More folks are reporting the visibility of the 5-Star system on the main search results that Google has been rolling out. I am seeing them at work in Chrome on my Mac but not in Safari or Firefox and I am still not seeing them at home. There were also reports of them being seen in the Netherlands so they are obviously going global simultaneously.
I was surprised to see that the same orangey color was being applied to both rich snippet reviews AND to AdWord reviews. The orange is very visible on the Local Carousel but less so against the white background on the main search results. It would be interesting to see an eye tracking study to see if they disrupt searcher behavior as much as the yellow color does.
The 5-Stars have been permanently moved onto the G+ Page and the new Maps and are still intermittent on the desktop. They have not yet been spotted in mobile search or on the old Maps yet.
Max Minzer captured the first screen shot of stars in the Carousel. The stars are shown with the stars AND ratio in the same red color but when contrasted with the black background they become very, very, very obvious. The reviews are much more obvious than in the 7-pack reported earlier.
The last bastion of Zagat has finally been breached and reports are showing up of 5 Stars returning to the main search results page in the Pack. Poster Valesence shared her sighting of the new display at the LocalSearchForum.
Google announced the return to the 5-Star system in mid-May at the I/O Conference, along with the rollout of the new Google Maps. Phil Rozek reported their return to the Google+ Pages for local last week. The stars have not yet been reported on the new Local Carousel. But they are obviously undergoing testing and while they are are not universally visible it is only a matter of time before both the Pack and Carousel results both show 5-Stars.
Google replaced the yellow stars with the Zagat system in May, 2012 when Google rolled Places pages into Plus. It was clear from August of last year that Google was testing a return to the 5 Star system and they were never removed from local AdWords display.
Here is the screen shot of a 7-Pack with the “new” star treatment:
Often this question is asked from the wrong frame of reference.
Unlike the Google Places page, a Google + Page is indexed and CAN have page rank. The page can appear in the Google index and Mark Trapenhagen has documented cases where a + Page has achieved a PR of 8. As such it is tempting to ask the question of whether one should do link building to G+ Plus page.
“Should I link build to my Google + Page” carries with it an implicit premise in the question that a business will benefit from arbitrarily building links to a given page. In that is the simplistic assumption that ends up focusing efforts on the wrong target. An example of this thinking is the corollary question: “Will linking to the page help my local listing rank better”?
The simple answer to that question is no as the local algo looks at the strength of the “authority document” to assess ranking and that authority document is the business website. And if having a higher PR for G+ Page for local provided any value in that regard it would be a tangental benefit as a citation that passes some location strength back to your website.
A different way to ask the question that may frame it more effectively: Is there a benefit to my marketing or my readers to include a link to my Google + Page?
And the other question that puts it in the bigger context: Should I build the strength and presence of my Google + Page via Google’s social network? Will marketing my company on G+ enhance my overall marketing effort?
Gregg Gifford, Adam Dorfman and Dan Leibson have each put together lists of keywords that trigger the new Local Carousel. I noticed that while there was some overlap between the lists there was also a number of unique words on each list. I assembled them into one list and with some additional research on my part expanded the combined list to over 300 words.
As with all things Google there are obvious trends and always a few oddities. For the most part the phrases do revolve entertainment, recreation and leisure activities. And there are a few outliers that don’t fit into that category so well. Gluten Free Produce Store hardly seems a leisure time pursuit and nor does piano tuning. But its very difficult to imagine what fun one might have at a Gas Station (props to John Denny for that one). Particularly one near Buffalo.
You can add additional trigger keywords below. But I am also making the list available as a Google Docs Spreadsheet so that you can add additional search phrases that you find that trigger the Local Carousel directly to it, if you prefer.
Yesterday on Plus Google Survey announced a new (and free) survey tool to assess visitor satisfaction with your website. From their post:
If you are like most business owners, you know how important a healthy online community is to your business’s success. Traditionally, collecting user feedback has been an expensive and time-consuming process, but now you can hear from your site visitors for free using Google Consumer Surveys.
Website satisfaction surveys allow you to easily create customer satisfaction surveys in order to stay in tune with what your customers think. All you have to do is paste a small snippet of code in the HTML for your website. This will load a discreet satisfaction survey in the lower right hand corner of your website so you can get immediate feedback from your users.
Users will be asked to complete a four-question satisfaction survey. Surveys will run until they have received 500 responses and will start again after 30 days so you can track responses over time. This is currently limited to US English visitors on non-mobile devices.
The default questions are free and you can customize questions for just $0.01 per response or $5.00 for 500 responses. By using Google Consumer Surveys to measure website satisfaction you automatically get aggregated and analyzed responses, provided to you through a simple online interface.
Creating a website satisfaction survey is simple, just go to< a href=”http://www.google.com/insights/consumersurveys/publishers” rel=”nofollow”>http://www.google.com/insights/consumersurveys/publishers to get started.
Google has always been a somewhat “agnostic” resource for local results returning the good with the bad. But when combined with a total waste of good time and Twitter it can produce some interesting results.
The newLocalCarousel is certainly going to change user behaviors. Exactly how is still to be determined. To some extent whether ads do better or organic does better depends on what users see in any given “industry + geo” search. It also depends on how they respond to the (thinly?) populated knowledge panels or whether they move on to a well branded and respected site like Yelp or Tripadvisor to get their answer. I think though after analyzing these displays the answer as to what is really going on is somewhat more obtuse and well… self serving.
One thing is for sure, the geography above the fold is radically changed. Besides the Local Carousel, over the past year Google has been making a number of changes to the main search page that include the additional menus (2x), the bright red sign in button and the grey bar. I think we need to assess the Local Carousel in view of all of the changes on the main search page. I wanted to look at a “typical” desktop screen and understand exactly what was visible to searchers above the fold in this new context.
To analyze these searches I took screen shots of a full screen on a 1440 x 900 pixel display. I removed as much extraneous material from my screen as possible to give Google the benefit of the doubt in this analysis. I removed the dock, used Google Chrome, turned off any additional features that would take up screen real estate and entered full screen mode. Somewhere on the order of ~54% of desktop users see this much or less vertical and horizontal space when they view Google local carousel result.
In addition to the Local Carousel for Hotels NYC I looked at displays for Restaurants NYC and Pool Halls NYC in an effort to get a range of ads, organic content and different Google insertions. I then counted how many visible links there were and where they pointed. I highlighted the areas that corresponded to each link type.
For the purposes of analysis I grouped the links as follows and noted the results at the bottom of each screen grab. For the hotels here are the numbers listed out:
Paid Links Pointing Offsite – 7
Paid Links Pointing Onsite to other Google products – 2
Links to Additional Google Search Results (this includes Carousel images and pins on the Map) – 30
Links to Other Free Google Products Incl Menus & Maps – 19
Links to Other Sponsored Google Products – 5
Links to Offsite (off Google) Websites – 1
The Knowledge Graph Carousel was first introduced in August of last year. The Local Carousel was introduced formally last week although it had been appearing regularly before that. While there are similarities between the two types of carousel, they do not return quite the same information or display and it might foster some confusion on results that one thinks should be local that are not and vice versa.
How can you tell them apart?
Here are two carousels, one of each type, for roughly the same search result (one was misspelled).
Differences: The traditional Knowledge Graph Carousel typically displays logos and the right side panel is for the first, most popular result. The Local Carousel shows a map on the right side panel, typically does not display logos and does display photographs. Most importantly the Local Carousel displays Zagat rating and total reviews.
Interior view differences:
When you click into one of the results there are subtle differences as well.