Google has unveiled a new search engine results page (SERP) layout on desktop search for small businesses in certain verticals. This new “carousel” display features small businesses more prominently on page one of the SERP when a consumer conducts a local search for certain terms on Google using a desktop browser (although the feature has been available on iPad for some time). So, in light of this Google search update, we’re answering a few questions about what the new layout looks like, what types of businesses are impacted at this time, and what the change means for your overall Web presence.

What types of businesses will this new update affect?

This list of businesses on the new Google search results page layout currently includes restaurants, bars, and hotels, but we’ve also seen the new search results for entertainment-focused businesses such as theaters, museums, and art galleries. As Google continues to test the feature, it may add other verticals that could benefit from this new image- and review-intensive layout.

What does the new search engine results page look like?

When a local search is conducted in the supported categories, Google displays the results in a horizontal “carousel” at the top of the page. It shows as many results as will fit in the browser window. Each business has its own small carousel result that features a photo, the business name, and rating and reviews information.

What are some key features of these carousel results I should be aware of?

Here are some notable features of the new carousel results and what you can do to make sure your business shows up in the best light when consumers search for you:

  • Carousel results are tied to your Google+ Local (map) listing. Your Google Map listing is an easy and free way to help local consumers find you when they search online, even more now with this new update. That’s because local results will show up when consumers search for your business type plus a geographic keyword, like your city or ZIP code. And, these results also show up to consumers who conduct a non-localized keyword search when Google detects local search intent as well as the  location of the search via IP address. So, if you don’t yet have a Google+ Local listing, make sure you take steps to claim or create it so you can compete in this local search space. Then, make sure your page is optimized for search by using your top business keyword. (Pro tip: Get our ebook that walks you through claiming and optimizing your Google+Local listing.)
  • Carousel results feature a single image. That means it’s critical that your Google+ Local page contains relevant images that can be pulled into your carousel result listing in order to entice viewers to click on your result in the carousel. According to Google, algorithms decide which photo is displayed, so all your photos should be eye-catching and representative of your business, since you can’t change what’s shown on the search results page.
  • Your carousel result contains your current Zagat rating number, if you have one. This is the rating number listed on your Google+ Local page. It’s important to note that Google recently announced that reviews will return to a 5-star rating system in the new Google Maps, so the way that number appears in the carousel may continue to evolve. Your carousel listing also displays the number of total reviews you have on your business listing. This means you need to make sure you’re managing your reviews on Google+Local by both responding to negative reviews and by asking happy customers to leave you positive reviews there to boost both your overall rating and your number of reviews.
  • Clicks on your carousel result turns into in a branded search. One of the most interesting features of this new local SERP layout is that when the searcher clicks on the business link from its carousel result, Google changes the search box to include a search for the business name and changes the SERP results below the carousel to reflect those results. However, the carousel remains in place so users can browse to other business keyword searches.This makes your business Web presence more important than ever – because consumers can easily go from searching a generic local keyword to a specific search for your business name. That means it’s now more important than ever to make sure your content that shows up when consumers search for your business name is relevant, accurate, and positive. So, make sure you’re claiming your social media pages; creating content like blog posts, images, and videos; and monitoring your online reputation on sites like Yelp or Citysearch which can show up in the search results.Also, make sure to make note of the search term that Google automatically creates from clicking on your carousel result (in the above example, it includes a business name, business type and location). You will want to incorporate this long-tail keyword into your monitoring and Google alerts as well as your SEO strategy.
  • This branded search can display paid ads in addition to organic results. In addition to your organic results, this branded search can also feature one or two paid search ads directly under the carousel listings, so bidding on your business name is the best way to show up above the fold on this page. If you’re not already doing it, chances are your competitors are, as in the example below:

How is my Carousel position determined?

There’s no way to know for sure how Google’s algorithm determines a business’ rank in the organic listings. However, just like all of Google’s search rankings, it’s probably safe to say the following factors could play a key role in how well you rank in the map listings:

As Google continues to update its algorithms and search functionality, local businesses will continue to be affected when it comes to the search engine results page.

What do you think of this latest change to the Google SERP? How will you update your local listings to make sure your business is front and center when someone searches for your business type? Leave us a comment to let us know what you think!