Recently, Google launched a new, interactive display for local searches called the “carousel.” The carousel feature appears in a bold black box at the top of search results page and uses the searcher’s location to compile a rotating list of local places that match their query. Local attractions like bars, restaurants and farmer’s markets appear in the carousel and provide users with information about local business.
The carousel’s display of local results is heavy on images which contrasts the rest of the search results page. As seen in the Farmer’s Market query, the most prominent aspect of the carousel is the individual tiles that display the image associated with each business. However, when a user clicks on one of the tiles, further information, including maps, Google reviews, Zagat scores, and organic search results, populates on the results page and Google automatically performs an organic search for that specific business.
So what does this mean for local search? One brief, early study  found that when searchers have to choose between the various kinds of search results, 48% of searchers clicked on the carousel while 14.5% clicked on the map. The carousel’s visual appeal may alter the way that searchers interact with local search results, and understanding how Google ranks and organizes the carousel will likely become integral for developing effective local SEO tactics.
The Search Agency’s Global Managing Director of AdMax Local, Ben Gibson noted that local search is becoming increasingly important but many small businesses and brick-and-mortar retailers, such as grocery stores, are not representing themselves well in local search. This search for “grocery store Santa Monica” demonstrates that even the most well-trafficked local businesses have a poor local presence, with only a few reviews and a lack of high-quality photos.
Ben offered these points to explain how the carousel will affect local search:
- Carousel increases the importance of organic and social optimization because earned positions within the SERP are pushed down the page. It becomes even more important to rank at the top of the list to ensure that your search results appear close to the top of the page where users will readily see the listing.
- Carousel underlines the importance of local business marketing, specifically these elements: a well-produced Google+ page, high resolution photos, and encouraging patrons/customers to leave reviews about the business
- And most importantly, carousel demonstrates that local search is changing rapidly and businesses need to invest a lot of time, or find a good partner, to help them succeed.
What are your thoughts about the latest update to Google’s SERP?