2016 , bye bye bye… Here’s to you 2017! : We are looking forward to a productive and prosperous year. Last of the year updates for the WordPress Store Locator Plus plug-in as well as updated versions for the featured Power, and Experience add-ons as well as new Premier functionality and features.
Before updating the add-ons, you will be required to update the base Store Locator Plus plugin to 4.7 or higher. Note: If you have bookmarks and/or “auto- form fill” to your WordPress Store Locator Plus account you will need to change the WP-SLP url to the new url .
You can review the WordPress Store Locator Plus change log here.
We’ve been doing some homework related to new project concepts at My Store Locator Plus, our new SaaS locator service. Our recent studies show that American’s are obsessed with food and booze. And the post office.
In case you haven’t noticed, your Store Locator Plus and My Store Locator Plus apps may be working a little different during the last few weeks of 2016. You didn’t change ANYTHING but suddenly things are not exactly like they were before.
It is a special Christmas gift from Google to all of us.
Sometime in late 2016 Google updated their Google Maps API. We are not sure how many changes went into this release. I must have missed the call from Larry and Sergey this time. However we do know a few things that changed that impact customers.
#1 – Geocoding Requires Accurate Addresses
You better make sure your addresses that are sent to Google are darn-near perfectly formed. No more hiding meta in that address 2 field. If a business does not have a suite named “Attn: Customer Service” as part of their official address don’t put it on there. It very likely will not geocode.
Looks like Google is turning the screws a little more on their attempt to squash as much competition in the maps market as possible. Over the past few months they have tweaked their Google Geocoding API algorithms. Each change is going to make it just a little more difficult to get your addresses to return a correct latitude and longitude. It is definitely having an effect on locations people are entering into Store Locator Plus but the truly concerning issue is not with addresses you can fix but how it is going to impact all the odd variations of addresses your customers type in during a search.
As is typical from the Google Maps people, the results from their in-house applications including Google Maps The Website is very different from what non-insiders get. Any application using the Google Maps Geocoding service, whether a $20,000/year OEM license or a few-dollar-or-less-per-month Pay-As-You-Go API key, will see different results. The sad part is that what worked perfectly fine “yesterday” no longer works today.
Several known addresses that were designed to “test the system” suddenly started failing our internal testing over the past few days. After rolling back our software and servers to older releases to ensure we did not introduce a problem we’ve discovered that the change is almost 100% guaranteed to be a change in Google’s Geocoding API algorithms.
Diane Blackwelder CFP ®, Charleston Financial Advisors LLC, 4 N Atlantic Wharf, Charleston SC 29401 USA
Last spring that geocoded perfectly fine. Today it comes back “ZERO_RESULTS” which is Google-speak for “bad address”.
This does not work either:
Diane Blackwelder, Charleston Financial Advisors LLC, 4 N Atlantic Wharf, Charleston SC 29401 USA
Only the 100% proper address works:
Diane Blackwelder c/o Charleston Financial Advisors LLC, 4 N Atlantic Wharf, Charleston SC 29401 USA
Yet on Google Maps ALL 3 of these variations come back with the correct address.
This happens with a number of other addresses as well including this example using Google Maps in Germany with the same type of results:
Hotel Berlin Märkischer, Hof am Tacheles, Linienstraße, 133 Berlin 10115 Germany
While this only impacts a very small percentage of addresses people enter into Store Locator Plus, or just about any other mapping service using Google besides internal Google services like their Places (think Adwords but far more costly), it is still very clear what Google’s long term plans are for businesses using their map services.
Granted, Google can always fall back on the “well, that is technically not the right address” argument but the fact-of-the-matter is that these addresses worked perfectly well before. The same addresses work perfectly well in Google-owned properties TODAY. The addresses do NOT work for any third party applications because someone at Google decided they shouldn’t. Not nice, Google. Not nice. It is increasingly clear that Google intends to slowly strangle all third party mapping-software providers so they can collect all the customers that end up being left behind and throw them into their pay-per-request services.
