Google has finally done something to help out the little guy in search results. For years, restaurants, hotels, and other entertainment businesses have been pushed out of premium search results by websites with higher domain authority. For instance, a Google search such as “Hotels in Orlando” will typically be dominated by Expedia, Tripadvisor, and Kayak results. A couple years ago, Google tried to combat this by embedding Google Local Listing results straight into the organic search space. Some SEOs called this the “7 Pack”, because it typically displayed seven local listing results, and made them look like normal organic search results. This was nice, but they’ve now come up with something even better, the Google Carousel.

Why It’s So Much Better

The Carousel has the best placement you could possibly get on a web page, the top of the page, spanning across the entire width of the page. It’s also got a black, contrasting background and Google prominently displays the amount of reviews the business has. And you know we all love to read some reviews from people that have nothing better to do than bash their favorite restaurant.

A study was recently published by LocalU.org that shows a heat map of click-throughs from an organic search result with the Google Carousel. It shows that 46% of users clicked on the Carousel over other results, including paid search results. This is huge, and when the word spreads about this, business owners and marketers will want to know what the secret is to showing up in the carousel for coveted keyword search terms.

The Truth is…There is No Secret!

The Google Carousel is simply doing what the old “7 Pack” was doing when it pulled in local listings to organic search results. It’s pulling from a separate algorithm that qualifies Google+ Local Listings to be displayed. There are only a few ways I know of that you can control when it comes to optimizing your Google+ Local Listing for organic search. If anyone else tries to tell you there are other tricks and secrets to getting premium placement, they’re probably just trying to close the sale on you.

  1. Verify your listing through the mail or over the phone. This is the first and most elementary step. You must take control of your own local listing by verifying it through Google’s postcard or phone verification system.
  2. Make your listing 100% complete. This includes adding Google default categories that are relevant to your business, adding a quality description, all of your typical business information, payment information, 10 quality photos of your business, and as much rich content as it allows.
  3. Encourage reviews from Google users. The more user-generated content that is created on your listing, the better chance it has of showing up more often in the Carousel.
  4. Keep posting fresh content on your listing. Google’s goal is always to display the most relevant information to its users, so it likes when people update their websites and local listings frequently. It signals to them that you care about your business and the people looking for it.

Disclaimer: You could do all of these things and more and still find yourself invisible on the Google Carousel for a period of time. There are many factors that go into it, and without knowing for a fact which signals Google values most, I have a feeling that some of them are out of our control. I’ve done many searchers, and I often find that when you do a generic search such as “Hotels in Orlando” or “Restaurants in Orlando”, Google provides a variety one, two, three, and four star hotels along with a variety of restaurant cuisines. You’re not being specific enough, so it gives you options. Now, if you were to search for “Japanese Restaurants in Orlando”, then it pulls in much more relevant results into the Carousel.

So, don’t get too caught up in trying to “rank” for the Google Carousel. It’s all about relevancy to Google. Do the things I listed above and keep adding fresh content to it regularly and you’ll find the referral traffic from the listing start to increase over time.