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.
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 Charter, Grocery stores, Campground Rochester, Music 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: