Wouldn’t it be convenient if Google users could perform a search – say, for example, for the best local Mexican restaurant – and then be presented with the top search results, along with full color pictures at the top of their screens?
Well, wish no longer – this is exactly what the new Google local search carousel does. It’s an eye-catching way for users to review local results in restaurants, nightlife, and other attractions. Though the carousel previously only showed up on tablets, it’s been live for desktop search in certain situations since June.
Where Can I Find It?
Google doesn’t guarantee that the carousel will show up in regular search, but it does appear in Google maps when a user searches by category. As of now, it’s only available in the U.S and for English language searches, though Google will likely roll out more languages and locations in the future. The company also plans to expand the carousel to include more business verticals aside from restaurants and hotels.
How to Get On the Carousel
Google selects businesses to appear on the carousel in the same way it selects top search results: via its search algorithms. Remember that Google’s aim is to bring the best, most relevant search results to its users. Businesses that use SEO best practices and that update their websites regularly are most likely to get on board the carousel.
What is Good SEO?
SEO best practices are always evolving, but here are just a few things to keep in mind:
Relevant keywords. If you know that your customers are likely searching for “nail salon in Phoenix, AZ,” use those keywords in your header, your body content headings, and throughout your website. You can find more related keywords by using the Google Adwords keyword tool. Just remember to use keywords in a natural context, instead of simply throwing them on the page in a spammy fashion.
File names. It’s also a good idea to use keywords when naming pictures, video, and other files for use on your website.
Off-page SEO. This category encompasses all SEO strategies that happen outside of your website, including the generation of backlinks from other sites, review websites, and social media outlets. List your website with online business directories like Google+ Local. Get involved in social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter if you aren’t already. Submit helpful guest blog posts to industry-related blogs. These are great ways to build your online reputation, and to build some quality backlinks and social proof in favor of your business.
Content quality. If your website has a blog or new article directory, keep in mind that Google’s algorithms look at the quality of your content – not just how many keywords it contains. Search engines also use social signals (such as Facebook “Likes” and shares) to gauge how popular content is. Update your content regularly and make sure it’s stuff that your readers will actually find relevant, helpful, and worthy of sharing with others.
How Effective Is Google Carousel?
Though this feature is relatively new, firms are already rolling out studies to measure just how effective Google carousel is at promoting businesses. Two in particular, Local U and Ethical SEO conducted separate experiments with a total of 112 respondents. Local U presented their respondents with the search results page “pizza in Denver,” and asked them to click on the page location that most appealed to them. The Google map received 32% of clicks, while the first image in the carousel received 13%, and the first organic result received 11% of clicks.
Ethical SEO used the term “Chicago restaurants” in their query, and found that respondents clicked on the carousel results 48% of the time. Interestingly, the third and eight carousel results, not the first, were the ones with the most clicks. When asked, users cited the amount of reviews as a factor in determining which carousel result to click on.
These findings suggest that Google carousel is indeed effective at grabbing the users’ attention. In general, the search results with the highest ratings and most appealing pictures tend to do the best. As Google expands this feature to include more businesses, more experiments with bigger sample sizes will likely be done to better gauge the extent of the carousel’s effectiveness.
The Bottom Line
The local carousel is just one more tool that Google has employed in its mission to bring top content to its users. If your business is already using best SEO practices, including having established a great reputation on the web, then keep doing what you’re doing. If you’re not already using best SEO practices, looking for and implementing ways to improve your online presence gives your website the best possible chance of being included in the carousel search results.