Google Expanding Carousel Layout for “Best” Keywords

Over the past year we’ve seen Google expanding their carousel layout and experimenting with new UI for SERPs (see Dr Pete’s helpful mega-guide to the SERP layout), last week we saw some new layouts around filtering and today we’re noticing an expanded rollout across some commercial keywords that will dramatically impact user behaviour.

What is the Google carousel layout?

The carousel layout has been around for a little while and looks something like this:

Typically this layout has been reserved for relatively non-commercial queries like movies, books, landmarks and so on.

Expanding the carousel layout to commercial queries

This morning we saw a dramatic increase in the coverage for carousel queries, and of note we see this expanding across very commercial queries like “best project management software”:

These queries are not cheap to advertise on and typically have multiple adwords slots against them. These are commercial queries that are competitive and monetized.

While it’s obviously early days, it looks like Google might be putting the cart ahead of the horse for some of these queries. Take “best accounting software”:

Noticeably absent from the carousel is Xero, Netsuite, or Zoho. #1, #2 and #3 in the adwords slots. Of course whether they’re the best or not I’m not going to comment on but not even appearing in the carousel seems like a slap in the face.

Implications

Distilled NYC VP Noah Lemas wrote around a year ago about Google’s increasingly aggressive attitude towards third party aggregators. This is yet another step in that direction, and more and more sites need to be wary of Google as a competitor, as well as a channel. The bottom line here is that if you are a business who could be replaced by Google - particularly an affiliate or comparison site - you need to start thinking fast about how you can add unique value.

That said, this could also be a defensive play by Google - Amazon are now bidding on product listing in paid per click, and this may be Google’s way of avoiding losing market share to them.

What’s next?

Anyone think we might see this expand to keywords like “best credit card” soon? These are some of the most expensive keywords on Google and tough to rank for. A carousel result here would materially impact the bottom line for companies like Nerdwallet….

The growing percent of queries featuring carousels (thanks @cyrusshepard for pointing me to this graph).

Discussion

What are you all seeing? Drop any insights into the comments! We’ll update this post with more as we have it….

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