Google’s Carousel: Its Impact On Analytics … & A Spokane Taco Truck

How has Google Carousel impacted your local search traffic?

Blurry_Carousel

Much like Aaron Weiche’s blurry Bigfoot analogy (ask him about it next time you see him), Google Carousel results are a tad blurry. At first glance, the change appears to result in a drop in Google local traffic. Granted, these are only two examples (from restaurant and hospitality), but others have said that my data is consistent with what they’ve seen so far.

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In another example (this time from a restaurant) there is an immediate higher plateau followed by a lower plateau. Is this random or is Google performing testing? If the latest level continues this client will have less traffic from Google Maps as well.

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But business activity isn’t driven (or measured) by website alone. This is especially true for restaurants, bars, cafes, and the variety of other business types that are being served Google Carousel Results. We see some very interesting data when we examine the Google Places Dashboards from these examples.

Example 1 (hospitality):

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Example 2 (restaurant):
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A huge increase in impressions and a suggestion to advertise. “Hmmm…” Will very small business owners go for it? That’s Google’s bet.

Refined Brand + Location Search Results

As Greg Gifford wrote about in great detail, one of the main impacts of Google’s Carousel are the refined brand search results. Check out his post to see examples, but in a nutshell it works like this:

1) Mexican Restaurants in Spokane, WA (original search) -> 2) Carousel shown -> 3) Tacos El Sol Spokane (my selection) -> 4) Keyword phrase shown in Google Analytics via Google Maps.

Now this is a bummer because Fernando (owner of Tacos El Sol) doesn’t know he’s ranking for “Mexican Restaurants in Spokane, WA.” But we’ve been steadily losing our precious keywords anyway, so I’m not going to lose sleep about it anymore. I’d rather figure out a way to track it and make sense of it all. In theory this is pretty easy. All you have to do is click on your carousel and copy/paste your keyword phrase into Google Analytics as shown below. Let’s just say the odds of the phrase “Northern Quest Resort & Casino Airway Heights” coming in the form of an exact match are a tad low considering it’s only appeared a handful of times ever in exact form.

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But let’s move onto my friend Fernando and his super-awesome taco truck (I recommend the Walla Walla)!

A Taco Truck & Very Small Businesses

The most interesting thing to me regarding Google’s new Carousel results is asking why Google made this dramatic change to their local search results in the first place. In my opinion this is driven by a variety of factors:

  • Their visual nature and emphasis on reviews provides a better user experience and increased trust
  • It adds A LOT more small businesses into the mix!
  • Very small businesses (if Google succeeds) represent a HUGE untapped advertising potential
  • Very small businesses historically can’t afford to build high-quality websites and need additional exposure
  • Google+Local (arguably) provides enough information / presentation / photos / etc. to market these businesses online very well
  • It keeps visitors on Google longer (and thus more motivation for businesses to be prominent there – e.g., advertise and/or optimize)
  • The timing of Enhanced Campaigns just seems a tad too coincidental. Marty Weintraub of aimClear provided a great Enhanced Campaign summary of the pros and cons of the new world order that is Google’s Enhanced Campaign for those that want take my slight conspiracy theory slant.

How small are the businesses are that Google is targeting? Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Fernando and his daughter Claudia from Tacos El Sol in Spokane, WA!

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Fernando doesn’t have a website and might not need one. His business has a great following and is dominant for the search phrase “taco trucks Spokane, WA.” Plus, he’s a super nice guy! Here’s a look at his current online dominance for the local taco truck niche.

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But what if he could reach a wider audience through search? We never thought he’d rank for the broader and competitive phrases of “Mexican food” and “Mexican Restaurants” in Spokane. But now he has the opportunity to compete here as well!

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Now, referring to his taco truck as a restaurant is a bit of a stretch … unless you don’t mind sitting on a curb during lunch. And trust me, I don’t mind at all! And with a few easy changes he’d be competitive for “Mexican Food Spokane” as well.

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What are your thoughts about Google Carousel? Have you experienced similar local traffic trending (both for a decline in website referrals and increase in Google Places impressions)? Any data or observations you’d like to share? Agree… disagree… let us know!

5 Responses to “Google’s Carousel: Its Impact On Analytics … & A Spokane Taco Truck”

  1. great piece Ed. I love the idea of gathering “all” local traffic through directories, maps, etc.

  2. Thanks, Mike! I love Fernando’s story. Without a website they’ve gone from 1 to 2 taco trucks (granted Fernando knows how to build taco trucks – I hear that helps :) and have a strong online presence for their very narrow niche. I just checked again this morning and they are 6th in the carousel for “Mexican Food Spokane” and the top right for “Mexican Restaurants Spokane.” Plus, they always follow the Professor’s advice of treating the customer “right-er.”

    Ed Reese
  3. Ed:

    Over a long period of time my experience is that dashboard stats are among the worst indicators of roughly anything.

    But it is one little piece of the puzzle. Overall a nice article…but dashboard stats….worse than cr@p in my long experience. and that is my $0.02 :D

  4. A good read Ed. Helpful and pretty insightful. I’ve heard there are 300+ niches where the Google Carousel is triggered. Does this jibe with your findings?

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