What’s the deal with Google’s new local SERP display in Europe?

Local SEO 17 Mar 2020

If you’ve kept your ears on the ground, then you’ll have probably come across Google’s latest update on their SERPs display. Although the search engine forever seems to be testing ideas and experimenting with their SERPs page like a child with a Rubix cube, they’ve made yet another significant change that will impact local businesses. 

So what’s happened?

As of the 21st of February 2020, Google’s created a new SERP feature called the ‘find results carousel,’ in an attempt to comply with EU legislation. This refers to the branded directory buttons sitting above the map.

This is Google’s latest endeavour to stay in the good books of the EU by trying to avoid being involved in any future antitrust cases. Google was rocked hard from a €1.49 billion fine they received from the European Commission in 2019 for ‘abusive practices in online advertising.’

In other words, Google was providing its own content with more exposure over others in the shopping search results.

Yelp last year had sternly raised their concern for Google’s favouritism towards their own content by accusing the search engine of trying to return rival links, which were eventually dismissed by the EU Commission. 

The update has been implemented in many countries across Europe, however, nobody really knows whether these updates will remain in the UK after Brexit. In fact, it seems likely that Google will revert back to its original SERPs layout since we’ll no longer be covered by EU protection. 

How does Google choose which directories get the limelight?

In short, nobody really knows. At times we’ve seen Google select third-party directories that have a very weak connection with the search query, adding confusion on their selection process. Let’s explore this further. 

When you type Electricians in Edinburgh into Google, one of the directories that’s made it in the local carousel is Gumtree – a website that you’d be more inclined to search for a pet cat than a professional responsible for the power supply of your home. 

Gumtree’s appearance seems slightly out of place in the local carousel, possibly suggesting that Google is still finding the right algorithm.

So what impact do the local carousels have on Local SEO?

The importance of citations has been hotly debated over the years, with many arguing that their influence on Google’s rankings is dwindling. But now it seems that the pendulum has swung the other way since directories are now being pushed to the front view in local SERPs. 

Local businesses in the EU will now need to ensure that they are signed up to all of the relevant directories if they wish to strengthen their online presence. If you’ve got a local business in the EU, then make sure you’ve got citations from the heavyweight directories, such as Yelp, Yell, Bing Places and Scoot.