’ll get 100,000 free map loads per month with those. Static maps lack the user interactivity of dynamic maps, but they are cheap, fast and really all you need for most applications.

Geocoding also has limits, but it’s not used very often. We only need to geocode when a record is created or updated. You’ll get 40,000 of those for free.  If you have a lot of records, you might get over that number when you geocode the entire batch, but after that you’re unlikely to hit charges for geocoding.

Get all the details in the Google Maps Pricing Table…

Once you have the API key in place, you can show the map in your list and single record displays. A detailed explanation of the plugin’s settings is found under the “Settings” tabs here.

Dynamic Maps or Static Maps?

You should decide whether you need to use Dynamic Maps or Static Maps. They are used differently and result in a different display…here are the pros and cons:

Map Type Pros Cons
  • user interactivity like zoom, panning, street view, change map type
  • location markers
  • info popups on markers
  • more appearance control
  • fewer free loads
  • can take longer to load when viewed
  • more complex display could be confusing or distracting
  • loads instantly, no javascript
  • simple display
  • location markers
  • lots of free loads
  • no user interactivity
  • less responsive: you must define dimensions
  • less control over appearance
  • no marker info popups

Placing Dynamic Maps

Dynamic maps can be placed automatically, without the need for custom templates, by selecting a location in the list or single record displays using the Automatic Map Placement settings. In the list display, the map will show in the selected location (top or bottom) with markers for all the records shown in the list results. A search result will show a repopulated map with markers for the result set.

The map for the single record shows a marker for the location of that record.

Dynamic Map Shortcodes

Dynamic maps can also be shown with a shortcode:

[pdb_listmap] shows a map with all your located records as markers. You can use the “filter” attribute in the shortcode to determine which records are included or excluded.

[pdb_singlemap] shows a map for a single record with a marker for it’s location. You will need to access it’s page using a ?pdb=id type of URL (typically, by using the “single record link” in the list display), so that the shortcode knows which record to show. Or, if you are a coder, you can use it in a custom template and set the record id in the shortcode, using the ‘record_id’ attribute.

Dynamic Map Templates

Dynamic maps can also be displayed using a custom template. The add-on comes with two example templates for showing a dynamic map: pdb-list-dynamicmap-default.php and pdb-single-dynamicmap-default.php You can use them as-is or use them as a starting point for your own custom templates.

If you are already using a custom template, take a look at these examples, you’ll see it’s very simple to add a map to a template.

Placing Static Maps

Static Maps are used in three ways: as a custom form element, the [pdb_list_static_map] shortcode or using a special template.

The Static Map Form Element

Setting up the map as a Participants Database field is convenient if you want to show a small map in a list display or you want the map to be part of the single record display.

Static maps must have their width and height set beforehand. If you don’t define the width and height in the field definition, it will use the global map height setting for the width and the height (resulting in a square map).

You can set several parameters in the field definition to set up your map:

  • ‘width’ sets the width, in pixels for your map display
  • ‘height’ sets the height in pixels
  • ‘located_only’ when set to true will only show a map if the record has been located (i.e., has latitude and longitude data)
  • ‘zoom’ sets the zoom level of the map; if omitted, the zoom level is determined by the global zoom setting
  • ‘maptype” can take one of 4 values: roadmap, satellite, terrain, hybrid and determines the type of map display to use
  • ‘center’ allows you to set a default center for the map: if there is a marker present, it will center on that marker. You must use the | (pipe) character instead of a comma to separate the latitude and longitude values. 

For example: this field is configured to show a map of width 650 pixels wide by 500 pixels in height, showing a hybrid map centered on San Francisco.

Note: map sizes are limited by your Google API plan type. Normally, this is 650 pixels, but if you upgrade your plan, you can get up to 2048 pixels. Details here…

You can manage the appearance like any other Participants Database field. If you want the map to show up in your list display, make sure the map field is configured to do so. For single displays, it will appear like any other field.

Map fields do not display in signup forms or record edit forms.

