On June 18, Google launched its latest improvement to local results. Google Local Carousel has an interactive horizontal strip at the top of the search page that allows a user to quickly scroll through potential results. The new look is a clear attempt to give local search results a more mobile-style interface. Some tablet users have already seen the new interface. Now Google is bringing it to desktops. The current rollout is only for English users, and just in the United States.
So, what does the carousel interface for Google Local search mean to you?
The biggest winners are businesses who are not on the first page of normal Google search results. The carousel interface strongly encourages users to browse more deeply. If you’re a local business that has already focused on getting your profile up in Google Maps and Google Local, you will also be a winner with the new design. Webmasters who have put some effort into combining their Google+ efforts with their Google Local listings should also benefit.
Who loses? Because carousel is very driven by thumbnail images, it represents a new visual element that you need to address. Companies with dull photos are going to experience lower click-through rates. Business owners need to invest in photography that will catch a user’s eye.
The general Google algorithms still apply in the carousel interface. If Google didn’t like your site’s SEO before the Local Carousel arrived, it isn’t going to suddenly take a shine to it now. While the carousel algorithm appears to add some elements to account for photography and integration with other Google properties, the basic SEO rules still apply.
Presently, the carousel interface is being used only in certain verticals. Fortunately, these are some of the most popular local business niches around, such as hotels, restaurants and bars. If you haven’t bothered to publish high-resolution photos on your website yet, it’s time to get with the program.
There is no way to select the photo that is used as your company’s thumbnail in the carousel. Google has an algorithm that attempts to select the best photo. It remains to be seen how well this will work. We expect some odd results, especially once the interface begins running on a range of searches.
It remains to be seen what the full impact will be. Businesses are encouraged to focus on publishing fresh, unique, relevant content. Improving your photography is strongly encouraged. Overall, carousel is a layer that operates on top of the current algorithms, so just try to stay the course.
Need some search optimization on your website? Consult Atlanta SEO company EverSpark Interactive.