Yesterday afternoon, Screen Pilot noticed something strange happening with Google Search results, it appears Google is sunsetting the Carousel and introducing a new local pack. It’s not completely rolled out at this time, however when you search for hotels you may see the new results. We tested this across different browsers – signed in or signed out – and there wasn’t any consistency in when we saw the new results page. Therefore, it’s in the process of being rolled out for everyone.

Here is what you would have seen last week for a search for “denver hotels” with the presence of the Google Carousel:

Denver Hotels Old SERP

Here is the new search results page with the Hotel Local Pack:

Denver hotels new SERP

As you can see, it’s now essential to be in the top 3 for local results and the price is predominantly displayed. Previously with the carousel, the top 8-10 local results were most important. These are organic results based on local search algorithms, however they are featuring rates from the Google Hotel Finder. It seems this is appearing for local businesses and in the hospitality industry it applies to searches that include keywords such as hotels, resorts, lodging, accommodations, motels and inns.

If there are paid search ads present, then the new Local Pack appears below the paid search ads but above the organic results. This pushes the organic results even further down the page. The new Local Pack also replaces the Hotel Finder ad box that used to be present on the results page. Also, there still appears to be 9 organic results below the new Local Pack, however it requires the user to scroll down to see them.

Within the new Local Pack, sometimes there is a description of the hotel included. We investigated the origin of the description and it’s coming from the Review Summary of the Google Plus Business Page for the hotel. The short description is written by Google rather than being pulled from another source or from your business description within Google Plus. Therefore, Google controls this description and whether you have one in the Local Pack. Overall the descriptions we’ve seen appear to be neutral and on the positive side.

It seems that listings within the Local Pack with a description will have a higher propensity for clicks than the other listings which will only show the street name of the listing address.

Example of Local Pack listings with and without descriptions:

Local Pack Descriptions

 

Origin of Google Review Summary:

Google Review Summary

When you click on a listing within the Local Pack, you are taken to the new Business Details page, where a new “Book a room” ad functionality is available featuring Google Hotel Price Ads.

New Business Details page when you click on a listing in the Local Pack:

New Business Details Page

 

This is very different from the previous page you were shown when you clicked on a result within the Carousel. Previously, you were taken to a page with the carousel still at the top and search results for the brand search term that was now entered into the search bar. The Business Listing information was just in the Knowledge Box on the right side of the results, however now that makes up the entire Business Listing page with the addition of the “Book a room” ad section.

With the new Business Listing page, the Google Hotel Finder (Hotel Price Ads) dominates the page therefore users are going to have a higher propensity to click and interact with the Hotel Finder than they did with the previous business information page that was presented after a click on the Carousel result. With the old Carousel world, a user would have the option to also click on organic results for the hotel they clicked on, however now the page is mostly the Hotel Finder

Previous page when you clicked on a carousel listing:

ols serp brand result

We also noticed that for some search results, if a hotel/resort and the OTAs are not paying for Hotel Price Ads then within the new Local Pack you will see a “Visit Website” rather than a price.

local pack no rate

This creates a unique challenge for hotels who aren’t playing in Hotel Price Ads. On one side with the “View Website” users who click go straight to the website, however on the other it seems users will be less likely to click without a rate preview.

When reviewing the new Google SERP changes on mobile devices, it seems to have remained the same with 3 hotels appearing in the Local Search box and the option of expanding it to 20 hotels when you click on “See all” or viewing additional hotels by scrolling through additional sets of 3 hotels.

iPhone-SERP-Local

What does this mean for your hotel?

With these new changes, it is essential that you are in the Top 3 local results or previously the Top 3 Carousel results to show up in the new Local Pack. Therefore, if you were in the top 3 Carousel listings for your primary search terms, then you will be in the Local Pack. If you were not in the Top 3, then it’s time to focus on getting into the top 3. With the new Google SERP (search engine results page), if you aren’t in the Local Pack and your organic ranking isn’t in the first position, then you are most likely going to see a decrease in Google organic traffic.

With the dominance of big brands in the hospitality industry, the new Local Pack is going to make the lives of independent and boutique properties a bit more difficult. Google’s recent Pigeon algorithm rewards sites that have greater Domain Authority with better local rankings. Therefore, big brands will be in the top spots for the Local Pack as hotels within those brands piggy back on their big brand domains resulting in greater Domain Authority. Independent hotels can’t compete with the big brand domain power, therefore the removal of the Carousel will greatly reduce the visibility of some hotels.

If you aren’t appearing in the new Local Pack for your primary unbranded search terms, then you can click “More Hotels” to see the expanded map version of the Local Pack which increases the results to 20 properties per page. This just so happens to be the same number of properties that were usually featured in the Google Carousel. This will help you to understand how close your property is to getting into the Top 3 positions.

What should you do to capitalize on the new Local Pack?

  1. Time is of the essence to act now before Google has rolled this out universally. If you get into Hotel Price Ads now, then as more and more users see this new search results page, your hotel rate will be above the OTAs allowing users to book direct.
  2. It’s time to confront the Hotel Price Ad giant and pay to play. With the predominance of the hotel price in the search results page, and the new “Book a room” ad functionality within the Business Listing page, you can no longer ignore Google’s desire to grow this element of it’s ad ecosystem.
  3. If you don’t participate in Hotel Price Ads (HPA), then the OTAs are going to capitalize on your guests…again. It’s an uphill battle against the OTAs, but it’s a worthy battle. So let’s ensure that you’re pushing out the OTAs and participating in Hotel Price Ads.
  4. Local search is now more important than ever. I know we keep saying this but it’s true. You need to be in the top 3 for your geographic keywords in order to have visibility on the first page.