By Michael Bruh
Turns out that Google Carousel wasn’t the ultimate brass ring when it comes to displaying local search results for hotels, restaurants, entertainment and nightlife venues. In place of the horizontal Carousel, we in the United States now have a 3-pack listing based on a query and Google’s determination of relevancy.
Why did Google kill the Carousel? Although the company has not formally said so, most online marketers would have to believe the search engine results page was just not being monetized to the degree the company predicted. A secondary issue could have been the mobile user experience, but we may never know for sure.
So what are the implications for travel marketers going forward?[pullquote cite=”Michael Bruh” type=”right”] Review your local search strategy and see if your visibility for local search keywords has decreased since this change.[/pullquote]With the Carousel gone, for natural search Google has changed the layout, displaying just three listings. If you want to see more results outside of the top three, you will have to click on the “more hotels” link. If you’re logged into Google (your Gmail), the results may be personalized and you may get different results based on your personalized search behavior. Currently, this update has not been rolled out beyond the U.S., so brands not focused on this audience may not be affected.
Since Google has made this change, ranking in the top 3 listings for local is much more valuable in order to capture maximum visibility and search engine real estate. Brands not ranking in the top three listings for their local keywords will probably experience a decrease in organic traffic, revenue and visibility since there are only three listings visible on the first page and click-through rates to other listings will decrease.
Meanwhile, paid listings now take up a majority of above-the-fold views. Clicking on a specific Hotel Price Ad (HPA) listing will bring you to a screen where only advertisers participating in HPA will be able to deliver an eye-catching price point.
To minimize the impact of this update, we recommend:
- Making sure your brand is visible above the fold to capture more paid search clicks from users who are searching for hotel-related keywords.
- Participating in HPA becomes a top priority to compete for top positions within the drop-down to take up more valuable search engine real estate.
- Optimizing and building out your Google+ pages. With Google’s ever-changing local landscape, we strongly recommend Google+ pages be properly built for each property to support local search, and Google+ reviews are part of the property’s Google+ page—not its corporate page. This is the ideal situation (for now anyway).
- Continue to optimize landing pages, build out and optimize new content and promote the landing pages through link development and social endorsements. This can maximize exposure on local search keywords since the organic results have been pushed farther down the fold.
In summary, it is strongly recommend that you review your local search strategy and see if your visibility for local search keywords has decreased since this change. Review your Brand keyword coverage (impression share, average position) regularly, to ensure you have some Paid search presence to avoid losing market share to competitors/resellers. Also review your analytics to determine if your bottom line has been impacted by this change. If it has been, consider ramping up your paid search ads, participating in HPA and optimizing your local listings for top visibility.
One can only speculate on why Google has abandoned Carousel. Since it was never introduced beyond the U.S., it seems clear that America was a test bed for this particular Google excursion. Lots of money and manpower was expended so that marketers could adjust to and optimize the horizontal display to suit their needs. Now Google has packed its bags and moved on. The rest of us need to follow.