This isn’t likely to change in the future, but the way this data is presented – and the way you attract local search traffic – just might.
In June 2013, Google released the Knowledge Graph carousel, a horizontal list of results that appears before the ads, map and organic listings of search engine results pages triggered by locally-focused searches.
Currently, the carousel is most often used with searches related to hotels, restaurants, bars, clubs and the like. If you’re looking for a Mexican food restaurant in Houston, for example, you’re likely to get results like this:
Each carousel placement includes an image, star rating and business name. Depending on what you’re searching for, you’ll also see price points and business categories that can help guide your research. As you can see, this all occurs before paid ads or organic listings.
Just like that, your local listing is the first thing most Google users see when searching for your type of business.
Previewing the Carousel for Lawyers
The carousel hasn’t rolled out for law firms yet, but the direction Google is going indicates that it could happen in the near future. In fact, you can preview what the carousel may look like for lawyers by searching for law firms in your city.
You can see this view by searching for a specific law firm, including its city in the search (example: “specific law firm san diego”). A Knowledge Graph card should appear on the right side of the results, where you can see other law firms under “People also search for.”
Like the hotel and restaurant listings, this view now shows local results horizontally, and no longer includes the traditional seven (A – G) map results below.
In addition to the image, star rating and business name, the carousel placements also include main streets.
As you can see, there are great discrepancies in the way the local listings are displayed. Some listings don’t have reviews, while others have generic business names, like “Personal Injury Attorney Houston Texas.” Some have map images instead of high-quality photos, and some listings have photos that don’t accurately reflect their services.
The fact is, many law firms simply aren’t ready for their local listing to be the first thing online visitors see. And while the carousel might not be here yet, those who prepare for it can get a jump start on the competition and maintain strong local search engine traffic in the future.
Optimizing Your Google Places Page
Making your local Google listing stand out – for the right reasons – isn’t difficult. Mostly, it’s ensuring that your business information is accurate and comprehensive.
A quick tune-up for your Google Places page should focus on:
- Accurate business information
- Proper business name, description and category
- High-quality photos on your Google+ profile
- Quality and quantity of Google reviews
Accurate business information, naming and categorization helps Google properly organize your business. If your business category is wrong, you won’t show up in queries relevant to your practice area.
Similarly, if your stated business name is generic, too long or misleading, this could negatively affect your appearance in local results.
Making Your Local Images Stand Out
For now, images don’t play a major role in your initial local listing appearance, but that will change if or when the carousel is implemented for law firms. The carousel images are pulled directly from the business’s Google+ page, so make sure that the images you upload to your page would be appropriate to represent your business.
If Google can’t locate a high-quality image, a map image will be used instead. And although this can still be somewhat useful, having a nice, full-color photo can make a great first impression for your firm.
The Importance of Reviews
Having positive Google reviews is one of the best ways to make your local listing currently stand out on Google. But for industries affected by the Knowledge Graph carousel, it’s even more important.
Last year, a study from Digital Marketing Works found that a high ranking position within the carousel was most often correlated with quality and quantity of reviews.
Other factors included time and distance from the location in the search, but by and large, a business’s place within the carousel appeared to be based on reviews.
But you shouldn’t wait for the carousel to arrive to get a jumpstart on your online reviews. A 2013 study from iCrossing claimed that the “order of [carousel] listings appear to closely match Google Maps.”
Collecting Google reviews now will not only improve your current local rankings, it’ll help you manage the transition to whatever changes Google makes to local results for lawyers.
Google is constantly testing, updating and experimenting in order to provide a better user experience. When it comes to local search results, preparing for these changes can help you maintain or increase your organic traffic and stay ahead of your local competition.