Google has been testing what they call their "Local Carousel" for the past couple months, and today it is officially going live. It's the same top of page scroller you've been seeing on tablets for the past year, but now it's on your browser for your local related searches. Lets take a look at what it is and what it means for your local SEO services.
The new carousel will show up for certain local searches. We've attached a screenshot above to give you an idea what it will look like. As you can see, it displays a thumbnail, rating (out of 30 from Zagat), number of Google+ reviews, price range, and food type. The carousels information will vary slightly based on the industry, but all will have approximately this same look.
Currently, the carousel is only showing up for certain verticals. The only ones we've been able to confirm so far are restaurants, hotels, and colleges. More will be discovered and added as time goes on, and we'll be sure to update when that happens.
So what does this mean for SEO?
It's going to be a great equalizer for the first page. Businesses that were previously below the fold will now be included in the carousel, meaning increased visibility and near equal footing with the top result. To make this happen, you still need to be ranked highly though. This means going over your Google business page and ensuring you have all the best info and a picture that is truly eye-catching, even at thumbnail size.
If you fall into one of the currently active verticals, you should do some searching and see where your listing is turning up. Google hasn't disclosed how they're ranking the order of the carousel, but the rule of thumb they gave is that if you showed up on Google Maps, you should show up in the carousel too. Of course, if you don't show up on maps, you may need some optimization and Google+ Local help.
Take the carousel for a whirl and let us know what you find!
Original post on Wikimotive's blog titled, "Google Local Carousel."