Google Local’s New Carousel

If you happened to be searching for a restaurant last night, you may have seen a newer Google feature, the carousel, returned on its local results page. Yesterday Google rolled out carousels for a number of different types of queries, including restaurants, event venues, nightclubs, movie theaters and specialty food stores.

This new feature is an expansion on the Knowledge Graph carousel introduced in August 2012. The difference with this carousel is the dark grey background, which sets apart these results from the rest of the page, and an interactive map displayed on the right side of the page. In the carousel, search engine results are displayed as an image with a Google+ Zagat rating (for restaurants), a count of reviews and a link to online reviews. Clicking on an image returns a website link, as well as a list of reviews and additional pictures in the interactive map area. Rolling over a carousel image displays its location on the map, which can also be scrolled or zoomed to change the results.

In all, there are 20 local listings returned on each carousel. No more than 11 are displayed at a time, but clicking on the right scroll arrow displays the rest.  The Google+ review score is very prominently displayed,  although its meaning may be a bit unclear to those unfamiliar with the system.  This is how Google defines its scores:

26-30 Extraordinary to perfection
21-25 Very good to excellent
16-20 Good to very good
11-15 Fair to good
0 – 10 Poor to fair

It will be interesting to see in the coming weeks how disruptive this change is to local search results. For one, not only is the highly desirable “seven pack” gone,  but common sense would indicate that search results in the center of the carousel, like positions three, four and five, might be more likely to be clicked.  And as the local results move up to the carousel, organic (non-local) listings will be displayed beneath them – meaning that sites currently ranking only on local should focus on their rankings for organic results to ensure they remain visible. Also, the display of thumbnail images, which come from the websites themselves, suggests that a compelling image on the carousel might capture more clicks.  Unfortunately, there is no way to control the image that Google displays. Finally, the prominently displayed Google+ rating means this may become very important – if users understand its meaning.

Right now the carousel results are only for English language Google users, but expect it to be rolled out in other languages soon.