It has been a few weeks since Google official launched their Local Carousel functionality for users based in the United States.
In an official statement on Google’s Google+ page, dated 18th June 2013, the search giant stated that “starting today, when you search Google for restaurants, bars or other local places on your desktop, you’ll see an interactive ‘carousel’ of local results at the top of the page.” They went on to state that “the interactive ‘carousel’ is rolling out in English in the U.S.—we’ll add more features and languages over time.”
This new format for the local listings appears when a user searches for a local business so in this sense it is quite similar to the old Google Maps listings. However, instead of the text-based vertical listings which previously appeared towards the top of the search results, the new carousel features thumbnails, ratings and the number of Google+ reviews in a horizontal graphical format which is much more prominent and eye-catching. Users can use the arrow buttons to scroll through the local listings, potentially allowing Google to display many more listings on the first page than it could previously.
For those of you who have yet to see Google’s Local Carousel in action, below is an example of what it looks like.
But what does this mean for international SEO and should digital marketers be worried about the potential affect on their website’s natural search positions?
Many SEOs agree that for local businesses, this is a positive step that could result in increased exposure on Google’s SERPs. Businesses that were not previously appearing in the top two or three positions (above the fold) in the results pages can now see their business listing featured very prominently, complete with an image and reviews.
It also appears that users are much more engaged with the new Local Carousel format. By using heatmaps to gauge interest levels for Google Local Carousel results, search marketer Matthew Hunt discovered that 48 percent of searchers surveyed clicked the Carousel results, while only 14.5 percent clicked on the map.
However, there is no guarantee that your company will be one of the businesses selected to appear in the carousel. In order to improve your local Google Local Carousel listing it is recommended that you maximise your organisation’s use of Google+ by optimising your Google+ and Google Places pages and by obtaining reviews from users of your products or services.
For online businesses with an international digital presence but no local presence, the new changes may not be significant in terms of increasing exposure since Google Local Carousel integrates with Google Maps and uses a company’s physical address to determine the Local Carousel listing.
Some SEOs have argued that since the new Local Carousel format takes up a lot of space above the fold, businesses that are not featured in the carousel will lose out.
However, as with all of Google’s updates, the carousel is unlikely to remain the same for long. We expect Google to continue rolling it out on more search queries and internationally and continue to adjust its design and functionality.
And the truth is no one really knows how international SEO will be affected by these new developments. As an international SEO agency, we will certainly be paying close attention to the rollout of Local Carousel internationally. So watch this space!