Google Carousel Results FAQ’s

I’ve been reading around the Google Carousel topic after investigating how to help lift a school’s local search result for a specific search phrase onto the lofty heights of the carousel.  Before I contribute my findings, it is first necessary to start at the beginning and look at the who’s, why’s and wherefore’s in the form of FAQ’s.  I have updated, edited and added comments to some very good FAQ’s on the subject by Mediative:

What are carousel results?

Carousel results are part of Google’s Knowledge Graph results and in part were a precursor to results that we can expect to see from Google’s Hummingbird algorithm update where Google is attempting to deliver more semantically relevant search results.

Carousel results are those results that you see running horizontally across the top of a Google search results page when you search for something with local intent (i.e. theme parks in the UK or in my case, ‘Independent Schools in Hampshire).  You will see a carousel of results across the top of the page.

According to a recent data from Bright Edge, carousel currently impacts 14% of keywords across all industries. Travel and Hospitality businesses are the most affected, with carousel results appearing on 33% of their keywords. For restaurants, carousel results were appearing in 27% of the keyword queries.  It is clear now that Independent Schools + a county can be added to that list.

When did carousel results start appearing?

Google announced carousel results in June of 2013 but had been displaying carousel results via mobile since late 2012. According to Google:

“Starting today, when you search Google for restaurants, bars or other local places on your desktop, you’ll see an interactive “carousel” of local results at the top of the page.

Give it a go—type or say “mexican restaurants,” or try any similar search for restaurants, bars or hotels. Click on one of the places in the carousel to get more details on it, including its overall review-based score, address and photos (which is essentially your Google Business Listing).  If you want to see more places, click the arrow at the right of the carousel. And you can zoom in on the map that appears below the carousel to restrict your search to only places in a specific area”.

What triggers carousel results to appear?

Carousel results appear to be triggered based on selected vertical searches (restaurants, hotels, leisure items such as favourite movies from last year). A number of search items that have local intent have also triggered carousel results to appear in Google. This post has identified some phrases that will typically generate carousel results in Google. Here is another example for a query I did for “Kiss albums” (I chose “Kiss” because they have a ton of albums).

I’m not sure how Google determines what is “most popular” but I would guess that it is based in part on search query activity or click-throughs maybe both?

Where do carousel results come from?

This is an interesting question. In part, carousel results stem from Google’s Knowledge Graph which in turns incorporates information from Wikipedia and from Google’s own database of facts, as well as through Freebase’s database of facts. What is interesting about Carousel results is that they (from our experience) almost always include images. Where they pull these images from is a great question. Most likely from a variety of sources including Google’s image results.

How come I cannot see carousel results in Google?

You may not yet have triggered carousel results based on your search query. As mentioned above certain queries will generate different Google results.

Why is Google serving up carousel results?

Ultimately if you believe Google (and for the most part I do), they are truly trying to deliver the most relevant result possible. I also feel that they are trying to provide the answers to searchers as quickly as possible even if it means keeping them on the Google SERP longer. Unfortunately, for webmasters who are trying to optimize their web properties, this could have an impact on organic traffic and the number of clicks that they receive.

Are Google Carousel results part of organic search results?

Well technically no. Although they are not paid results, carousel results are results from Google’s Knowledge Graph cited above. Google is giving carousel results prime real estate of their SERP across the very top of the page.

And the all-important question:

How can I appear in Google carousel results?

Well, you really cannot control whether you appear or not. You can try to ensure that you have citations in Wikipedia or at least ensure that you have some sort of presence in Wikipedia. You can also ensure that your images are optimized using best practices found in Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Also, understand the types of queries that return carousel results. Not all search queries return carousel results so it is not worthwhile for you to spend a lot of time trying to manipulate or optimize for carousel results. Work on becoming an authority in your industry or genre and work on improving your Wikipedia listing for now.

This is getting increasingly difficult but the Institute of Content Marketing has some tips on how you just might manage it – but you need the base material – just existing isn’t enough.  The post is quite old now so that’s why I say with some trepidation.

Does Google offer paid listings within carousel results?

Currently no, and I can’t see them doing this in the immediate future. However, that does not mean that we will not see paid or sponsored carousel results in the future.

If they become widely accepted, expect Google’s carousel results to have an impact on sites trying to optimize for travel, hospitality, restaurants and entertainment-related queries. This may not have a dramatic impact on a typical site, but it will have an impact for directory-type sites competing for this space on the Google SERP. Personally, they can be of great use to the user providing that the data and results returned are accurate and current. Try a couple of restaurant or entertainment searches and see what you get back for carousel results.

Finkk Marketing’s research findings so far:

There is no doubt that every school which appears on the carousel has a Wikipedia entry.  A handful has a Wiki entry but is still not in the carousel for that particular (well used) search phrase.  I have studied the quality of their images, Review scores, links and general standard of their website and while I haven’t picked up a trend yet, it could quite easily be a combination of those factors.  There are also some schools on the carousel which fall below par on the quality and quantity of photos for example.  Does this lead to the conclusion that a Wiki entry is the predominant factor?  All I can say is that a lot of ticks apply to this client (Search Engine Land’s top 4 tips for optimising for the carousel are listed below) but to get them shifted up onto the carousel is proving difficult.

  1. Set up a Google Places for Business and Google+ page (bearing in mind the sunset of the latter in April 2019), if you haven’t already done so.
  2. Make sure images are high resolution, unique, and order them in terms of your priority.
  3. Encourage happy customers to review your business on Google. Research shows that reviews play a significant role of placement in the carousel.
  4. Measure performance and establish a new baseline. (it is important to recognise the degree of importance of the carousel in your situation and weigh up how much time and effort you should spend on it, if results are good otherwise)