Google has gone back to the drawing board yet again and has officially scrapped the horizontal carousel used to display local search results in favor of a new service called Pigeon.
The Local Carousel was released in June 2013 to optimize local business searches. For instance, if you were searching for “San Francisco Thai restaruants”, the top results for local Thai eateries in the Bay area would have appeared within something that looked like a film strip of pictures of different venues at the top of the search page.
Unfortunately, any information beyond the name, price ranges, and the number of reviews for each venue were unavailable without clicking through. This meant that basic information – whether or not a restaurant also had a sushi bar, for example – was unavailable at first glance. Also, initial problems with user images being posted that business owners did not approve of led to criticism for the carousel, ultimately prompting Google to remove it this month.
Now, hotels, restaurants, nightlife, and entertainment will be among several listing categories that will be dropped from the carousel. A search for other categories like “US Presidents”, however, will still be shown within the feature.
In the place of the carousel will appear a new 3-pack design that sits just below the paid SEM results. Instead of multiple search results appearing within the carousel, the latest 3-pack feature will only show the top three matching local listings based on the search. Basic information about the venues will also be given, along with the prices, reviews, and pictures. Options for more results will be available by clicking through to another page.
With the Local Carousel gone for certain categories, Google will be now be relying on their newest Pigeon algorithm to optimize local searches. Not only does the new 3-pack simplify the search results, but Pigeon will work even stronger at filtering out undesired results, like venues that are some distance from your current search location, or that are of a different type than your search (for instance, you’ll see less Mexican restaurants when searching for Mexican grocery stores).
What this means for local businesses is that SEO optimization will remain critical in order to land a result in the 3-pack. Otherwise, the wrong keywords may mean a customer or client’s potential failure to click through to the next page, or not being noticed at all. Having a good web marketing strategy in place could mean the difference between major traffic on your website or a just a few digital footprints.