Deep dive into the elements of Google’s SERP: The Carousel

These results are taken from Mediative’s latest research “Google’s Evolving Results Page and The Impact on Your Business”.  For more background as to the purpose behind the study and methodology, download the full study, or read the first blog post in this series.

Carousel listings are a new feature in the US that are not widespread yet in Canada. They are part of Google’s Knowledge Graph results and in part were a precursor to results that we could expect to see from Google’s Hummingbird algorithm update where Google is attempting to deliver more semantically relevant search results.

Google SERP Caroussel

Note: on the carousel, if you click on a listing, you are not taken to the website of that listing but to another Google SERP all about that listing.

Carousel results are shown for local results in the US (with an image, business name, and ratings and reviews if applicable) and also for other types of searches such as sports team rosters, music artists albums, tourism searches etc.  If they become widely accepted, expect Google’s carousel results to appear for travel, hospitality, restaurants, entertainment, and other types of queries.

In our 2014 Google SERP research, 89% of participants looked at the carousel and it was the first element looked at on the results page in every case that it appeared (which isn’t surprising given its location and prominence).

However the carousel failed to retain significant attention and capture many click:

  • When the carousel was shown on a page, on average, 16% of the time on the page was spent looking at the carousel results.
  • The carousel captured 12.5% of page clicks.

What is the reason for the lack of attention and click activity on a carousel? Currently in Canada, the carousel is new, and is not yet visible in local searches. Therefore, in our study, it was likely the first time some people had seen this type of listing. It’s almost as if people don’t quite trust the carousel yet – if it is perceived as a paid feature, people may scan past it until they realise the value. Studies conducted in the US show that the carousel certainly has the potential to have a significant effect on searcher behaviour.

Interestingly, the introduction of the carousel led to more intense activity on the sponsored listings directly below the carousel. Sponsored listings received 136% more time looking at them and 60% more clicks on the SERPs that had a carousel. Consider this behaviour when making adjustments to your paid ad campaign.

Google SERP Caroussel

Implications for businesses

  • You cannot control whether or not your business listing appears in carousel results. However, your organic visibility will have a significant impact because of the post click page result.
  • A strong overall SEO strategy (on-site and off-site) should be your focus. This should include Google+ Local optimization (images, location, star rating etc.). Be sure to have citations and/or some sort of presence in Wikipedia, and also look into getting into Freebase.  Google is trying to increase the time spent on the SERP, and you need to encourage the searcher to click to your site.
  • The introduction of the carousel led to more intense activity on the sponsored listingsdirectly below the carousel. Sponsored listings on a page with a carousel received significantly more attention and clicks than on the SERPs that did not have a carousel. Consider this behaviour when making adjustments to your paid ad campaign.

To learn more about Google’s new SERP, and the effects of the new listings elements on searcher behaviour, get our latest research: “The Evolution of Google Search Results Pages and Their Effects on User Behaviour”.

Rebecca Maynes
Rebecca Maynes is Mediative’s Manager, Content Marketing and Research. Her expertise lies in the creation of engaging thought leadership for Mediative. From compiling eBooks and case studies, to conducting research, analyzing data and writing white papers and reports, Rebecca is an integral part of Mediative’s Marketing and Research team. Rebecca began her career with in England, and, after emigrating to Canada in 2005, she has gone full circle, joining Mediative, a Yellow Pages Group Company, in 2009. Prior positions include Marketing for a B2B Software company. Rebecca graduated from Cardiff University in Wales, UK, with a First Class Honours BSc in Business Administration.