Hotels & Google Knowledge Graph Carousel. The Impact.

  • 0
  • June 17, 2013
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The Google Knowledge Graph carousel is now showing up more and more. And across a much wider variety of categories and verticals. Launched around 10 months ago, the new look definitely stands out more by giving more contrast to the images. The screen shot below is for results relating to hotels. While the carousel isn’t new, it’s updates and increased frequency aligns with their recent beta rollout of AdWords Image Extensions.

This result for “san antonio hotels” in fact tells a more telling story for hospitality. Not only does the carousel appear (1), but local results have vanished. In addition still, expanded set of HotelFinder results appear directly underneath the top PPC ads (2).  Then to add some further displacement at the top of the page, the map pushes down the side paid ads somewhat more. So now, organic placements start much further down the page.  No sense at the minute on how frequently the new format is appearing but the resulting placements in the page and removal of “traditional” local SERPs will have an impact on traffic flow for those hotels happily taking their slice of traffic from this highly competitive search term and other geo-modified hotel and resort terms.

 

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  • Carousel is introduced all the way across the top SERP making engagement horizontal in nature. Gets more results in.
  • Local results have vanished. Gone. Bye bye. Where did they go? They ARE the carousel.
  • Not every query brings it into play. It only seems that State and City level geo-modifiers render it for now.
  • Note an expanded HotelFinder results box. Not unique to when Carousel appears, but interesting for our vertical nonetheless.
  • Being first (far left) on the bar is far less beneficial then being first in the local pack embedded in typical SERP. When our team looked at this we were drawn to the first 4th or 5th place as they are all in the main column. Not scientific but hey, it’s not rocket science.
  • When you hover over the listing in the bar it highlights the location on the map to the right of the page.
  • If you move the map and zoom in/ out it changes what is in the bar to reflect what is still within the maps area.
  • Looks like it is running even for non U.S. terms. We got it to work for “hotels in London”, “hotels in Paris” and even “hotels in Canterbury”.

The image the carousel selects was from the photos uploaded to a Google Plus Local page but NOT the profile picture. No apparent rhyme nor reason why any image has been chosen. Point and case – look at the Fairmont result in the screen shot which has the photo of a girl on a sofa. It is on their their G+ local page, but er, not exactly fantastic.

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Not being able to define image used will be problematic.

 

To get a side-by-side comparison of just how different the results looks using carousel and not, take a look at these screen shots.  Note the enlarged map in carousel version pushing right hand side paid ads further down. Again, the lack of the local pack in results between the two and how the local pack is reflected in the carousel.

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The Fear is that Google will eventually start working in HotelFinder results into the carousel. Making it less “knowledge” based and more yield/revenue based. This bias in results on front page SERPs isn’t good for the vertical. It would push legit organic rankings down into traditional result formats and effectively trick users into HotelFinder where Google and the OTAs win for the most part. The issue with HotelFinder results at the minute, is most people seem to think they are based on centroids and pricing. It’s not. Results are heavily weighted to yield opportunity in combination with other elements. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s a fair game in that sandpit, it’s a knife fight.

So what do you think? Seen these results around much?

Will this be a good change for users?

 

  • John_PopeXIII

    Great analysis, ScreenPilot.

    Principal takeaway, “Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s a fair game in that sandpit, it’s a knife fight.”

    To the hotel industry, Google has fully declared its intentions – “the man (hotel) with the deepest pockets wins.” No more – er, never has been the case really – will the most relevant result for the user/traveler be presented to the user in the search (or Carousel) results; this is all about who pays Google the most for the lead/click.

    Sad really, that the global “benchmark” for search experience is really just “a knife fight” – has nobody – either the traveler or hotelier – figured out yet that Google is one of the worst experiences out there? For the hotelier, horrific return on investment or Adwords spend – never mind additional cost to manage the process – and for the traveler, terribly irrelevant search results, meaning the search experience doesn’t provide the most appropriate results quickly and efficiently to the user, they’ll still have to troll through the Carousel beyond the highest bidders in order to find the most appropriate hotel for them. A standard “old school” OTA experience is far superior than this Carousel monstrosity.

