Google Local Carousels MIA – Are they gone for good?

Are Local Carousels on their way out? They are gone today in my browsers. (Note others are not seeing any reduction in carousels).

Which raises another question: Is this part of a larger plan to clean up the look of search results page in general and local search in particular?

Several weeks ago rumors started circulating that the Local Carousels were on their way out and would no longer be displayed for local search results. Today, on my machine, the Local Carousel is gone when searching for hotels and restaurants on all of my browsers whether logged in or incognito.

While this could be a test it could also portend a rollout of results in which local carousels are no longer displayed in local search results.

Screen Shot 2014-01-11 at 1.54.19 PM

 

The Local Carousel rolled out broadly in the US (only) in mid June. There were many studies of how they impacted user behaviors and dominated the screen real estate. At the time we had found over three hundred search phrases that showed the carousel in local results.

In my tests today of a range of those different search results that had returned carousels, none were visible on searches as varied as  Fishing CharterGrocery storesCampground RochesterMusic lessons chicago & Kids Entertainment Buffalo.

The carousel is still visible for Knowledge Graph things like museums and theme parks but is not showing for any Places results that I could identify on the desktop. I am not sure about tablet searches.  

When I was asked my opinion several weeks of whether it was likely that they would be going away permanently, I responded  that it was consistent with the fact that it had never been rolled out world wide. Google does thing at the end of the day for the whole world.

A number of other recent developments have taken place that have, in affect, reduced the visual artifacts that have accumulated on the search results page in local.

In late October Google stopped showing blended results which often included author photos and a mishmash of business names and title tags. In roughly the same timeframe Matt Cutts announced an upcoming  15% reduction in the amount of rich snippets and authorship displayed in search results. In mid-December there weremanyreports of the reduction of author photos.  Not as widely reported but noticed on may testimonials pages was the cut back of rich snippet stars as well.

If this change is more than a test (others are not seeing the results I am), all of these changes would be consistent with visual clutter reduction.

As Andrew Shotland pointed out, this decrease in visual business would also be consistent  making Ads more visible and more likely to be clicked.

Here are some more screen shots from this afternoon of searches that yesterday were showing the Local Carousel:

Screen Shot 2014-01-11 at 2.20.06 PM

Screen Shot 2014-01-11 at 2.20.58 PM

 

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18 thoughts on “Google Local Carousels MIA – Are they gone for good?”

  1. The carousel appears for me at the moment (for “restaurants, new york, ny”, and I’m physically in NYC).

    I would conjecture, however, that you might indeed be seeing some sort of testing occurring. The carousel seemed problematic to me from a few directions, not least of which was a somewhat poorer usability. The odd thing about that, however, is that Google’s usability testing prior to rollout really ought to’ve caught this — but, it so obviously didn’t. The increased visual stimuli from the photos was likely reviewed to be a positive, but other key items seemed to’ve been lost or impaired (such as not being able to see phone numbers and addresses).

    Anyway, if this advanced harbinger of a local sea change, one wonders whether it will merely revert back, or will there be another evolutionary experiment?

  2. Likely a test but when coupled with the rumors and the other “clean ups” it could be on its way. Who knows. As for other sea changes, it has been one right after the other for the last number of years, no need to stop now.

  3. I just did a number of local searches in the restaurants and hotels categories and it was there. However not in several other categories including movies (where it previously existed). It may be they’re dialing it back to only a few select categories where they’ve seen more engagement.

  4. Interesting, Mike. You must be in a test bucket. I’m seeing the carousel for the same results – “Tampa fishing charters,” “restaurants Chicago,” etc.

    But I do hope they pull the plug on the carousel.

  5. works for me for hotels chicago and restuarants chicago, and I do live in chicago.

  6. I am surprised it has lasted this long. It is a UX nightmare to me. Clicking on one of the carousel results just does another search, instead of taking me to a more relevant page for that location. I would take going to the Google+ page over what it does now. Such a terrible idea.

  7. Mike,

    Carousels are showing up for “hotels buffalo ny’ for me. Did a search for “hotels in redding ca” and the same thing.

    Did searches for both of these in incognito to, same results. thanks

  8. Mike: I tested some phrases and continued to see carousels. Maybe you ran into a test, or a glitch…or maybe google wanted you to write this blog….and targeted YOUR IP with that “change”.

    Who knows. Google has a lot of things in the fire. They constantly surprise us with changes.

    My question is if your readers have any longer term studies on the impact of carousels. Specifically its been months since the carousels became visible on desktops and most tablets. Have your readers seen increases or decreases in google traffic to smb’s affected by the carousels? How did google traffic compare in the latter half of 2013 to the latter half of 2012?

  9. Seeing carousel results for the same queries. Hoping the test your in becomes a permanent one!

    Hopefully they’ll fix the spammy one box results at the same time.

    A guy can dream, right?

  10. Still seeing carousel in Atlanta. I have seen some SERPs without carousel but only a couple.

  11. I still see carousels in some instances, but I completely agree with Chris’ comments about poor usability.

    I find the click interaction from a carousel image to a Search Result page about said business very confusing. It doesn’t align with user intent. There has got to be a better layout design that is horizontal (so as so to not hurt 3rd ranked and below businesses) but also give the users a sense of the best of the best in a unique way.

    For example for “pizza” it’d be nice to get an impression of how the top 5 or top 8 are uniquely different so that they are equally picked based on user preference. A unique keyword cloud association like “deep dish,” “fancy toppings,” “gluten free crust,” “full bar,” “by the slice,” etc.

  12. The carousel works well when something has a well defined image associated with it like an album cover. It does not work so well when there is no such image and that is often the case with local businesses leading to a lucky draw for most.

    Sure, folks can optimize but most won’t so it would seem likely that this experiment failed and we will get a simpler and more traditional layout.

    Here’s hoping this is the case!

  13. Google should just give up including the local results mixed in with the standard results, purchase something like the Yellow Search® brand, and then put up a separate tab like they do for YouTube® for specialized results.

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