The [pdb_list_static_map] Shortcode

This works much the same as the [pdb_listmap] shortcode, only it shows a static map. The shortcode uses the ‘width’ and ‘height’ attributes to set up the dimensions of the map display. You can use these attributes in the shortcode:

  • width – in pixels
  • height – in pixels
  • zoom – sets the base zoom level of the map
  • center – longitude | latitude for the center of the map, defaults to auto-centering the map on the markers
  • maptype – can be roadmap, satellite, terrain, or hybrid

The Static Map Template

This add-on includes a special template for showing all your record markers in a static map. If you need to set up a custom list template using a static map, you can use the included pdb-list-static-map-default.php template as your starting point or as an example of how to include the map.

To use the static map template in your list shortcode, use a shortcode like this: [pdb_list template="static-map-default"].

Configuring the Appearance of the Dynamic Map

There are several preferences for determining how the dynamic map will look. First, you can select the Map Style, which is the color scheme of the map. There are several available, and it is possible to create your own color scheme if you want.

The Map Height setting sets the size of the map display. The map will always try to be as wide as possible, filling the available horizontal space. It is necessary to give the map a specific height to determine how much vertical space it will take. The usual size is around 300 pixels, this will look good on most handheld devices. You don’t want to try to show a map that is larger than the screen size of the device since the user can scroll within the map window.

Map Controls determine what the user can do with the map. You have several controls that you can enable or disable depending on your needs. It is probably a good idea to have as few of these enabled as possible to avoid unneeded clutter in the display.

Each location is marked on the map with a Marker Icon, you can select the type of icon and color.

Marker Info Pop-Ups show information from the record when the marker is clicked on or hovered over. You can configure the content of the info box: it’s possible to put pretty much anything you want to show in there, the template gives you a way to determine which fields are shown and how they are laid out in the box.


Most of the time, your records will have an address that defines it’s location. Geocoding takes this address information (from anywhere in the world!) and converts it to the latitude and longitude values needed to place the marker on the right spot on the map.

You’ll need to tell the plugin which fields are your Address Fields, it uses the data in those fields to determine the location. It’s possible to locate markers with partial information, such as a state or city, but it will be more accurate with a complete address.

If your records already have latitude and longitude data, you don’t need to use geocoding, just make sure the Latitude and Longitude Field settings tell the plugin where to find that info.

Mass Geocoding

If you already have a records when you set up the map plugin, you’ll want to geocode those so that their markers will be placed. The Geocode All Records button does this for all the records in the database. The operation takes place in the background, so once you start it, you can do other things. You’ll need to refresh the page after a few minutes to see the results of the operation.


Product Settings

Google Maps API Settings

Google Maps API Key

You must have an API key to use Google’s map service. Instructions for getting your API key are found under the “Instructions” tab.

Google Static Maps Secret Key

This key, also known as a “signing secret” is optional, and you’ll only need it if you’re using Static Maps and want to increase the number of free loads you can have. More information on digital signatures here…

General Map Settings

Default Zoom Level

Normally, the map will auto-zoom to include all the markers. If the map has no markers, this is the zoom level to use. This also works as a minimum zoom level so that your maps won’t be zoomed in too close if there is only one marker or they are all clustered in a single location.

Details that would be seen at several example zoom levels:

  • 1: World
  • 5: Landmass/continent
  • 10: City
  • 15: Streets
  • 20: Buildings

Default Location

The center of the map is normally determined by the markers. If there are no markers, this location will be used as the center of the map.

Map Height

All maps require a height setting. Choose a value in pixels that looks good in the normal display you are using. This value can be overridden by individual maps. The maximum size available here is 650 pixels, unless you have a premium Google API plan.

For dynamic maps, the width of the map will be determined by the display, so it will be responsive to the viewing device screen. Static maps require a fixed width value, which is set in the configuration of the static map. Static maps can be made responsive with appropriate CSS, your responsive theme may take care of that for you.

Marker Icon

Choose the style of marker icon from a preset list of icons.

Custom Marker Icon

If you want to use a custom icon, put the URL to it here. This means it needs to be hosted on a server. The easiest way to do this is to upload the image to your site’s media library. To get the URL, open the image in the media library editor, then copy the URL for the image (seen in the upper right of the edit screen).

