If you've performed a Google search for any type of product or business that might have local results, then you've probably seen Google's new Carousel feature appear at the top of the page. The Carousel, also known as the Knowledge Graph, provides names, addresses, images and ratings for multiple local businesses in a small space. Because of this, business owners and SEO pros have learned how to take advantage of this new space.
The Carousel and Screen Real Estate
It's true that the Carousel now takes up valuable screen space that might once have belonged to organic search results. As Google added content from Google+ and ads, organic search results have moved further down the page. But the benefit of the Carousel is that you don't have to be in the first three results because more than half a dozen results appear in the Carousel.
Photos in the Carousel
Because the Carousel is so visual, having an attractive image is important. Google draws those photos from two locations: Google Places for Business or Google+. If you've yet to claim those spaces for your business, do it now. Otherwise, Carousel results may show up with unflattering customer photos or no photos at all. Make sure you're uploading a quality photo with attractive lighting. You don't have to hire a professional photographer, but you do want to make a point of taking photos of your business that will appeal to customers rather than snapping a quick picture just to have one.
Google Loves Google
There are benefits to claiming your Google Places listing and signing up for a Google+ Local page other than uploading photos. Both locations allow you to upload video, which can help get consumers across your doorstep. Google will attempt to show information based on your listings, which may be incomplete if you've yet to claim them. Perhaps your business has moved or you have a new phone number. None of this information will show up correctly in the Carousel or sidebar next to search results.
Ranking in the Knowledge Graph
What about rank? According to Greg Sterling at SearchEngineLand, the order that results appear in the Carousel correlate to your overall star rating on Google Places. It's a good idea to encourage your happy customers to write a review for your business on Google. Studies show that distance from the user also comes into play, but most of the first "page" of Carousel results are for business with four or more stars. In fact, businesses without five ratings won't have an average star ranking at all. While your business will still know the Knowledge Graph, the added visuals help draw attention.
Google's introduction of the Knowledge Graph is part of the search engine's move to show more data directly on the search results pages. Google may also add this feature to services like Maps so using Google+ and Google Places and developing a positive image for use in the Carousel must become part of your SEO strategy.