If you ever needed proof of the impact that the smart phone/tablet has had on all aspects of search, you need look no further than Google’s release today of the carousel implementation for local search on Google desktop results. These only come up for restaurants and bars (as far as I can tell so far) but the presentation is interesting. The carousel puts images and reviews into a slot above the results page, which can be slid in either direction. If you click on a selection from the carousel, Google rewrites the query to bring in all the results for that location. Google+ is clearly a big factor in getting onto the part of the carousel that appears on the front page. Having a Google+ account with lots of images and reviews seems to be the critical factor. Certainly if I were a local business and I hadn’t quite gotten round to adopting my Google+ profile, this would push me over the edge.
I have a couple of concerns with this presentation. Like many users, I’m very used to reading the snippet for the result, which typically contains the phone number and enough info to act on. This presentation requires that you click on the result to get that info. The problem is that when you do that, the query is rewritten so that all the detailed results are for just that one listing. If I wanted to look at the snippet info for a bunch of locations, I’d have to click on each one in turn… and it’s easy loose track in the process.
Another artifact of this approach is that it further escalates how critical it is to get on the front page (or in this case early carousel placement) to get anything from Google. It essentially creates a new elite… the first 8 in the carousel. Getting into that elite group, and especially getting that click, turns the entire front page into results about just that one location. It doesn’t just feature the Google+ info prominently, it turns the entire results set into just that location; which is awesome if you are the lucky winner, but if not you are done. It will be fascinating to see the fallout from these changes.