- Clicking to read reviews causes a dialogue/overlay to pop-up, rather than taking you to the business's Google+ Local ("Places") page, as had previously always been the case.
- You can now filter the local carousel results for price and user ratings
Google Reviews OverlayHere's how the new overlay looks when you click to read reviews from the search results: As you can see, basically all you're able to do is scroll through and expand reviews inside this box. Your only other options are to click to "Write a review" yourself, sort them by various criteria, or click outside the box to return to the search results page. But there's no way to go to the business's Google+ Local page.... You know, the pages Google has been telling business owners to claim and optimize ever since the migration from Google Places. Interestingly, the official site still says "Places for Business" (in the title and on the page), despite the move over the last year to Google+ Local, part of the overall effort to get people engaged on their fledgling "Google+ social network". For whatever reason, they're showing a photo of a laptop that shows what a Places/+ Local page looks like on your screen, as if to emphasize why this is important to business owners... but why, when they've now made it nearly impossible to access a business's Places/+ Local page? My guess would be that's simply an oversight. And at the same time, I suppose one could argue that an optimized Google+ Local business page still influences your local rankings which determines who used to appear in the local pack and now the carousel, but that doesn't alleviate the frustration felt after someone spends time picking out great profile and cover photos, etc. only to have the page virtually never seen by anyone. Lest you think I'm overstating how hard it is to actually view a Places/+ Local page, I challenge you to try to do it yourself. It's not *difficult* in the sense that it requires any kind of special skill, knowledge or ability, but they just bury it behind several clicks that few would ever realize are the portal to a business's Google+ page. The only way I could find to access these pages was to first click on the business map that shows up in the knowledge graph area, and then click on the reviews or "More info" link from the little business info pop-up within the map results page. But how many people are actually going to see the map results page in the first place? You have to click a relatively tiny map to the right of the business photo and above the street view (again, see Marco's example above again), which my gut tells me few people even pay attention to. And even if they do make it that far, then they have to somehow know that clicking the inconspicuous reviews or "More info" links will take them to the Google+ page (and even the "More info" link has been retired in the "New" Google Maps.) I would never argue that anyone should neglect their Google+ Local/Places page because after all, this is Google's world - we just live in it. We have to follow their best practices/quality guidelines if we hope to gain any traction in the search results. But I will say you shouldn't waste a ton of time obsessing over cover photos, profile pics and social engagement at this stage, when few will ever see any of it.
Local Carousel FiltersThe other item Blumenthal highlighted was the new carousel results filter feature, which will change depending on the type of search you perform. Keeping with the pizza search above, the options are to filter based on rating and price: Blumenthal's example of a generic "restaurant" search allows for a third filter type: "Cuisines", which lists all types like barbecue, Italian and seafood. Getting back to the point about a decrease in users actually clicking through to businesses' websites, Blumenthal made another great point just days after the "local carousel" launched - these new search results pages may push more business owners into the "pay to play" realm. Essentially what we're seeing are search results pages that in some cases don't even show a single organic result above the first fold. Blumenthal shows examples where one Chicago singing lesson instructor's organic result is being bumped right out of the first fold by their competitor's Adwords PPC add. The only way the bumpee can compete with the bumper now is to start running ads, and of course that increased competition will drive up bids, resulting in ad revenue for teh Googs. Blumenthal further emphasizes how few links in the first fold are now non-Google properties with another great post that highlights all of the different areas that mostly just link you to other Google pages/services. If it wasn't clear before this post, I'm sure it is now - I'm a big fan of Mike Blumethal's local SEO blogging and he's been all over the local carousel since before I even got a chance to write about it once, so I would encourage you to go through all of the posts I've just linked to... and those that I'm about to! More information about the new local carousel:
- At least 5 results are required in order to trigger the local carousel - Blumenthal
- Local Carousel Ranking Factors - Blumenthal
- 300+ types of searches now triggering the local carousel - Blumenthal (Note: I can't get some of these to work in our region even when there are 5+ matching businesses, so I'm wondering if Google might be looking at population estimates to determine whether or not it's worth showing the carousel for some of the less common, very specific searches.)
- Heat Map Study of Local Carousel Results Pages - Local U (More analysis by Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Land)
- Blumenthal's list of other news/blogs about the local carousel from around the web - Blumenthal