new Google local carousel

Local business owners, hold on to your seats… it looks like Google is about to take us all on a wild ride. The new “local carousel” has been rumored for months (it was mentioned on Search Engine Watch about a month ago), but it looks like the new layout is rolling out to the general public. Most people who have seen it or written about it have assumed that it was meant for mobile or tablet users, but we’re actually seeing it on desktop.

In fact, we’re ONLY seeing it on desktop, if we can see it at all. Clearly, it’s still being tested, because only 2 out of the 4 people on our team can see the carousel. I can only see it on Firefox, the other guy can only see it in Chrome. It doesn’t matter if I’m signed in or not, and Steve can still see it in Chrome when he’s incognito.

This is going to be an image-heavy post, so I apologize up front. Since most people aren’t seeing the new layout, I want to post as many screen captures as possible to show all the differences. Let’s start with a comparison between the “old” (current) layout compared to the new (carousel) layout:

old layout vs new layout for local SERPs
(click the image for a larger version)

The obvious differences:

  • The local results are now at the top of the page in the carousel, pushing everything else down.
  • The map pack that everyone has become accustomed to is gone.
  • The order from left to right is the same order that the map pack displayed, but if you’re on a large monitor, you’ll see more than 7 results.
  • Images are now the most prominent feature for local listings
  • Review scores and counts are much more obvious
  • The pins for the map pack are gone, replaced with red dots. The only dots that show on the map are the results displayed in the carousel.

Now let’s look at a closeup of a result, compared to the same venue in the old map pack:

local search result comparison

The carousel layout jumps out because of the image, but is it really a better presentation for local results?

Here’s what you get with the new layout:

  • Photo
  • Total review score (no more “/30″, which could confuse users who still don’t understand the Zagat scale)
  • Total review count (no longer linked to your G+ reviews)
  • Venue name
  • Pricing summary and type of food (this only shows for restaurants, other results show location address)

Here’s what you don’t get with the new layout:

  • You can’t click directly to the venue’s website
  • You can’t click directly to the venue’s Google+ page
  • No URL is displayed
  • No phone number is displayed
  • No address is displayed

Clicking on a carousel listing doesn’t do what you’d expect… When you click a venue, the SERP is changed to show results for a search for the venue name. A second click returns the results to your original search.

Clicking on the review score or review count produces the same result, which will be incredibly confusing for most users. Most people know that if they click the review count in the map pack that they’ll be taken to the reviews for the business. Now they’ll just see the search results change.

This also means that Google is forcing extra clicks to get to information that used to be a single click away. Want to check out the company’s website? You have to click the carousel result, then click the top organic result (which will be the company site, after the SERP changes). Want to see the address or phone number for a venue? You’ve got to click the carousel result, then look down below the first organic listing. Here’s an after-click screen capture:

SERP change after clicking local carousel

Confused yet?  It gets worse…

The new local carousel displays listings in the same order as the current map pack, which is the same order as a current “map” search. I’ve also got access to the new Google Maps, and the order of results is completely different in the new maps. Check out a comparison:

new map search vs. old map search
(click image for a larger version)

The left image shows what happens when you search “dallas restaurants” in the old Map search. If you do a standard search for “Dallas restaurants” and get the carousel, then click “Map” to search the new Google Maps, you get the new Maps interface, with no left column of listings. If you click “Go to list of top results,” it takes you to the list screen shown above – but notice that “Dallas” has been removed from the query and it’s a generic “restaurants” query. The venues shown are different. Now, if you simply click the blue search button again, you’ll get the results for “Dallas restaurants” that matches the list on the old maps search. So, the “top results” list for the new Google Maps is different than the list of venues in the old Maps.

Another point of confusion – the new Google Maps switches back to the star rating system. Zushi Sushi has a 23 on the Zagat scale, which displays as a 3.9 on the 5-star scale. If the local carousel rolls out before everyone is pushed to the new Google Maps, people will see the Zagat 30-point score. Once the new Maps rolls out, the carousel will show the 5-star score, which is obviously much lower than the 30-point score. Hooray for confusing your customers!

Here’s a comparison that shows the different information that appears below the listing based on the search query you use:

new local carousel comparison

We’ll keep an eye on the new local carousel and share any updates. So far, it appears to still be in a limited test mode, but we’re seeing more and more people get access.

The local carousel doesn’t show up for any automotive or car dealer related queries so far – we’ll keep you updated and let you know if that changes.

Here’s the list of every query that’s worked for us so far:

  • wedding venues
  • museums
  • pizza
  • tacos
  • clubs
  • bars
  • restaurants
  • best restaurants
  • (type of food) restaurants
  • hamburgers
  • beer
  • ice cream
  • colleges
  • amusement
  • food delivery
  • movie theaters
  • candy store
  • bowling alleys
  • events
  • fast food
  • stadiums
  • arcades
  • hotels
  • grocery stores
  • video rental
  • art galleries
  • nightlife
  • bbq
  • things to do in (city)
  • wine
  • liquor
  • recording studios
  • music stores
  • golf courses
  • dog parks
  • city parks
  • hiking
  • frisbee golf parks
  • cd stores
  • bakeries
  • donuts
  • sandwiches
  • nature preserve
  • ballrooms
  • billiards
  • brewery
  • caterer
  • deli
  • entertainers
  • fair
  • recreation
  • soup

…and a few just for the pervs out there:

  • strip clubs
  • adult video