Understanding Google Carousel Results

The Google SERP (Search Engine Results Page) has become an extremely dynamic environment in recent years. Gone are the ten blue links that made up a Google search results page a few short years ago having been replaced by blended results (or as Google dubbed them “universal results”). In fact at the time I listed twenty different types of results that Google was displaying on their SERPS at the time. These included:

  1. Image results
  2. Video results
  3. New results
  4. Blog results
  5. Book Listings
  6. PDFs
  7. Local / GEO search Listings
  8. Traditional Web search results
  9. Product search results
  10. Job search results
  11. Financial / Stock search results

Today depending on your search query you will receive local results, video, news, blog, image and more recently Knowledge Graph and Carousel results. Carousel results you say? What is that?

Google Carousel Results FAQs

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 California, Seattle restaurants etc) or perhaps you are searching for your favorite team’s roster to start the season as I recently did when I performed a search for “edmonton oilers roster” and was presented with carousel results:

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.

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. 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.

While some iPad and Nexus tablet users have seen this new look since December, we’re excited to expand to desktop. The interactive “carousel” is rolling out in English in the U.S.—we’ll add more features and languages over time.”

What triggers carousel results to appear? Carousel results appear to be triggered based on selected vertical searches (restaurants, hotels, leisure items such as favorite movies from last year or rosters of your favorite sports team). 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. A search for “miley cyrus songs” generates carousel-like song results that appear horizontally across the top of the Google results page.

 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.

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. You could also look into getting into Freebase (view Freebase FAQs here).

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 is accurate and current. Try a couple of restaurant or entertainment searches and see what you get back for carousel results.