Is Google Local Carousel Bad News For Big Brands?

Over on Search Engine Land, Greg Sterling was discussing a recent study on the Google Local Carousel and how this particular group had come to the conclusion that “quality and quantity of Google reviews are the single most important variable determining inclusion and ranking.” This is good information considering we’ve noticed changes in the way Google handles local search listings as well. Mostly the lack of value that comes from having a gazillion local listings all across the web, especially if they’re all using the same content. Unfortunately, there are major providers still killing it in this niche. Nonetheless, back to the study…

The following screenshot lays out the main takeaways of the study:

Google Local Carousel Study

Google Local Carousel Results From Study Discussed on Search Engine Land

Even though we’re really not sure when Google is going to use the Carousel as its new local business listings format, this is good information to know. What I mean by “when” is this… What is Google’s overall goal with the Local Carousel? For instance, take the search term “plumbers near Chicago IL” versus the local search term “hotels near Chicago IL” as an example. There are plenty of plumbers in Chicago, as indicated in the “Map for plumbers near Chicago IL” section of the local search box.

When performing these particular searches I was logged out of my Google account. This is important to say because I’ve seen different results with/without the carousel (based on whether or not a user was logged in).

So, here’s the plumber search:

plumbers near Chicago IL local search

Google search for plumbers near Chicago IL.


and here’s the Hotel search:

hotels near Chicago IL local search

Google search for hotels near Chicago IL.


Does Advertising Play a Role in Search Results?

It doesn’t look like advertising plays a direct role in the carousel search results but it looks like it plays a hefty role after you click on a particular carousel result (for this search). I can also find examples with a lack of advertising, like the term “vintage guitars” plus most any larger City. Naturally as if I were “Joe Search,” I clicked on the first result in the hotels near Chicago IL carousel result, which was the Hard Rock Hotel listing. Although I’m not going to show screenshots for each carousel listing here, keep in mind they all had plenty of very targeted advertising to go with them.

the Hard Rock Hotel carousel search:

Hard Rock Hotel Chicago Chicago IL

More results after clicking on the first local search result shown in the carousel (Hard Rock Hotel) after searching hotels near Chicago IL.


The Takeaway Here?

The end goal for Google is to make their advertising that much more relevant and in my opinion they’ve definitely succeeded with the way they display local search results in the carousel style. When Google’s advertising is more relevant, the click-thru rate is that much higher for advertisers. Click costs go up (good for Google) and advertisers convert at a higher rate (good for advertisers).

A more interesting study would be the click-thru rate on the carousel, then the activity post carousel. I’m sure this is exactly what Google has been analyzing extensively. Question is, what happens when trademark owners get tired of advertisers cannibalizing their search results? Well, that’s a whole different story.

The good news we can ascertain from this delve into Google Local is that Google is getting better at figuring out what the consumer wants, which is also very good for Google’s stock price and the user. And…maybe not so good for the brand.