Google’s carnival ride

Crackerjacks crunching underfoot, massive stuffed bears, and kaleidoscopes of light. It’s the ubiquitous scene of a summer carnival, a night of fun for the whole family. My favorite was always the miniature roller coaster, but I think we’ve all realized what’s Larry and Sergey’s, Google’s founders, favored ride: the carousel.

Last week Google unveiled Carousel, their latest feature for their search engine. Carousel could be a game-changing technology, specifically for local business and search. Carousel offers a unique new way for users to engage in local business search, and provides a better way for you, the local vendor, to interest customers. Carousel has the potential to entirely do away with users scrolling through textual based search results, and becoming even more piqued by your commercial offerings. But what exactly is Carousel?

Go to Google and do a local food search, for instance “Thai Restaurant St. Louis.” Notice what’s different? Instead of the usual bland list of site listings and brief web descriptions, Google now displays a row of pictures along the top of the search results. These pictures, displayed in a carousel format, highlight the top rated businesses relevant to the search words, along with a price indicator and number of reviews. The pictures offer a pleasant viewing experience, and an additional way to lure people to your business. Clicking on one of the Carousel thumbnails adjusts the search results as if you had searched that specific restaurant and to include an accompanying Google ‘fact card,’ including info such as location, hours, and phone number. Carousel gives the user a sweeping view of what’s cooking in their hometown.

Giving the user the best experience possible is great, but what does it mean for you, the business owner? How can Carousel help you reach more customers, and how can you work with Carousel? Local search optimization is paramount to helping your business succeed. Now, more than ever, Google is stressing giving users the results they need, when they need them. The advent of Google Now and the just released Carousel is demonstrative of the importance Google is placing on location based results. Carousel offers tremendous opportunity for your venture to get more noticeability, but you need to ensure that you have done everything needed to be featured in the new result system.

The most important thing you need to put on your to-do list is registering with Google Places, Your business needs to have itself listed in the Google Places registry, current address and all. Google can’t feature your business in its local searches if you are not in the database. Next, make sure you have attractive photos uploaded to your Google Places listing. Photos are prominently featured in the Carousel results, and people are more likely to click on a business with an eye-catching photo rather than one with a grimy one. Finally, you need to get your business up in the search rankings. Make sure you’re customers are writing reviews, and that you’re providing the best possible customer service. Sign up for other business listings, such as Yelp and CitySearch. Hire an SEO company to help you get into that first round of the Carousel.

Carousel upends the local search business. No longer will people be scrolling down pages of links, but will rather be turning through aisles of photos. But the basic premise of search optimization has stayed the same, and our strategies work just the same.