An icon should be a 32×32 pixel PNG with a transparent background.

Dynamic Map Features

List Display Automatic Map Placement
Single Record Automatic Map Placement

This selection inserts the dynamic map in your List or Single Record displays in the location specified.

This will be active in all single or list displays. If you need to selectively display a dynamic map, you must use a custom template. The plugin includes some default custom templates which you can use as-is or as a guide to creating your own.

Map Style

This chooses a color scheme for your map. There are several built-in ones to choose from, or you can build you own. See the “Custom Map Style” setting for details.

Map Controls

Dynamic Map Controls

There are several different controls available to users on a dynamic map. This setting lets you decide which ones will be available. Note that this can’t prevent users from zooming and panning using their keyboard and mouse, all this does is hide or show the specific on-screen control.

Enable Marker Info Pop-Up

Checkbox to enable/disable informational pop-ups for markers. These pop-ups show information from a record when its marker is clicked or hovered over.

Marker Info Show Action

Determines the action that will show the informational pop-up: click, the marker must be clicked on or hover, the info box for each marker is shown as the pointer hovers over it.

Marker Info Template

This mini-template determines which pieces of information will be included in the informational pop-up and how it will be formatted. It uses the same “value tags” as available in Participants Database email templates. Each tag will be replaced by the record data in the named field.

You can use simple HTML in the template, but it may break if you try to put too much in there.

Custom Map Style

Here is where you can add your own custom map color scheme. You’re expected to paste a valid JSON object, an error will result if there are syntax issues with the JSON object.

There are several online services that make developing your own map style fairly easy.

These services will all generate the JSON for you: just copy and paste into the custom map style to use it.


In order to place markers on a map, it is necessary to know the coordinates for each one. In most cases, your records will have an address of some kind. Geocoding is the process of taking a descriptive address of a place and converting it to the geometric coordinates of the place on the globe: the latitude and longitude.

Enable Auto-Geocoding

When enabled, a record is automatically geocoded when it is created or edited. You can disable this if your records already contain latitude and longitude information.

Address Fields

To geocode a place, we need the address information. This setting tells the geocoder which fields to use to find the coordinates. The address can be a mailing address or any other kind of descriptive address that is normally used. The address can be incomplete (for instance, just a city or even a country), the geocoder will place the coordinates as accurately as it can using whatever information it is given.

For example, if you give the geocoder the only name of a city, it will place the marker in the center of that city. If given a locality (such as “Hell’s Kitchen”) it will place it in the center of that locality, so even if your records don’t contain complete addresses, markers can be meaningfully placed.

Latitude Field
Longitude Field

Select the two fields where this information is held in your records. Normally, the plugin will add these fields and you won’t have to change this setting. If your records already have coordinate fields, you can set those here so the plugin knows where to get the information to place the marker.

Geocode All Records

When you first set up the plugin, you will probably need to get the coordinates for all the records that are already in the database. This button will start the process of geocoding all of your records.

It does this in the background, so you won’t see much happening until it is done. Refresh the page after a minute or two to see the results of the bulk geocoding operation.

Remember, there is a limit to the number of free geocoding requests you can make, and if you have a large database you could easily reach that limit if you perform this operation multiple times. You should only have to do this once.


My records won't geocode, I just get the "Processing complete. 0 records geocoded." message when I try to geocode my records.

There are several things that could be going wrong here, so here is a checklist of things to verify:

  1. API Keys: Make sure you are using the correct key and that the key is set up for the correct APIs. The key should be set up on the Maps JavaScript API and the Geocoding API. You must have a valid billing account set up with Google for the key to work.
  2. API Key must be valid for the domain making the request. This will be under the “restrictions” for the key. If it is unrestricted, it will also work.
  3. Check the Geocoding Address Fields setting. This must be a comma-separated list of valid field names. Do not include any non-address fields. For example:
    address, city, state, country
  4. Your records must have enough valid data in the address fields to locate the record. Check a single record with a good address, it should geocode when saved so you can see if that record is working and make any changes to get it working. Even just a country and city is enough to place a pin. If you find it geocodes with just the city and country, then maybe something about the street or house address is confusing. There is a Google geocoding tester you can use to see if you’ve got a readable address.
  5. If after you’ve verified the first 3 items on this list and your address tests OK on the geocode test page, you still can’t get it to geocode your records, it can be helpful to do a little debugging. In the Participants Database settings under the advanced tab, select “plugin debug” in the Enable Debugging setting. Now attempt to geocode your test record in the backend record editor (you only have to save the record to do this). The log (debugging log item in the Participants database admin menu) will tell you what errors happened during the geocode process. Most of the time, the problem is with the API keys. Setting up the keys is a bit complex and everything has to be correct for them to work.
I'm using Locations Map with Combo Multisearch, and the map shown in the list doesn't update to show markers for the search results.

Currently, Using the “auto placement” dynamic map in the list does not respond to search results when using AJAX searches. This include the use of Combo Multisearch, which only uses AJAX to show it’s search results.

The solution to this is to use a custom template. While Locations Map does include a list template that adds a dynamic map, for Combo Multisearch, you need to combine the template that Combo Multisearch uses and the Locations Map one.

I have put such a template together, it is available here…

Take a look at the linked page if you are unfamiliar with the use of custom templates in Participants Database.

I'm using the "auto list placement" and the map doesn't update when a search is performed.

This is a limitation in the current version of the plugin. You can’t use “AJAX Searches” with the List display auto placement, the map doesn’t update.

There are two solutions to this, you will only need to use one of them:

  1. Turn off “Enable AJAX Search Functionality” in the Participants Database advanced settings.
  2. Use a custom template instead of the auto placement…for example:


    First Name Last Name Club Role City State Main Activity Photo
    raul fifo
    Jim Jones
    Anders Bengtsson
    Pete Bradstreet
    Adina Andrus
    gigi al
    Test User
    bjorg bjorn
    Mike KG7KIQ Kearney Volunteer Tampa Florida

Support Discussions for Locations Map

  • I’ve purchased this plugin and populated some test data with UK addresses – street address, town, postcode and country – but the geocoding won’t work. It just returns the message ” Processing complete. 0 records geocoded.”. What am I doing wrong?

  • I’m looking at getting this AP, I need it to do something like MTB Projet that is a map with a route shown on it. I would want to show several points of interest (POI with pictures etc) along the route. Does this ap/plug in of Google maps enable each record to have its own Google map route along with POIs for that route?
    All records should be able to be identified on a general google map, then zooming to the specific route that a user was looking at.

    • I went ahead and got the google maps, but it doesn’t load on my sight. There are about 12 map APIs out there, I got the one for address and geocodes. The plugin downloaded fine, but no latitude and longitude values are showing up; either with new records or in the existing records. Suggestions?

      • Once the APIs are set up, then if a record won’t geocode, it usually means there isn’t enough information in the address to set a location. Make sure that you have your address fields assigned to the geocoder and you have enough information in the record to calculate the location.

        • Hi Roland,
          thanks for getting back with me.
          I put several full address in, still not working. I did the geocoding all button twice. showed 0 records updated, 4 records processed.
          Not sure if it makes a difference, but I changed the group for address, city, state to the “main page” instead of the personal page. Also, I had deleted address earlier and recreated the address field. I updated the locations map setting as follows:

        • OK, the “address fields” setting in the geocoder needs to be a comma separated list of field names. Also, don’t include fields that do not contain address information.

          for example:

          address, city, state, country

        • I did put the commas in there. My database is only one record now and very complete. It still didn’t make any difference. The longitude and Latitude fields won’t populate.

        • Most of the time, a problem like this is due to the API keys not working. Once you’re sure the API key for both the Maps JavaScript API and the Geocoding API are set and you’ve got it correctly entered in the plugin settings, you can test the geocoding with a single record. Saving the record on the admin record edit screen will attempt to geocode the record.

          If it doesn’t work there, you’ll need to take a look at your php error log. The plugin will print any problems it encounters to the log.