Looks like we are once again having to seriously consider introducing alternative Geocoding and map image technology solutions. We have been investigating Open Street Map for some time. It looks like 2017 is finally going to see that option come online. It is almost a certainty for our MySLP SaaS service and may be integrated into one of our planned live-service options for our Premier Subscribers.
When people ask why we spent so much time and money building a SaaS service for maps, this is one reason why. It is much easier for us to help our customers have a superior experience for their end users when we can setup, testing and activate alternatives in one step. With per-website installations of Store Locator Plus on 20,000+ servers in 128 different countries providing the same type of pro-active response is impossible. We don’t have any control over what those webmaster are doing and not all of them are tech-savvy.
Sure, buy-and-own options like Store Locator Plus can be cost effective but if you’re business relies on your locator having a managed service makes a lot more sense.
Store Locator Plus version 4.6.4 fixed the zoom settings, the plug-in tabs “save changes” and the back-end UI.
The change in the back end user interface will not be noticeable to most users. The naming of sections and tabs and settings now will use programmatic slugs instead of the plain text names. This allows the settings translations in different languages to remain intact even if language files have not been updated. This means future updates to Store Locator Plus, Power, Experience, and Premier add-ons will no longer lose their settings tabs. Another behind the scenes development is populating the plug-in and add-ons with “smart options” settings. To learn more please watch the developer’s brief You Tube.
Due to the evacuation from Charleston , SC and the associated power outages from Hurricane Matthew, Store Locator Plus support will be intermittent over the next week until we can get back home and assess the situation. We will respond to your questions in the forum as soon as possible.
Thank you for your patience.
Mandatory South Carolina Evacuations For Hurricane Matthew Begin
You will notice a new look in your admin panel of Store Locator Plus in Version 4.6.2 . Featuring a new sidebar on the admin pages for the settings tabs and the locations tab.
Important fixes: SLP version 4.6.2 fixes the “white screen” error on sites running the older version of WordPress 4.4 and/or Multi-site users running WordPress 4.6.
Show admin help settings in a new sidebar to make it easier to see what each setting does.
Show location details preview in right sidebar on manage locations page.
Added links to direct documentation pages for various settings.
Implement a new slp_get_text_string filter for add-ons to manage text strings.
Additional hard-coded gettext strings accessible to the text manager.
Don’t load the SLP overhead on the WordPress admin heartbeat since SLP doesn’t require “heartbeat” processing. Wouldn’t it be nice if all plugins did that?
Multisite installs – upgrading SLP fixes “not an array” error that would cause white screen on upgrade for sites using WP 4.6+
Fix stripslashes_from_strings_only() undefined function for sites running old WordPress (you really should update to WordPress 4.4+ for security reasons if nothing else).
Recalculate initial distance for all locations on global center map at change.
Performance update: Drop adminUI create_InputElement() method. (Note : This may break pre-4.2 Legacy Add Ons, you must upgrade to the Legacy add-on latest version release. 4.3 or higher or downgrade SLP to earlier version)
Experience will need to be updated to 4.6.2 when updating SLP to 4.6.2
Power Add-on Users reported some glitches with version 4.5.12 imports. The duplicate handling updates has been fixed. Note: In order for the Duplicate Handling Update location to function, either the sl_id or the Contacts field Identifier MUST be present and match what is stored in the location data field. To see the sl_id number you can hover over to the left of the location name under manage locations. Exporting the locations file to a csv file will also show the sl_id. This id is assigned automatically when a user adds a location in SLP for the first time and is not the one you assign as an identifier with contact extender. The specific contact identifier field can be used instead of the sl_id and takes precedence.
Surprise! He did it again…..our world traveler and developer supreme fixed a bug (..truth be told..he probably introduced the !oops! by muddling around with making a good thing great) that was discovered by one of our loyal customers who upgraded to the Power Add-on and shared it with us in the Store Locator Plus Support forum.
We also would like to thank the many new Power users and Premier Members who took advantage of the latest sales campaign to upgrade their Legacy add-ons. Although our summer sales event is alas coming to a close, you die hard Legacy add-on users can still request a coupon to upgrade to the new and improved Power add-on (with faster than ever importing functions, ) Experience Add-on group or our platinum Premier. The coupon value will be determined as shown under the relevant Product Descriptions.
