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):
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