A few weeks ago, we wrote about the launch of Google’s carousel results for local search. Now that the dust has begun to settle, we can investigate how the carousel will shape the local search landscape. The carousel offers users a new way to interact with Google’s search results page, meaning that businesses will have to adapt their strategies for the carousel layout. In particular, the carousel makes brand bidding more important than ever.
Why brand bidding? One significant element of the carousel has to do with what happens when you click on one of the carousel listings. If you enter “los angeles attractions” as a search query, the carousel predictably appears at the top of the page, followed by paid ad listings, followed by the organic results:
Now let’s see what happens after clicking on the fifth result in the carousel for the Hollywood Bowl:
Instead of directing you to the business webpage for the Hollywood Bowl, Google regenerates a search results page with the branded query “hollywood bowl.” Any click on the carousel generates a branded search – this means that the carousel will greatly increase the total volume of branded queries running through Google. As a result, businesses should consider bidding on their own brands, or the brands they represent, to protect their position in the results page. In the example above, the branded search page for “hollywood bowl” prominently displays the carousel at the top, the paid ads directly below, and the Google knowledge graph to the right. Finally, the organic search results appear below the ads. The carousel display pushes organic results further down the page, reshaping user experience on any given search results page. In this example, the ad that appears is for the Hollywood Bowl’s own website, which means that they bid on their own brand name.
As a result, the carousel may generate more competition over brand bidding. Competitors will be tempted to bid on other brands that appear on the carousel so their ads will appear above the organic listing and possibly divert some of the clicks away from that brand. The brands that DO appear in the carousel should consider bidding on their own brands to prevent this diverted traffic.
Ultimately, the carousel produces some good, and some not so good, results. The carousel certainly provides users with a more visually compelling experience on the page. From a more cynical perspective, the carousel could also be a means for Google to increase revenue from brand searches. Bids over brand keywords are currently not all that competitive, with relatively low effective-CPM. Many businesses don’t feel the need to pay for ads to appear when their listing will already display in the organic search results at no cost. This is clear from the fact that the great majority of carousel-generated results pages lack paid ads, indicating that a lot of brands have not yet jumped on the brand bidding bandwagon. However, because the carousel functions by generating brand searches, it elevates the importance of brand terms, perhaps opening up the Pandora’s box of the brand keyword market.