I hope everyone is enjoying the balmy summer weather. The developer and author of Store Locator Plus has been very busy with updates in preparation for meeting his MYSLP team. I am sure he will have some interesting stories to tell when he gets back. He hasn’t been idle! While pond hopping he managed to revamp and publish Store locator Plus 4.5.10, which we hope provides better information on how to actually get that pesky Google API, browser , server console key or whatever they are calling it these days, into the right location in the SLP General settings. Thanks to a user question, apparently the linked instructions under the SLP INFO tab may not have been as user friendly as hoped.
Other updates were to the Power Add-on and Premier Add-on. Premier 4.5.10 was released while the author was mid flight somewhere over the Atlantic.
The Power Add-on and Premier Add-on were not playing nice together when it came to icons and map markers assigned to the Category Manager and settings. Thanks to a recent Premier Subscriber for revealing the mismatching icons issue and for patiently working with SLP while it was resolved
Stay tuned for a future update; I am hoping this will help us all keep our versions straight,( this blogger included who has told people to update to a non-existent version of an add-on, causing mayhem and confusion in her wake) has been requested from numerous loyal customers. Yes, you asked for it , he heard you, and coming to your account dashboard in the not too distant future, being able to view the version add-on that is available to you under your account downloads.
In the meantime, please check your versions under the Support tab on the home page.
We are currently in the very early stages of development; what we call our “alpha release”. It is far from being the final product but it IS functional and has been tested on various web technologies to see how well it can bring the Store Locator Plus service to non-WordPress sites.
We are now opening up our private invite to the Alpha Release of My Store Locator Plus. The select few users that are granted access will help guide us in the features and overall user experience that will make it into our initial public launch coming in early 2017.
SLP was updated to version 4.5.09 to allow for compatibility with those users who have a lower PHP of 5.5 or lower. WordPress recommends PHP 5.6 but we realize not everyone can get their host to upgrade. WP does provide verbiage (click on the link) to send to your provider host if you are interested in helping put the pressure on. When you upgraded the base plug-in to 4.5.09 and if you had a lower version of ProPack installed, you will see a notice that disabled 4.5 version of Pro Pack. You still have access to it and can upload the latest version (4.5.07). All you need to do is log into your account and download the latest version from there as noted in an earlier blog.
Pro Pack, Tagalong, Pages = Power
As many of you have noticed there have been changes that affect some of our most popular add-ons. The latest updates to these add-ons were made for compatibility reasons as Store Locator Plus continues to evolve on its way to become lighter, more efficient and will use less of your overhead. Pro Pack and Tagalong have joined the ranks of LEGACY add-ons and will not be updated further since the functionality and features have been moved or added to the newer Power add-on. Legacy add-ons will continue to work with the SLP version in use at the time the add-on was purchased Continue reading Store Locator Plus 4.5.09, Premier 4.5.09 and Add-on updates
Store Locator Plus 4.5.08 was released today with several notable updates.
Disabled Add Ons
One of the most prominent “features” users are noticing is that their older add ons are being automatically disabled if they are not compatible with the latest Store Locator Plus release. Having your add on disabled is preferable, at least for most site admins, than crashing your WordPress site. So far in ALL cases the disabled add on has a NEWER VERSION available. Login to your account at StoreLocatorPlus.com to download the latest version of your add on.
You can find the list of versions on the StoreLocatorPlus.com website.
Data I/O Performance
Changes in the extended data manager reduces the data I/O requests through WordPress by at least one, if not a few, data reads for every page load. For sites with heavy traffic this can be a notable performance improvement on page load times.
Complex Data Query Support
Version 4.5.08 of the location query engine has been updated to allow “stacked” queries. Stacked queries make it possible to perform complex location inquiries that were not possible with a single data request. For example “show all locations with no territory assigned that are within X miles of a user PLUS all locations with a territory that covers the user’s location”. This change will allow future Store Locator Plus releases and the forthcoming My Store Locator Plus service to perform very creative location searches in real time.