Why the Local Carousel Make Local Branded AdWords More Important

The new Google Local Carousel provides a striking design at the top of the SERPS that not only provides significant eye candy and for some users a click attractant but also leaves little room below for the display of many organic results. This is true on very large screens but is even more so on a typical home screen or in searches categories that are ad heavy and Google displays two ads below the carousel.

The display arrangement offers a huge opportunity (or pitfall as the case may be) to achieve hight visibilty at the expense of local competitors. Or a huge incentive for local businesses to start taking out Adwords.

Once someone starts clicking through the images and Google returns the branded results with ads just below the carousel, anyone who hasn’t taken out Adwords on their brand runs the risk of their search being disrupted by a more visible local competitor. This has always been true but in the limited geography available with the carousel the competitor ad becomes a highly visible obstacle for any local business.

At home I have a not untypical 1440 x 900 pixel display (~60% of all displays are this size or smaller). Compare these two branded results for “singing lessons Chicago“. Stacy, the soprano, went to the length of keyword spamming her business name and managed to achieve visibility in the carousel. However she not only neglected to add a photo (and this carousel highlights the importance of a good one) but left the ad space to a competitor that is taking full advantage. Takleson’s on the other hand advertised on the keyword, their brand AND on competitor’s names.

PS On the issue of how users are behaving with this new display see this interesting research by Mike Ramsey: 10 Random People’s Reactions To Google Local Carousel

Stacy the Soprano branded result - click to view larger
Stacy the Soprano branded result – click to view larger
No photo, Taklesons Ad

Taklesons branded result – click to view larger
Great Photo,
Taklesons Ad on themselves
Category Search - Singing lessons Chicago - click to view larger
Category Search – Singing lessons Chicago – click to view larger
Taklensons Ad
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Why the Local Carousel Make Local Branded AdWords More Important by

18 thoughts on “Why the Local Carousel Make Local Branded AdWords More Important”

  1. Hey Mike, this is great insight! I would recommend local businesses that have verified their listing to check out AdWords express, too. It’s super simple to set up and will appear here in the search results just the same way a full-blow AdWords campaign would.

  2. Excellent insights, Mike.

    What I find really interesting is how this effects the ads in the 4th position and lower. They’re wayyy down there now.

    Also of note: on the carousel you see for “singing lessons Chicago,” click on the pane for “Piano Lessons In Your Home – Chicago” (should be #7). If you look in the sidebar, you’ll notice that the PPC results actually appear above the Google+Local info for that business.

  3. Hey Mike, love the article. I am very curious to see how the local carousel will work with the new image extensions Adwords is rolling out. Assume that if the carousel is displayed, image extensions would not be. However, if this is not the case organic results will be pushed even further down the page.

  4. Mike: Very interesting idea. Our smb’s have run adwords broad phrase ads that show up against name brand competitors for years. Our ads have been purposefully more generic in nature. They are part of packages with other ads.

    Specifically they mention us by discovery phrases rather than by recovery phrases (ie branded names).

    Competitors have run ads that show on our branded searches. They are mostly or possibly all discovery phrases (ie service type/city) titles rather than with names.

    I went back and just reviewed our results over time for the branded search phrases for competitors. That show in our results.

    Through several accts I saw adwords results on clicks for about 8 different search phrases for searches that were branded searchs using various competitors names.

    I zipped through our analytics to see how many form contacts we were getting for those search phrases Virtually all of that click through and contact form activity comes from ads not organic…as we don’t show highly in organic for branded search terms for competitors…and on top of that close to 50% of those organic clicks show NO info as the searchers are signed into their gmail accts. (ie not provided).

    Basically we are seeing about 1.5% to abt 3.5% clicks to our sites when a searcher uses a branded name search for a competitor. We do get some small volume of contacts for those phrases.

    So I roughly assume that when ads run against our branded name…competitors pick up roughly the same volume of clicks via advertising against our name. (the ads are typically not branded but more of a discovery search orientation).

    Some other observations on branded searches that come from both our long term analytics plus the reviews of 3 marketing programs run by ReachLocal and Yodle for various services …that I followed in depth, including listening to all the calls that came in from clicks on the ads).

    #1 observation via analytics: Our conversion rates off of branded search terms (recovery terms) are somewhat lower than off of discovery searches.

    #2. what I picked up via the advertising campaigns monitoring clicks on ads…was that searchers who were looking for the business name….were often existing customers, existing vendors, cold calling sales people….to a high often surprising degree.

    It well could be that searchers for the specific services we were monitoring..searching on name brand…were calling to speak, to go over specific services, but weren’t in the customer phase.


    Now that could be entirely different for restaurants and other products/services where the purchases are less expensive and easier….but the same phenomena of searchers using branded search terms, calling about anything other than possible purchases replicated itself in entirely different types of services (with high costs).

    In any case, (and being voluble) I think yours is an interesting and helpful perspective with regard to advertising on your brand name in light of this new google presentation. You’ll protect yourself against competitors.

    I do believe this presentation is ultimately about google and not about the businesses. It will probably help them make more money.

    Finally kudos to Mr. Mike Ramsey for his research. I’m going to put that in front of local restaurateurs to see what they think.

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  6. This effect makes it even more important to advertise (via PPC) for your and your competitor’s business names… otherwise it’s like having your competitors hanging around the front door of your brick and mortar biz all day long, everyday. Google has rooms full of bright folks who think through all of this —> gotta give them credit, as they sure know how to get folks to buy PPC.

  7. It just occurred to me that the increased emphasis on AdWords actually might not be that big a deal, simply because restaurants, nightlife, tourism, and singing lessons aren’t really where SMBs are spending a lot on AdWords. Unless and until the carousel rolls out to SERPs for service-area businesses, lawyers, doctors, and other big spenders, it seems to me that Google hasn’t made much of a money-grab.

  8. @Phil
    I view this more as an opportunity for the more savvy smbs than a conspiracy by Google. That being said, they pretty much closed off organic results from most search results and placed them well below the fold.

  9. Is anyone seeing the carousel for “service area” businesses yet? I haven’t, and in fact have seen the carousel *not* showing up for a handful of other “local” searches that still trigger the old local pack.

    Is there any info (official or otherwise) about what the future holds for service area businesses, in terms of the carousel?

  10. Thanks Mike. That certainly seems to be the case, but I had taken their announcement on Google+ to be sort of open-ended:

    “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. ”

    (emphasis mine).

    I guess, as usual, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens next, eh?

  11. No time to comment, have to pen an exclusive organic SEO is dead article..
    Solid Adwords strategery! (pronounced with a TX drawl..)

  12. Wait…why are carousel results being displayed for a service niche like singing lessons…did I miss something? I thought G only rolled this out for food/hospitality?

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