Local Carousel Rankings Are Out: The Verdict

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The local carousel design has been in effect since June of this year, so it’s about that time when experts try to measure its success and offer more detailed advice about how to take advantage. It’s incredibly important for a company to be featured in local search in order to connect with relevant users. It helps make the web smaller, and you have less competition to worry about in the local sphere.

Optimizing for local search, however, has been complicated in the past, so it’s easy to ask yourself: Has the local carousel made anything easier, and what factors will help my small business take advantage of the new design?

Review of Local Carousel Rankings

Everyone is talking about the Digital Marketing Works (DMW) study because it is the first study to go into such detail about the success and factors that go into the local carousel. Here is how the study worked:

  1. They examined more than 4,500 search results in the category of hotels in 47 US cities and made sure that each SERP featured a carousel result.
  2. For each of the top 10 hotels found on each search, they collected the name, rating, quantity of reviews, travel time from the hotel to the searched city, and the rank displayed in the carousel.
  3. They used (equally) hotel search terms—hotels in [city]; best hotels in [city]; downtown [city] hotels; cheap hotels in [city].
  4. This earned them nearly 42,000 data points on approximately 19,000 unique hotels.
  5. They looked at the correlation between a hotel’s rank in a search result based on all of the factors discussed in step 1 to determine which were the most influential.

The actual study comes complete with different screenshots showing graphically what they found for each of the factors. By and large, however, there were four findings that really stood out as something actionable for marketers.

What Influences Carousel Rankings: The Findings

First, carousel rank correlates highly with Google review ratings. This was the information that was most obvious in the study and went for both quality and quantity of reviews. Therefore, marketers should try to optimize and put a focus on more of these reviews.

Second, location does matter. 50 percent of the 1,900 hotels in the study were within 2 miles of the search destination while 75 percent were within 13 minutes. Businesses should then try to urge customers to start searching for specific landmarks as opposed to just the entire city. After all, you never quite know where Google is going to put the “center” of a city.

Third, Google seems to change the weight of different hotels factors based upon the actual search. For example, if someone types in “downtown [city] hotels” Google will see that location is important, whereas if someone types in “best hotels in [city]” then quality must be the most important. As a business, focus on optimizing for every possible nuance.

Fourth, the findings remained the same for both primary and secondary markets. In other words, no hotel is too small to consider online reviews and make it into the carousel.

Have you had any luck with the new local carousel? Let us know your story and your thoughts in the comments below.

Photo Credit: blog.digitalmarketingworks.com

Amanda DiSilvestro

Amanda DiSilvestro

Online Content Editor/Writer at HigherVisibility
Amanda DiSilvestro gives small business and entrepreneurs SEO advice ranging from keyword density to recovering from Panda and Penguin updates. She writes for HigherVisibility, a... Read Full Bio
Amanda DiSilvestro
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  • Russ Hayes

    Every one seemed to miss a little feature that Google has included in the Open Graph results. The ability of the user to filter results by ratings. This feature alone shows the importance Google is placing on reputation.

    • Amanda DiSilvestro

      That is a very good point– Reputation is important and I think that’s a good way to start. Thanks for reading!

      • Russ Hayes

        Thanks Amanda and I’m sure the news has probably been picked up and written about by some one from SEJ already, but Google has been testing and just opened up the ability for Google Adwords advertisers to include a review quote or paraphrase in ads now.
        Another strong indicator how important online reviews have and are becoming.

  • Ashutosh

    Hi Amanda,

    This is the first article that has talked a bit about local search factors used by Google or I must say the first article that I found. Good points mentioned above and I am sure, it is going to help SEO guys to find better solutions to gain a place in search results.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Lee Keadle

    I’m glad to hear that reviews are such an important factor in determining local carousel rankings. This is something my business has really focused on in the past few months, but it hasn’t helped us as much as I had hoped even though our reviews (quality and quantity) exceed our competitors. Hopefully this will help us more in the future!

    • Russ Hayes

      I’m going to assume you’re mainly concentrating on reviews on Google with my reply so if I’m wrong then take my reply with a grain of salt. = )

      So what I strongly encourage is to take a blended approach to online reviews and by this I mean that I want reviews on all the major listing sites that carry authority. Yelp, Superpages, etc.

      As we know when Google finds the profiles the site the reviews are on get included in the reviews from around the web section on the Google profile.
      Sometimes the best traffic isn’t coming from Google with respect to buying intent and in many cases the traffic coming from authority review sites is much closer to the buying process then those who are on Google.

      Here’s an example for you.

      • Amanda DiSilvestro

        Thats a really great example and I never really thought of it that way. I think we all just have Google on our minds all the time, but you make an EXCELLENT point. Thanks for sharing!

  • Alex Montoya

    It is for sure great to learn more about the factors that affect carousel results. I have not paid much attention to it before. There is so much to learn everyday regarding search. We have a new client, an optometrist client. I am going to use this article as a guide to be the leader in the Optometrist sector for our specific area. Sounds like a Google business pages with positive reviews coupled with adding landmarks to the content will help?? For us it would be something like Optometrist near ###### school and close to the beach.

  • Darren

    Great to see some analysis on the local carousel rankings. At first, Chatmeter wasn’t sure how the carousel would affect local SEO or what impact reviews would have on it. Since it does appear that Google is placing a lot more emphasis on ORM, (http://www.chatmeter.com/google-local-changes-requiring-greater-review-management/) it’s nice to see that local SEO and customer reviews are picking up steam.

  • Magnus Dahlgren

    Still waiting for the feature to be launched in Norway, i’m not sure if it will. I am currently prepping all my local listings.

    Thanks for the advice,.

  • Shane Balas

    Great article Amanda. The local carousel is a powerful new edition to Google that will prove the importance of business listings management for small companies. Touching on “The Findings” section, correct NAP (name, address, phone number) is playing a huge role on the carousel. At Local Market Launch, we have found that companies with correct NAP, keywords, images, and reviews will rank higher on the local carousel than those companies who have not optimized their business listing. This shows the importance of optimizing your listings online and syndicating this data across the internet.