In June 2013, Google launched Carousel for local results.
For those of you who have watched the migration from Maps to Places to Plus, this seems to be the latest iteration. In addition, to Carousel, many of you probably already noticed that Google dropped the Zagat Reviews strategy and is now back to the 5 Star reviews, a much easier system for consumers to navigate in my opinion.
Now when a user searches for a local results, instead of the seeing the traditional ABC vertical listings under Adwords, there is now a horizontal band across the top of the screen which features thumbnails, ratings, as well as the number of Google+ reviews. Users now have the ability to scroll sideways to view more listings.
A positive outcome of this is that businesses whose maps listing did not appear “above the fold,” before might now be able to have their thumbnail image seen in the Carousel. I therefore highly recommend that you
ensure that the thumbnail you select is high quality and represents your business in the best possible way.
I’ve checked a few local listings and it seems to be showing up in some markets and not others and some days and not others. That’s Google for you. Regardless, you need to be sure that your Google Plus page is highly optimized.
Digital Marketing Works (DMW) conducted an extensive study of Carousel to try and determine how rankings were achieved. The agency looked at about 4,500 hotel search results in 47 US cities. For those who are interested in reading more, here is the link
According to Search Engine Land, the essence of the results were:
1. Review quality and volume: “Carousel rank correlates highly with Google review ratings… Our study also showed an equally strong correlation for a hotel’s quantity of Google reviews”
2. Distance and travel time are ranking variables
3. Google appears to be weighting results based on a more nuanced understanding of queries and inferred user intent
4. The findings and ranking variables held true in both large and small markets
It doesn’t appear that third party reviews (e.g., Yelp) are factoring in the Carousel rankings according to DMW.
Google Analytics Update
For those of you who check your Google Analytics, you may have noticed that in the keyword section, your number one keyword was probably listed as “not-provided.” This number represents the amount of non-paid traffic that arrived at your site when they were signed into Google while they were searching. Google implemented this in 2011 as they said to “protect user privacy.”
For small business owners and Internet marketers alike, this caused a problem because it made it harder to optimize your website and marketing campaigns because a large portion of visitors to your websites were signed in and therefore, those keywords were unavailable.
Well, on September 23, 2013 Google announced that all searches through their system will now be secure searches. This means Google searches will no longer pass keyword data through to websites, thereby eliminating site owners to track users by their keyword searches. In addition, Google’s Free External Keyword Tool is also no longer available.
Many people in the Internet marketing world speculate that Google has done this to push site owners towards their advertising platform – Google Adwords. Why? Because Adwords offers its own Keyword Planner tool. The keyword planner combines the Keyword Tool plus a Traffic Estimator. This is helpful for advertisers when they want to determine bid price and possible ROI. Now, you don’t need to be a Google Adwords advertiser to have access to this tool, but you do have to sign up for an account.
And for those marketers who already have a Google Webmaster Tools account, keyword data is still provided there although it does not let you cross reference with all the other areas of Google Analytics.
David Carleton is a San Diego Local Business Marketing Consultant who specializes in showing small business owners how to spend less and get more from their marketing and advertising using low cost strategies in local business marketing, lead generation and conversion, Internet marketing and social media. To download a copy of the free report, “7 Steps to Website Success”, go to http://localbusinessmarketingsuccess.com