In early May 2013, Google began releasing a new format for its Google local listings (which at one time or another have been known as Google Maps, Google Places, Google+ Local, and whatever other name web marketing folks have thought up over the year) specifically for the hotel and restaurant industries. Below is a screenshot showing the old Google local format versus the new Google local carousel format.
Old Google Local Pack Format
New Google Local Carousel Format
Our Viewpoint on the Change
Overall, we are glad to see Google’s continued commitment to featuring local businesses within its search engine results (SERPs), but honestly prefer the old local pack version to the new carousel.
But with that said, there are a few things we like about the new “Carousel”:
- Local listings have been pushed to the top (even above “Sponsored Ads”)
- Though the format has updated, there doesn’t seem to be a new ranking algorithm
- Reviews (score and total # of reviews) have a more prominent position
- Click rates, which were previously much higher for higher ranking local results, are now more evenly distributed as results moved from a vertical to horizontal display.
Though the new format may have leveled the play field a bit and pushed these local listings to the top of the page, there are still a number of changes that we do not like, including:
- Users can no longer click directly to the business’ Google+ page
- No phone number or website URL is shown with local listings in the new “carousel”
- When hovering over a Google local listing in the old “pack” format a detail-filled knowledge graph element would expand to the right of the SERP (replacing the map filled with pins). When hovering over a local listing in the new Google “carousel” format users see a more prominent red pin in the map along with the name of the business, Zagat score, and number of reviews.
But the worst and most impactful change for business owners and SEOs is the change from being able to click directly through to a website listing in the old Google local pack to now needing an additional click to visit the desired company’s website.
In the old Google local format, simply clicking the desired company name listed in the local pack would take users to the business’ website, but with the new local carousel users selecting a local business listing are taken to a branded Google SERP, like the one shown below.
As you can see from the above screenshot, clicking a local listing transforms the Google SERP into a “branded experience” for the business you selected. The knowledge graph (which was shown when a user hovered over a local pack listing in the old format) is now shown along with the business’ website. From this page, users are able to click through to the local business’ website, but like we said earlier, this is only possible with the extra click.
You should also notice that when clicking a local listing, the search query updates from “Akron restaurants” to “The Lockview Akron”. So while users are required to make an extra click to visit your website, organic referral keyword data will also be diluted in the process as users will now be reaching your website via branded keyword phrases (The Lockview Akron) instead of their original search query (Akron restaurants).
Here we are two months later and we have seen this Google local carousel rolled out to a number of industries and keyword phrases, making us think this is the format of Google local listings for the future (with some changes added, of course). This is definitely something to keep an eye on as further testing is being done to determine what these look like.
To learn more about web marketing for your local business or how to dominate Google local search results, please contact our web marketing team today and we would be glad to discuss your specific needs/questions!changes mean for local businesses and how to best take advantage of the Google Local Carousel.