Have you used Google search lately?
If you looked for a local hotel recently, you might have noticed something different at the top of your search engine results page (SERP), a carousel. It’s a horizontal display of image results. Yup, on June 18th, Google’s search just got more visual.
Nexus and iPad users have been seeing this feature since December 2012, and now desktop users in the United States will see it when they search locally for restaurants, hotels and bars. A search for “Greenville hotels” reveals 20 images in my carousel. Curious, I counted the number of actual hotel links in the first page of the SERPs.
There were five results below the fold. The rest of the results were devoted to the usual suspects, Tripadvisor.com, Hotelguides.com, Expedia.com and other similar sites. So for the Greenville hotels not on the first page, now the carousel not only gets them there, but it puts them above the fold, and above the paid ads. That’s valuable real estate!
In addition to the photo, the carousel offers a quick hit of info, with the number of Google+ reviews, and depending on the category, an address for hotels and bars or type of food and price guide for restaurants. Click on the image and you’re taken to a page of results devoted to that business. And unlike iPads, on your desktop, you’ll still see the carousel on that business-specific results page. A handy feature when you want to compare two hotels!
What does it mean for local businesses? Being a part of the carousel gets you noticed. The eye-catching design and prominent location above the fold (and paid ads) is going to help drive traffic to your website.
Google’s search algorithms decide which businesses, and which company website photo, if any, are used. I’ve seen carousel entries with a map image, which pales in comparison to a professional beauty shot. It’s up to a business to ensure their site is populated with high-quality images. For the hospitality industry, the carousel offers the chance to take advantage of the power of images. And as we know, a picture is worth a thousand keywords.
Kathleen Gossman – Project Manager