NEW YORK—A few months back, you probably noticed that some local searches on Google began to turn up a dynamic horizontal bar (or carousel) of images rather than the traditional vertical list of search results. This feature, known as Google's Local Carousel which debuted this past summer, has been slowly replacing standard listings in certain search categories such as hotels, restaurants and entertainment.
Do optometrists and ECPs need to be concerned about Google Carousel? While ODs and eyewear websites are not yet finding themselves displayed in the carousel format, you definitely will want to optimize your practice to be included once they are. And, Google is expanding the categories involved regularly. Google Local Carousel is changing the way local search is depicted and determined, so it's important to prepare.
Here is a screenshot of Google's Carousel search results from a local query for a pizza place in Denver:
As you can see, the carousel, which Google has indicated will continue to expand to more and more Search Engine Results Pages (SERP), displays the screen (in this case, nine can be seen immediately). This is great for users because now, rather than having to scroll down the page to see more than two or three of the results, they can view the top results nicely arranged along the top of the page. The map and the typical organic results are still there, but they are pushed further down the page. Additional user-friendly features include a filter to rank results according to a number of categories such as "user rating" or "price," and the ability to hover over the image for more detailed information (such as contact info or hours) without having to leave the SERP and go to the website.
The carousel gives Internet users faster, more visual information right off the bat and research shows that they are responding favorably to the new format. According to a
LocalU.org study, 48 percent of total clicks from a local restaurant search were within the carousel results, beating out the first organic result. A second study found that the map received 32 percent of clicks and the first image in the carousel received 17 percent, followed by the first organic result with only 11 percent of total clicks.
Google's image carousel is exciting for local business owners as well because it has a number of features that improve local search and that could enhance the visibility of local businesses, for example:
- Horizontal Layout: The standard search results, referred to as the "pack" display a vertical list of search results, pushing all but the top few results further down the page. Since the carousel results are displayed horizontally, this gives more businesses the coveted above-the-fold placement.
- Image-based results: Google knows that consumers engage more with images than text and they've used that knowledge to improve search.
- Interactive Map: A nice geographical touch—the results incorporate an interactive map that pinpoints the local businesses displayed in the carousel and allows users to localize search even further.
While ODs are not yet finding themselves displayed in the carousel format yet, it's important to prepare your practice to be included once they are.
What do you need to do to prepare your vision care practice for the local carousel?
- Claim your
Google Places listing and complete your profile. If you don't claim your page, Google will arbitrarily gather info from your website, other online sources and the reviews it collects. You want to make sure they are using accurate information that you have provided.
- Create a
Google+ Business Page and complete the profile.
- Include a number of high quality and relevant photos in both of these profiles and on your website. You can't select which photo will show up in the carousel, Google does that for you, so make sure they have a number of great choices that really invite users to click on your practice.
- Get reviews—reviews are highlighted in the carousel display so make sure you are asking happy customers to share their compliments.
The good news is that while there still may be time before carousel reaches the optometric industry, your practice will only benefit from getting your Google Local and Google+ profiles up to par, improving your images and keeping your website up to date. If and when it comes around, the carousel format is really a win-win for users and local business owners alike.
Nancy Rausman is the managing editor of the
EyeCarePro blog and Optometry Web Newsletter. She is responsible for providing ECPs with educational content that helps them advance their practices through technology, management strategies and digital marketing.