After brief experiments, Google officially launched an interactive "carousel" of recommendations above organic results when users run searches for local venues.
Local venues with high ratings via Zagat and other sources are more likely to feature in the top of results now. They appear above organic search results, which were more easily influenced by search engine optimization (SEO).
The Google Knowledge Graph results appear in most desktop browsers in the US and on some tablet browsers. The search results work for queries like "hotels in Denver", "things to do in (city name)", and "san francisco cafes".
For example, type "hotels" and the name of a city you're interested in (such as "Dallas hotels") and you'll see suggested results as determined by Google's formula.
Behold, a search for Mexican restaurants in New York City:
Click on on an image to see more details, such as its overall review-based score from services like Google-owned Zagat. But you can’t click directly to the venue's site or Google+ page, at least as of today
When you click a venue, the search engine results page updates to show results for a search for the venue name.
In the right-hand corner of the screen, Google Maps appears with the various recommended hotels pinpointed.
This is what local search results used to look like:
The plan is for increased integration with Google products across channels, so a user of the Google Now mobile app could see results tailored according to their past search history via Google Search on a desktop and what their Google+ contacts like.
Key action points:
The carousel may offer an opportunity for canny marketers to effectively invert the search engine results by getting "long tail" results above SEO-ed results.
Picture quality: Hotels, restaurants and other venues need to make sure that the images that Google pulls for them are attractive.
Your venue's review and rating scores increasingly affect its prominence in search. For example, the only dots that show on the map are the results displayed in the carousel, and the results in the carousel depend partly on the user-generated ratings.
Keep eye on multiple scores: Google seems to be losing some patience with Zagat scoring system (out of a possible 30). In Maps, it has switched back to the star rating system. In the carousel, it only gives the top-line number (like "23") instead of the former overall rating (like "23/30").
It's time to double check how your venue appears in search results. Maps are increasingly tools for discovery rather than searching for places a user already has in mind. Is your venue well positioned in maps?
In our test of the old and new Maps, the results were different for destinations we sampled. Don't be complacent that if you were coming in at the top of search results before that you still are.