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Google recently announced it was rolling out a change to the local search listings for US based Searches, which they intend to roll out internationally 'over time'. This new layout is a disruptive change that will have major effects on the local search space.
The key element of this layout is that a Carousel across the top of the page now replaces the old 'map pack' listings. The Carousel has been visible in the UK for some months for Knowledge Graph results such as 'things to do in ….. ' and ' best rock albums'.
As this is a new development it's likely that Google will be tweaking it further in the weeks and months ahead. There is no indication from Google as to when this change will roll out in the UK.
The new Carousel layout
Looking at the above example for a US-based hotel search, there are a few standout elements:
Carousel below navigation bar featuring hotel image, review score and number of reviews, hotel name and address
- PPC results above Hotel Finder box
- Hotel Finder box above organic listings
- Increased map size on right hand side
- Organic results below Hotel Finder
- What will this mean for UK local searches?
Carousel rankings are based on local map listings, therefore if your website currently appears in this space you will rank in the Carousel. However, if you rank outside the current '7-pack' map listings you may benefit from the Carousel layout. The number of Carousel listings displayed changes dependent on the screen size, and there are up to 20 listings displayed in the Carousel. With this layout having an appealing business image and healthy review score will become more important to encourage users to click on your listing.
This change may have effects on your analytics data, increasing the level of your brand searches. This is due to how searches are triggered from the Carousel. When you click a Carousel result you are not taken directly to the website, instead, the click results in a search for the hotel name, which is of course a branded search.
With this change Google is looking to keep searchers in their 'space' for as long as possible, many would argue to increase the possibility of their ads being clicked. The Carousel will also push more businesses into Google+ Local, having a robust listing on this platform will be vital to maximise the Carousel opportunity.
The wider picture
The Carousel update serves to highlight the fact that Google has now well and truly moved on from the '10 blue links' of the past. In fact, as pointed out by Dr Pete in his presentation ' Beyond 10 Blue Links: The Future of Ranking' from Mozcon, only 15% of search results have the traditional 10 blue link layout - the rest include a range of additional elements such as news, local, video, image, knowledge graph, paid inclusion and authorship results.