What is Google Local Carousel, and How Can It Help Your SEO?

Written by: Jason Bayless | August 25, 2014

In June 2013, Google debuted a new layout for some local search results. It’s called the Google Carousel (or Google Local Carousel), and it presents the user with a row of up to 20 search results, with thumbnail images, displayed horizontally against a dark background.

Google Carousel is currently used mostly for local search results in the hospitality and travel industry: restaurants, nightclubs, hotels and other travel or entertainment destinations. For hotels, the Carousel generates a listing that includes a photo, a star rating based on Google+ reviews, the name and address of the hotel, and a dollar-sign indication of the price level ($, $$ or $$$).

The Carousel is gradually expanding to other local and non-local searches, including Colleges and Universities, Sports, and Entertainment (such as popular movies).

As of last fall, however, BrightEdge research found that 33% of keywords for the Travel and Hospitality industry are affected by Google Carousel, along with 27% of keywords for restaurants and 5% for entertainment.

How much does Google Carousel affect local search results?

LocalU published a heatmap study last year on how users reacted to the Google Carousel. 83 users were asked to do a search for “Chicago restaurants” and then click the part of the search results page that most interested them. The result: 48% of the total clicks were on Carousel results.

And in the Carousel itself, the results that got the most clicks were those that had both a high number of reviews and a gorgeous photo of mouthwatering food. (Not the ones with a photo of the gray exterior of the restaurant building.) Since you can’t (as yet, anyway) choose which image appears on your Carousel listing, make sure your photos are enticing enough for a click.

How to optimize your website for inclusion on the Google Carousel

Various studies have shown that the top ranking websites appearing in the Carousel are most likely to have:

  • A +1 on a Google profile
  • A +1 on the URL
  • A high number of Google+ reviews
  • A high number of citations
  • A rating score in Google+