    It appears Google’s simply relying on their massive advantage in the “first port of call” (search) for users to start their product discovery journey, and continued ignorance by users/travelers in falsely believing Google presents the best results for their needs – they certainly don’t. Shocking really.

    As Jeff Bezos says, “Your margin is my opportunity.”

    To me, this is just Google hammering the nails in their own coffin.

    High ho, high ho it’s off to work I go… :)

  • Paul

    I cannot see the results myself as I am not in the US and don’t have a US proxy at the moment, but it might not be all that bad for organic listings.

    What I normally saw is between 1 and at the most 3 organic results before the local 7-pack was displayed. Meaning that organic listings starting from 2-3-4 actually were +7 results lower. With the top carousel replacing the 7-pack, those organic 2-3-4 listings are now supposedly higher up on the page.

    Again, this is what it looks like to me, purely based on the screenshots as I cannot see the new results yet.

    Does this seem to be true or not?

  • http://www.screenpilot.com/ Tom Dibble

    I think part of the problem is Paul is that the local pack assisted true businesses (in this case hotels) with presence on page one for very competitive terms. Sure they are still there in the carousel (for now), but we’re unsure at this very early stage what effect this new presentation will have on which elements still receive the bounty of traffic.

    Will the carousel integration affect traffic flows for the top 3 results from the traditional local pack. What would be interesting would be to see eye tracking on how users interact with this. Especially with the addition of imagery from the graph.

    So, for now the organics in this sector below the carousel are; PPC > HotelFinder > Online Travel Agents basically. In terms of garnering vertical real-estate, that’s been wiped out overnight for the Hoteliers that enjoyed high traffic placement on page one for highly competitive market terms. This isn’t a positive move for those who don’t funnel millions of dollars into Google annually like the OTAs do via PPC and HotelFinder engagements.

  • http://www.screenpilot.com/ Tom Dibble

    Thanks John_PopeXIII! Yeah – this isn’t a ‘pretty’ move at all at face value. My comment above to Paul was that they’ve created a slither of opportunity for true local businesses by moving their vertical placements to horizontal placements and it’s too early to tell the impact of this. But we’ve already seen an impact on referred organic traffic for a couple of leading markets in the US and for previously very well positioned clients within them as local pack results. I hope this isn’t the sign of things to come in the coming weeks.

  • Paul

    Thanks for the reply Tom.

    It really is too bad that I cannot see the results for myself, but to me it would seem that all previous local listing have a better placement now then they did before. Almost twice as many listings (depending on screen size), meaning more chance for individual hotels to be listed, they all have top-of-the-screen ranking placement and an eye-catching image begging to be clicked. IMO judging from all screenshots, this cannot be any better for the local hotels or real businesses. But indeed there needs to be an option for businesses to select which image to use, this is pretty crucial I would say.

    I actually am a (very small) OTA and even though I think that many, many people will click on the images and not even see/click the rest, I am hopefully optimistic about higher-on-page listings of the organic results. But it is just as likely that I am too optimistic about this…

    Of course it depends on which business you are in and we cannot say much about where and what the searchers will click until we have more data, but so far, to me, it looks good for both local businesses as they have the best top-of-the-screen placing and good for organic listings as they are pushed up higher on the screen as well.

  • http://www.screenpilot.com/ Tom Dibble

    You could always VPN in through a US server – it’s not 100% presented at the minute but frequency is increasing.

  • Durant Imboden

    To me, it just looks like more visual clutter. Searching for hotels from a list of names or photos isn’t very useful in any case. It’s like throwing a dart at a local map.

  • hivesusan

    I can’t pretend to be an expert on this, so take my question at face value! :) Does the carousel create opportunity for hotels that are actively using Google +? I’ve heard that suggested elsewhere and wonder what you think?

  • Matt

    @hivesusan:disqus @tom_dibble:disqus in some ways yes that is correct. If you have a Google+ connection that has either +1′d or follows one of the results then it is likely that the result will have a boost and move up the carousel to a higher position. So a greater amount of activity, follows and +1′s on your G+ page should equal more visibility when users see personalized results – in theory.

    The exact impact of that is almost impossible to gauge unfortunately because you aren’t able to see whether every visitor has a connection to someone on your G+ page.

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