6 Easy Spatial Searches to Enhance Business Intelligence

Let’s all agree, right upfront, that the term “Spatial Search” is intimidating.

I first ran across the term while learning about Geographic Information System software (GIS) at DeLorme in the early 2000s. At the time, I was also busy understanding my new role as a national sales manager and all that that entailed. So, grappling with spatial searches conducted using our low-cost GIS product was all I could do before giving up and heading home for the day, exhausted.

Fortunately, I’ve grown up a little since then. A spatial search is simply a search for data within a specified area on a business map. That area could be 3-dimensional and often is in the GIS world, hence the term spatial or ‘within space.’

A Spatial search may also be referred to as a spatial query, a geospatial search, or a question: “Melvin, how many addresses are there in that circle thingy?”

A spatial query is the foundation of business mapping software in many ways. But for MapBusinessOnline users, spatial searches are just a search for data within a map object or a drawn shape on a digital map. Spatial searches enable customer maps, territory analysis, map visualizations, and optimized routing. In MapBusinessOnline, these spatial search objects could be any one of these designated map areas listed below:

  • A ZIP code or a group of ZIP codes.
  • A County or a group of Counties.
  • A State or a group of States.
  • A City Limit or a group of city limits.
  • A School district or a group of school districts.
  • A Congressional District or a group of congressional districts.
  • A Census Marketing Statistical Area or a group of MSAs.
  • A radius/circle search.
  • A polygon search.
  • A free-form shape search.
  • A drive time search.
  • A driving distance search.
  • A territory search.
  • A Region or Division search.

This blog will not discuss the advanced drive time-based MapBusinessOnline Pro spatial search options.  We can also leave out School Districts, Congressional Districts, and MSAs, which are rare search targets. This leaves us with six spatial search options to consider.

Import Data or Choose a Map Layer

To conduct a spatial search, you’ll need to search for something – usually business data. So, create map data from Excel and import it, or choose a map layer like ZIP codes to search. In MapBusinessOnline, you can also search for Demographic Data or Business Listings.  So, get some dataset targets on your map and in your head.

Good. Now read on.

  1. The Radius Search

Let’s begin with the Radius Spatial Search. These are very popular. A map user might desire to find all ZIP codes within 100 miles of a point. A radius search in MapBusinessOnline can begin in one of three ways:

  1. Type an address into the Address Bar (Upper left blank space above the Master Toolbar) following the format noted there, then click the Binoculars to the right. A center point is now on the map at the specified address with an associated mini toolbar.
  2. Choose any single point from an already imported dataset. There’s that min-toolbar again.
  3. In the Draw Tools, select the Point Marker and drop a point on your target center spot on the map. Once again, a center point is now on the map at the specified address with an associated mini toolbar.
  4. You could also conduct a radius search by selecting the Radius Search option in the Search Tools and then placing your cursor on the map at a center point.  Set your radius distance from that center point. Notice the mini-toolbar next to the dropped point.

From any of the above point-related mini-toolbars, the user can choose to create a radius search by clicking the Circle Button or, in the case of the Radius Search tool:

  • Enter the desired radius distances and process the Radius search.
  • Scroll out or Zoom out to see the extent of the search. You will find a new mini toolbar associated with the circle map object.
  • Click the mini-toolbar’s Binocular Icon to search the Radius induced Spatial area.
  • Choose the dataset or layer to search and then click Next (only one dataset is searchable for any spatial search.)
  • Name the Data Results and view them in the Data window, which pops up like an old buddy.

That, my friends, is a spatial search. Not so intimidating after all, is it?

Under the Market Analysis button in MapBusinessOnline Standard, you will find a pathway to conduct multiple radii searches at once – up to 200 radii. That’s advanced work, but it’s there when you are ready. Here’s a video describing multiple radius searches.  See how quickly one spatial search becomes multiple spatial searches? See, you are a Jedi Mapper already.

2. A Polygon Spatial Search

A polygon search works similarly to a radius search, but the polygon spatial search has no center point. Instead, the user chooses a Polygon search tool from the Search Tool dropdown and then uses their Mouse Cursor to drag a line across the map. Lift the cursor point and drag again to change direction.  Eventually, bring the last polygon line back to the beginning point. A polygon will then show as selected on the map with an associated toolbar. Click the binoculars to search and save the result, just as you did with the radius search.

A polygon search is a quick way to grab all the data you want in a specified area. Maybe you need a short list of ZIP codes? Create a polygon and search the ZIP code layer.  A polygon search is an easy way to collect all the ZIP codes within a County. Just follow the county boundary with a polygon tool. Now search the ZIP code layer and save it.

3. A Driving Time or Driving Distance Polygon

Like the Radius Search, this search begins either from a point on the map or in the Search Tools. So, go ahead and either select the Drive Area Search Tool option with its jagged shape or plot an address on the map and select the Drive Time search there.

Input your time or distance preferences. With Drive Area spatial searches, you will need to specify either Driving Time or Driving Distance search is preferred. Also, with Drive Time preferences, please realize that you can note the time of day, which will bring traffic considerations to bear on the analysis results. Drivetime mouse moves like this are popular with the younger set.

Conduct your query on the data target of your choice. View and export your data from the Data Window that pops up as the query finishes. By the way, the Export Button is at the far right of the Data Window toolbar.

Multiple Drive Time and Driving Time spatial queries are only available in MapBusinessOnline Pro Market Analysis.  Upgrades to MapBusinessOnline Pro from Standard are pro-rated, protecting your investment in Standard and maintaining your subscription periods. Click on Subscription to find a price and upgrade to Pro.

Drivetime Polygons

4. Freeform Searches

Freeform spatial searches work the same as polygon searches. Freeform allows the user to create a curved shape. So perhaps when generating a quick and easy map object to query, Freeform is the tool for you. I prefer polygons, which I’m sure says something about my twisted persona. “Very interesting, Geoffrey. The father’s impact on an impressionable child often leads to a preference for polygon spatial searches later in life. Take two Wellbutrin and call me next summer. By the way, I don’t take Cigna. You’ll have to pay out-of-network.”

I want my mommy.

5. Spatial Searching of Map Layer Objects

I can tell you are getting sleepy. Let’s lump the Map Layer objects together. Map Layers in MapBusinessOnline are City Limits, Congressional Districts, Counties, School Districts, MSAs, States, and ZIP Codes (3 and 5 digits). Anything with a boundary. Map Layers are checked on and off in Map and Data. You can view the data associated with these geographic layers in the Data Window.  For instance, you can see a ZIP code’s associated town or place name.

MapBusinessOnline lets you conduct a spatial query of a Map Layer Object like a ZIP code by selecting the object with your cursor or by gathering multiple map objects with a Search Tool – like a ZIP code radius search.  Once selected, there’s that Mini Toolbar again presenting its menu of services, including, a Binocular Search button. Just click that Search Button selecting the data layer you want to search.  Save the results if you like them.

Collecting a group of map layer objects like ZIP codes into an area of interest like we’ve described above is very much like, in fact, exactly like creating a Territory.

6. Territory Spatial Searches

Whether you’ve created a territory through a free form or polygon search tool or imported a spreadsheet of territory data, you now have a territory layer in Map and Data. Your map view includes a couple of territory areas color-shaded per your requirements.

ProbThet straightforward way to query all the data within a Territory map object is by selecting the territory with your cursor and clicking the Binocular Search Button on the associated mini toolbar.

Summary Searches

For any map object ZIP code, State, polygon, or drive time polygon, the mini toolbar also includes a Summary button.  That Greek symbol Sigma (a sideways M) is the Summary Button, which lets the user quickly select up to ten categories of demographic data associated with that selected area or spatial search. The summary button is a quick and easy way to grab demographic data for an area of interest or a territory. “Julie, could you get me stats on the population and income for these six ZIP codes?” “Sure, Boss. It’s in your email inbox now.”

Choose Columns

MapBusinessOnline Territories provide even more spatial analysis if you include a view from the Data Window.  In the Data Window dropdown, select the Territory layer and drill into a specific territory by clicking the associated Blue Arrow. Now the data window presents the analysis information associated with that territory. In the lower right-hand corner, click the Choose Columns button. This button opens up a robust data management tool that lets users move data in and out of the territory analysis. Read more about Choose Columns here.

Single Territory Blue Arrow Access

Through the Choose Column database management panel, users can move imported data, demographic data, download business listings, and calculated data columns sums into their territory analysis. In this way, a view of an isolated territory creates a drilled-down view of all that territory’s associated data.  Territory analysis is equivalent to a spatial search result. Another advantage of a territory analysis view using Choose Columns is the ability to import and segment multiple datasets simultaneously in the territory object.

Spatial Search Applications

Any business can benefit from a spatial search. Because any business will occasionally need to answer the question, “Which customers or prospects live within this area?” Example statements by a few sample industries might be:

  • Insurance – I need a list of all claims within the 25-mile hurricane impact zone.
  • Restaurant – Can I get all the deliveries by the address that we’ve made to these three ZIP codes since the Pandemic started?
  • Retail – How many single-parent households exist in this neighborhood?
  • Public Safety – We’ll have to notify everyone within 15 miles of that fuel tank.
  • Non-profit – How many grocery stores are there in Scranton?
  • Manufacturing – How many of that car models were sold in this section of Miami last year?

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what a spatial search or query is all about, at least in MapBusinessOnline. You may run across its other names like Geospatial Query, Spatial Analysis, and Space Cadet. Hold on. Space Cadet that’s my college nickname. Scratch that.


Discover why over 25,000 business users log into www.MapBusinessOnline.com for their business mapping software and advanced sales territory mapping solution. The best replacement for Microsoft MapPoint happens to be the most affordable.

To access MapBusinessOnline, please register and download the Map App from the website – https://www.mapbusinessonline.com/App-Download.aspx.

After installing the Map App, the MapBusinessOnline launch button will be in the Windows Start Menu or Mac Application folder. Find the MapBusinessOnline folder in the Start Menu scrollbar. Click the folder’s dropdown arrow and choose the MapBusinessOnline option.

The Map App includes the Map Viewer app for free non-subscriber map sharing.

Please read customer reviews or review us at Capterra or g2crowd.

Contact: Geoffrey Ives at geoffives@spatialteq.com or Jason Henderson at jhenderson@spatialteq.com.

About Geoffrey Ives

Geoffrey Ives lives and works in southwestern Maine. He grew up in Rockport, MA and graduated from Colby College. Located in Maine since 1986, Geoff joined DeLorme Publishing in the late 1990's and has since logged twenty-five years in the geospatial software industry. In addition to business mapping, he enjoys playing classical & jazz piano, gardening, and taking walks in the Maine mountains with his Yorkshire Terrier named Skye.
This entry was posted in Business Mapping Software blog post, How to instruction and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply