June 25, 2013
The new Local Carousel 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.
Hotels NYC (click to view larger):
Hotels NYC – 1440×900 resolution – click to view larger
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
June 24, 2013
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).
Top level search differences:
Knowledge Graph Carousel Museums NYC
Local Carousel Musueums NYC
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.
June 22, 2013
At the last Local U Advanced we were fortunate to have two Googlers present; Joel Headley of Customer Support and Dan Pritchett, the lead engineer on the new Google Places for Business Dashboard. The environment was very open (with cameras and tweets off) and it was an incredible opportunity to get questions answered about Google Local. I picked up a few very interesting tidbits during these sessions that I can share.
- Custom Categories are going away. Except in the bulk upload environment where they can still be used (hmmm).
- The new Google Places for Business Dashboard had a recently imposed 25 business limit. But Dan Pritchett, hearing the sigh of dismay in the room, returned to Mt View and had the limit upped to 100. (wow)
- As a result of this inquiry I learned (since I don’t deal with very many service area businesses) that SABs can not use the bulk upload tool and are relegated to having to claim each listing (Thanks to Linda Buquet). Thus the 25 business limit meant endless account creation for SABs with 100 listings or more. And still does if you have more than 100. (grr)
- During LocalU I received an inquiry from a local SEO that wanted to report some spammy service area businesses but as you may or may not know, since SABs have been pulled out of MapMaker, the report a problem link does not work. The solution? (thanks to Keenan Glass for this tip.) Search for the business on the main page results and click on the “Feedback” link at the bottom of the Knowledge panel. This sends reports directly to the Google quality team rather than into MapMaker. (cool)
- Joel noted during the presentation and reiterated via post yesterday: “if you’re calling my support team for verification, have the listing’s account email posted somewhere on the website of your business”. Thus if the account is under a generic gmail account instead of the domain email Google can verify that the listing actually belongs to the account. This protects both the account holder and Google and provides them with one more tool to resolve disputes. Worried about spam? Put the information on an obscure page that isn’t indexed and as an image. (nice to know)
- And for those of you NOT in the US – Google announced that the the new Places for Business dashboard will be rolling out to new users in the following countries: Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Norway, Croatia, Finland, Singapore, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. (Liechtenstein?)
-Not related to LocalU but the link at the bottom of the 7-pack has returned although now it goes to Maps view with the list and not to the Places search (egads…what happens when you have the new Maps?)
- I also made an inadvertent discovery as how to allow for Google reviews on the iPhone and iPad. (Let me know via email if you need this information).
-Those that attended LocalU noted how refreshing and useful it was to actually hear from Google themselves about the realities of Local. In fact at both SMX Advanced and LocalU applause broke out spontaneously several times when the discussion of Google local support came up. Now thats a change. (Its about time. Nice to see Google finally growing up. )
The joke was that perhaps some day soon Matt Cutts would be referred to as the Joel Headley of Web Search.
And the required caveat: Google is one of the sponsors of LocalU (although not this one).
June 21, 2013
As Dave Rodecker pointed out the other day in his comments on the roll-out of the Local Carousel, the ranking algo that Google is using is the same location prominence algo used in the current/old Google Maps. There does not appear to be any blended/organic influences in the results that I have looked at so far and the ranking matches pin for pin in both Maps and the 7-Pack display for the same search results. This pattern has held true across every search that I have examined so far.
That being said, it is not at all clear to me that a first, left position is all that advantageous and the jury is still out as to user behaviors with this new display. It is likely that clicks will be more evenly distributed.
A comparison of Carousel, 7-Pack and Map ranking on the query “Pool Hall NY NY”
1-Traditional Location prominence factors of citations, reviews, branded links etc are more important than pure web rank.
2- It also means that if you have a strong ranking web page for the same search it will also show. And for those users that move down to the organic results that will be very important. Authorship in this context would be hugely valuable.
3- The photo is going to have a huge impact on click through.
4- Given that Google might choose a different photo than you provided it is necessary to be sure that ALL of your photos around the web are as good as possible.
June 20, 2013
It would appear that the new Local Carousel will show up to 20 listings if there that many in any given market. But how few will it show? It seems that the answer is five listings. And at five they look weird on the screen. If there are fewer than five available to display then the results retain a traditional 1, 2, 3 or 4 pack display.
To determine the limit as to when the carousel would show I queried on the non category search “pool hall + geo” in a range of city sizes across NY State. I made the following searches (plus a few more) to find results displaying each number of results up to 5 and beyond. I was unable to find a search for pool hall that resulted in a 20 listing Carousel.
Depending on the screen resolution less or more black will display when only 5 or 6 results are showing. The first image is on a 1330 x 1000 display (typical of the average user – 46% of users have this size or smaller screens) and the second is the 1920 x 1200 pixels(7% of screens) display of my 24″ iMac. Both have a disconcerting amount of black in the displays and are both visually very distracting. Where is Steve Jobs when we need him….oh wrong company.
