BREAKING: Today, Google has promoted their knowledge graph carousel to appear in more search queries. While it previously appeared for a select few hotel queries, it now appears for many generic queries like “hotels near Seattle” and “cheap New York hotels”.
What is the Carousel?
In May of last year, Google announced the Knowledge Graph, which is a database Google keeps of static knowledge that rarely changes, such as historical events, accepted scientific theories like gravity, famous people, and physical locations like landmarks, points of interest, and hotels.
The goal of the Knowledge Graph is to give users more accurate, precise, and better written information about topics that rarely change, instead of relying on any random website to write about it. Google sources their information about topics in the Knowledge Graph from online encyclopedias like Wikipedia, and authorized profiles like verified Google+ Local Pages.
Google displays information from the Knowledge Graph in two places. For people, definitions, historical accounts, and theories and ideas, Google displays information in a box to the right of the SERP (search engine result page), in the same place where they show off Google Pages information.
For local queries, Google displays a black strip at the top of the page with results that users can flip through, called a “Carousel”, powered by the Knowledge Graph.
Why is this important?
Hoteliers gain a huge benefit from the Carousel because it takes focus away from online travel agencies (OTAs) and gives more prominence back to hotels.
Let’s take a look at the query “cheap hotels in new york”, seen in the image below. Before the Carousel, OTAs like Expedia dominated the SERPs, taking not only the top organic places, but also the top paid advertisement placements. Unless you had a very popular hotel or bucket-loads of money to spend on search engine marketing ads (SEM), you could never oust OTAs.
Now, traditional organic listings of indexed websites have nearly vanished, even when viewed from monitors with a very large resolution. As you can see in the image above, only 2 traditional organic results appear, both pointing to OTAs or directories. At the very top we find an organic listing of Google+ Local Pages. These are not OTA listings, and these are not paid SEM ads. These are organic results based on the verified Google+ Local pages that Google thinks best match the query. Thus, by simply creating a Google+ Local page and verifying it (which is free and easy to do, as I explain in this guide), hotels can oust OTAs and much of the competition, taking the top spots for popular location-based queries.
This is huge news for hotels that OTAs have traditionally drowned in the search results. This change gives even the little guy a big opportunity to gain more new guests based on the quality of their web presence instead of the number of backlinks their website has or the amount of money they can spend on SEM.
Also, Carousel displays more hotels on the page. On a very large monitor like mine (1920×1080), Carousel adds another 14 hotels to a 1st page result–more than Google’s famous 10-per-page SERP, and even more than the relatively new local block, which Knowledge Graph appears to have superseded.
While SEM ads do take up a prominent place of the screen (highlighted in the image above) organic listings appear first, at the very top, and a large map takes up the rest of the screen, with organic results users can click on to learn more.
Clicking on a hotel in the Carousel produces more detailed information about that hotel. If you have a website, it will appear as the first organic link, allowing you to gain more direct bookings. If you have a Google+ Local Page with photos, reviews, and good content, it will appear to the right with more information, including a phone number for easy phone reservations, and a button to plot driving directions. Phenomenal.
This is a welcome update from Google. If your hotel is taking full advantage of Google’s free products, it should appear fairly well in the Knowledge Graph Carousel.