        • Roland,
          Thanks for your help. I was missing the JavaScript API. Bill

    • You will probably need to develop a custom application for that. The Map Locations add-on just throws down pins for the addresses in the database.

      • Hi Roland,
        Thanks for all your help. The PINS are working fine right now.
        Is there any way, since I got the multi-search plug-in also, that after the multi-search is executed (that is a search is done) that only those pins in the search results show up on the map?


        • Well, that depends on how you are displaying the map. If you want the map to only show the pins from the results of a search, you need to use the “List Display Automatic Map Placement” feature so that the map is integrated with the list display.

        • Hi Roland, I tried the “List Display Automatic Map Placement” before and after the list display; and it still didn’t make any difference. The map is still showing all the pins after the search, even those not part of it.

          The single map display, is fine when I go there.


        • Yes, I’m sorry, don’t use the automatic placement, I’ve got a bug there to deal with. I suggest you use the special template for showing a dynamic map:

          [pdb_list template=dynamicmap-default search=true]

        • I guess i’m entering it wrong. I’m putting on same page as:

          [pdb_list template=multisearch]
          I tried putting the code: [pdb_list template=dynamicmap-default search=true] before above code, after above code, and after word multisearch (as ,dynamicmap-default search=true]. none of them worked.
          Maybe something else I did wrong?

        • You only need the one list shortcode:

          [pdb_list template=dynamicmap-default search=true]

          In order for this to work, you need to have the custom template in the correct location. If not, it will fall back to the default template.

  • Hello, this is a great plugin!
    I’m trying to add a list of the search results next to the map with markers, much like when searching for places on Google. Is it possible?

    • Yes, the easy way to do this is to use the automatic map placement setting in the Locations Map settings, under the Dynamic Map Features tab. The setting List Display Automatic Map Placement lets you choose where to show the map, but it’s only before or after the actual list of results.

      If you want the locations map to show to the side, depending on your theme, you may be able to use some CSS to place the map display. More likely, however, you’ll need to use a custom template so you can set up the HTML the way you want. The plugin comes with an example template to get you started: pdb-list-dynamicmap-default.php

      Here are general instructions for setting up a custom template: Using Participants Database Custom Templates

  • Hi! I installed this and am having an issue. I followed the steps, but am seeing this error and don’t see a way to fix it:

    I am trying to do a dynamic map.

    Additionally, when I select from the map icon, they are all blank, except for the “custom” option.
    So, I selected “custom” marker and uploaded an option. No markers are showing on the map, even after verifying that the address fields are correct. I also have lat/long fields entered and selected within the plugin.

    • I’ve never seen that message before, but it does suggest that Google is not getting the correct API key. It is sometimes possible to get more information about the problem if you look at the browser developer’s console when attempting to load the map. If I had a link to the map page, I could check on that.

      The map icons, that is a new problem, looks like the Google icon repository I was using has changed. I’ll need to fix that.

      About the markers not showing…on this page you are getting maps? Just no markers? If you open a record in the admin, you should be able to see if the latitude and longitude fields have values. If not, make sure you have auto geocoding set up, then geocode your records.

      • The update fixed the map marker icon. Thank you.

        I tried setting up a second API key and got the same error. It looks like it will load once (without any markers). But then the second time I load the page, I get the error message in my earlier message.

        I do have lat and long fields and they do have values (I added them manually myself because I was using my own custom map solution). Your plugin created its own fields for the same purpose. When I set the plugin to use my fields and auto geocached, it erased all of the lat/long fields I had and left empty values.

        You should have a login still on my site at

        • It’s possible the plugin cleared those location values when the API key failed. It shouldn’t do that.

          What is the exact error message you are getting? Google changed their requirements for using the Maps API back in June, so you may need to check on that status of your API account to make sure it is still active.

  • I am very interested in this plugin & what it can do.

    I would like to use this for airports, how will it show if I have more than one marker at the exact same location?
    Other programs I have seen combine them into one marker with the number of icons.

    • This is an interesting question. I had not considered how to handle multiple markers in the same location. As it is, it will just stack them on top of each other, but that could be changed.

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