5 Listing Carousel on 1330 x 1000 pixel monitor. Click to view at actual size.
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
No photo, Taklesons Ad
June 18, 2013
As suspected Google has announced the roll out the Carousel Display for local results “for local dining, nightlife, hotels, and other attractions on desktop”. Here is Jade’s post in the Forums:
Today, we’re announcing an interactive “carousel” of results on Google search for local dining, nightlife, hotels, and other attractions on desktop. This launch is English and US-only for now. The carousel has appeared since December in tablet searches in the US, and the desktop local search experience is now consistent.
To give it a try, search for something like “mexican restaurant.” Users can click on a specific place to view more details and scroll through more results by clicking on the arrows on the side.
How can I get my business to show up in the carousel?
While we can’t guarantee inclusion in search results, we can say that the carousel will show results from listings in Google Maps using categories. Just as in regular ranking, Google’s algorithms take into account many factors to select the places and results that are most relevant to the user. This algorithm based approach is also used to decide which businesses are in the carousel.
Why is this feature only available for some business verticals?
We’re committed to providing users a high quality search experience for every query. The carousel filtering experience is a good fit for some categories of local businesses. We will continue to experiment with different designs and interfaces to make sure that users get the information they’re looking for, fast.
I’d like to see this feature in more languages and countries, please!
We’ll work as fast as we can to roll out new features in as many places as possible, but have nothing to announce at this time.
My business is on the carousel, but I’d like to change the photo. How can I do that?
The Google business listing is one of several sources we use for the photos in the carousel, and making sure high-quality images are posted to it will help improve your photo. However the image selection, like the actual ranking of businesses, is primarily decided by algorithms and so we can’t guarantee complete control over the image.
1- The carousel will display as many restaurants as there is room on your display. On my iMac with a 1920 x 1200 displays 15 listings left to right. On my 1280 x 960 display it shows 9.5 listings.
2-It still retains the Zagat rating number
3-None of the displayed results from the carousel have an organic listing until the image is clicked
4-When you cursor over the image a pin is raised on the map
5-When you click on any given image you remain on the main search page for a branded search for that listing and the number 1 listing switches to the brand’s web and a knowledge panel is displayed to the right
6-Given the ease at which a branded search is executed (by a click), even though the company web site shows first, this will be a huge win for Yelp and others doing good seo in the entertainment and restaurant industries
7- In the hotel searches only advertisers and Google’s hotel finder are visible above the fold even on larger displays.
8-The displayed listing is a blended listing and shows site links and title tags when available.
9- I can currently see the display in Firefox but NOT Chrome (how weird is that)
Google first rolled out phone support for businesses using the Places Dashboard in early January of this year to deal with verification issues and subsequently announced additional phone support for data quality issues in late January for all English speaking users.
They had introduced email support in the US in Oct 2011 and rolled out email support worldwide in May of this year when they closed the European forums. One assumes with somewhere on the order of 100 million businesses world wide, somewhere north of 8 million claimed and their highlighting of the call in system in the help files the loads on their support system must be significant.
(First help screen seen when you click on the help link in the dashboard)
(Screen seen when you click on “Contact Us”)
Yet their support fulfillment seems to be consistently very, very good.
I had a data quality issue with a secondary phone number showing up for a listing and it seemed that nothing I did over the past 13 days could disuade the Google algo from showing the incorrect number. I called support yesterday and here is the time log of the events:
10:28 Initiated call back support call
10:29 Received call back and placed on hold
10:32 Customer rep picked up the phone
10:32-34 Discussed issue with rep
10:34-36 Rep goes off to interact with tools to fix issue
10:36-37 Rep reports that issue should be resolved within several hours to a day
10:37-39 Rep chit chat.
4:00 When I bother to look the problem is fixed on the main search result page Knowledge panel for the location.
This day has been a long time coming.
June 17, 2013
Last Thursday at the Advanced Local U, Dan Pritchett, the engineer heading up the Places for Business Dashboard effort and Joel Headley, joined us for the day long discussions.
During the day, the arbitrary limits to the maximum number of listings (25) in the dashboard were discussed and bemoaned by the folks at the seminar. For service area businesses with more than 25 locations, it meant there would thus be a need for multiple dashboards. Not a great solution. Dan heard and he acted.
I have just been informed that based on the feedback received Dan lifted the 25 listing limit to 100 in the new Places interface. Kudos to Google for listening and responding!
Local, like many developments at Google, has always been many things; a brand (G+Local, Places), a product (Places Search, the +Local App) and an internal & external API service (local data in Now, Earth or 3rd party products).
And as David Mihm has pointed out, Google’s branding of local has always been muddled and caused confusion in the market place. But now it would appear that the confusion will someday end and that both the local brand and the forward facing search product (Places Search) are falling by the wayside.
Local will persist as a service feeding critical contextually relevant data to the many current Google products that use local data and the many that are likely to be coming rapidly down the pipeline.
Local as brand & product – a History