[Article Updated – November 2014]: Google has dropped the local carousel function for the categories of hotels, restaurants, and other local listings such as entertainment and nightlife. The carousel featured rolled out in June 2013 and was officially discontinued in November 2014. The previous carousel function has been replaced with the “3-Pack” which appears directly underneath the top Adwords results in the SERP. The 3-Pack results are not advertisements. Instead, they are the top algorithmically ranked listings for the subject being searched. This information is more easily derived from websites that have proper schema markups.
Here is an example of the 3-Pack that Google’s search results currently show:
Continue below for the original article, published June 21, 2013.
Almost exactly a year after Google announced the integration of Google+ into their local product offering Google again makes a change to local search results. Google’s new “Carousel” affects the way that results are displayed when a local search is performed by immediately placing more information in front of the user.
At this point the carousel does not appear on every single local search but continues to be pushed out gradually. The change eliminates the “packs” or “blended” local results we’ve all become accustom to.
Here is a screenshot of the old “blended” results for a local search:
Here is a screenshot of the new carousel:
Google is pulling images on the carousel for each business directly from the images in their Google+Local account. We all know that an image speaks a thousand words. Make sure your images highlight what makes your business the best at what it does. If you don’t have any images in your Google+Local account Google fills the image space with a less-than-captivating map and pin.
With this new design there is no URL, no phone number, and no address (restaurants specifically) immediately displayed. Consumers now have to click on the image/company title in the top carousel or hover over the dot on the map in order to get this information.
Be sure the information displayed for your company is appealing. If I’m starving (which isn’t uncommon) and deciding where I want to eat out of the two images below, the image on the right sure looks a lot more delicious
Each local result (again for restaurants) displays the Zagat scale (a number between 1 and 30) and the total amount of reviews for that business. Once the full Google Maps update rolls out this score will display a number on a 5-star scale and we expect this to take place across most verticals, not only restaurants.
In the social world that we live in, consumers rely on other people’s experiences to help them make a decision. Developing a strategy to get positive and natural reviews for your business is very important.
You may assume, as I did, that when a user clicks on a company in the carousel that the user would be taken to the company’s website or even their Google+ page. Not so… What actually happens when you click on a company is the search results page changes to show results as if you searched for that company’s name directly.
Most companies rank organically for their own name. If your company doesn’t you have some important work to do. However, having your own website rank in the top position on a search for your company is only half the battle. Be aware of the results in the subsequent ranking positions and do all you can to ensure they are positive for your business. Local SEO is again tied right back to organic SEO.
Pay-Per-Click is another item local businesses will need to worry about with this change. Due to the large amount of space that the carousel takes up above the fold, if “company A” were to bid on “company B’s” name and win the top position “company A” would then be the first result that is seen by the user. In this case “company B” may not even be above the fold for a search of their own name! It will be wise for companies to make sure they are bidding for their own name in Google Adwords to ensure this doesn’t happen.
As with all of Google’s updates, the carousel will likely not stay the same forever. Expect Google to continue rolling it out on more search queries and adjusting it’s design and functionality. At Boostability we’ll continue to keep you updated on future updates. Stay tuned!