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Google is keeping search marketers on their toes with frequent algorithm updates and personalized search improvements, Now, with Google Carousel, firms have an added opportunity to be featured in search engine results.

This June, Google revamped the way that local businesses appear on its results pages. Google's Carousel is a set of algorithms designed to display the best local results for a given search query. These “best results” are determined by proximity to the searcher, local reviews on services like Yelp or Google+, quality photographs, and any other local citations.

How Google Carousel Works

Google Carousel presents the viewer with a row of images in the search engine results page. In many cases, Carousel replaces text-based local listings with a horizontal bar containing 20 image-based results. If a viewer clicks on one of these results, Carousal will lead him or her to an additional results page. This page contains a branded query that searches specifically for businesses nearby. The results may include photos, a Google Street View image, Google Map directions, contact information, and reviews. (The reviews featured on your Google Business Page matter most to Carousel.)

Keywords

Keywords drive Carousel’s rankings. This knowledge may inspire some law firms to populate their sites with specific keywords in order to trigger Carousel. However, simply clicking on the local Carousel will not necessarily direct a potential client to your firm’s website—you also need to consider listings and company profiles.
A keyword strategy may actually cost you visitors. Your listings begin to revolve around your branded keywords, and you lose numerous sources of non-branded keyword data they may have contained. Stuff your Google+ profile and your Business Page with relevant content, not with keywords.

Reviews

Carousel factors Google Business reviews of your firm into its rankings, so make sure your firm has a Page on Google+. Then, the search engine can tap the location, reviews, and images from your Google+ Page to populate a search’s results.

Photos

Carousel photos are pulled directly from a firm's Google+ Page. The system only pulls high-quality photos that are stored on Google’s servers. If you want your images to show up on Carousel (and you do), ensure that you include them in your Google+ profile.

The Impact of Google Carousel

Carousel interacts with at least 14 percent of the keywords related with any given industry, and that percentage grows daily. Some industries are ahead of others; Carousel results already consider up to 33 percent of all keywords connected with hospitality and travel business.
When you look at Google search results for your firm, what do you see? At the bottom right of your information boxes, a gray link asks, "Are you the business owner?" If you click on that link, you are redirected to Google Places for Business, which allows you to claim your own Google Places Page. Without a Page, you are dependent on the information that Google can gather from your website and any arbitrary reviews you have been given. Click that link, and gain control of your information so you can drive this important search marketing process.

Optimizing Your Site for Carousel

With Carousel’s help, your firm can stand out from other search results. However, keep in mind that your firm is still competing for viewer attention with as many as 19 other local firms in Carousel, each with its own name recognition value, image quality, and reviews. To make sure your firm is up to the challenge, set up both a Google Places Page and a Google+ Page. Your images must be unique and in high resolution. Prioritize the pictures you choose: a firm group shot first, then partner headshots, for example. Remember to invite your happiest clients to review your firm on Google.

Carousel Quick Tips

  • Make sure your firm has a Google+ profile and Business Page.
  • Use only high-quality photographs. Present them in order of importance.
  • Invite clients to leave reviews on your Business Page.
  • Populate your profile and Business Page with relevant content—no keyword stuffing!

Carousel's Long, Local Ride

Google is rolling out regular updates for Carousel. New categories and keywords are added frequently. Search engine optimization specialists have not noted any drops in business traffic or a loss in conversions since Carousel began.

The local bias of Google Carousel will offer potential clients the results of firms closest to them. For service businesses, like law firms, your local audience is the most important audience of all. As long as your firm's marketing efforts ensure your content is relevant to users, and as long as your firm's information resides at Google Places for Business and on Google+, you should see great results.

About Author

Barbara Atkinson is a former Bigger Law Magazine staff contributor and editorial board member.

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