Have you seen a slow decline in organic search traffic?
You are not alone.
SEO has become more complicated, yet it remains the most effective and sought-after source of traffic and conversions.
Google’s search results are becoming richer and more interactive, but there’s still an opportunity for brand visibility in almost any of them.
Here’s a clear guide on one of the newest and fastest-developing search elements: Google’s carousels.
What are Google carousel results?
A Google carousel is a row of rich (i.e., visual) results that searchers can interact with.
They’re common on mobile devices, but you can see certain types on desktops as well. Here’s an example of Google’s video carousel on desktop:
And here’s how it looks on a mobile device:
Another common carousel type presents image results in a carousel (searchers can scroll through to see more images):
Types of Google carousels
Google has been experimenting with these search elements for years, gradually expanding the types and showing them for more and more queries. Currently, these carousel types are generally supported:
Probably the most common type of carousels, this type can be seen on both desktop and mobile devices.
These mostly appear on mobile devices for queries where Google may have found that searchers respond best to image results. On desktop, this element usually appears as an image block instead of a carousel. Using the “types of neckwear” example above, here’s what the image carousel looks like on desktop:
Exclusively for mobile search results, “interesting finds” is an interactive list of what looks like shareable listicles on a related topic:
Triggered by what Google knows about a topic, these carousels usually contain “entities” Google associates with the target search query, for example, “best movies on …,” “places to see in …,” “names of …”
How to optimize for Google carousels
Like any other newer search elements in Google, carousels don’t appear for every result. They can come and go for different queries, so it is not always a good idea to go after existing opportunities. That said, it is smart to keep an eye on and optimize existing opportunities, but don’t stop there.
Generally, use a mobile device to search for your target query and note existing carousel opportunities to target.
Remember, Google generates carousels based on the search intent it determined for each query. This information also will help you better understand your target searcher.
What do the results tell you about your target audience and how can you serve your target better based on search elements you see in Google’s search results?
Video carousels are probably the easiest to optimize for. Just get into a good habit of creating a video matching each target query.
It sounds challenging, but it is quite doable. Online video creators like Renderforest allow you to create professional videos in minutes. You pick a template, edit each scene to add your text, screenshots, and images, and you are pretty much done.
To make it easier, you can type your script and Renderforest’s tool puts together the video:
When customizing your videos, you choose existing elements or upload your own. You can use free footage in case you’re looking for something specific.
The best place to host the video is YouTube. Not only is it a powerful platform in itself, it also boosts your video ranking potential. It’s no secret that YouTube videos dominate Google’s search results. Having videos on YouTube allows you to build additional organic search visibility.
Image carousels heavily rely on Google Image results, so it comes down to following best image optimization practices. Put simply:Make sure your image file name contains your target keywords. Always use alt text when embedding your images into your content. Use original and useful images (i.e., avoid stock photography). Images should be an important part of your context, not just a decorative element. Make sure images are compressed to load quickly. (Plug-ins can do image compression for you.)
A more thorough visual marketing strategy also will help increase organic visibility. Images have been scientifically proven to improve on-page engagement which, in turn, leads to higher rankings and better conversions.
Interesting finds carousels
This carousel type remains almost a mystery for SEO because Google seems to pick this content arbitrarily. That said, these carousels do seem to have a common theme – listicles – and they are more likely to cover topics in industries like travel, entertainment, and fashion niches.
If you are into a niche naturally designed for host carousels (e.g., movies, recipes, courses), use ListItem Schema to mark up the list. Make sure all items on the list are the same type (e.g., those are all movies). Google offers detailed guidelines on how to implement this markup.
I think there’s nothing wrong with using the rich markup to structure your text regardless of your niche now. Then, if Google expands the list of supported topics, you may be seen as an early adopter.
Knowledge base carousels
There’s no direct answer on how to create and structure your content to increase the likelihood it will be included in a knowledge base carousel or knowledge graph.
Even those brands included in Google’s knowledge listings don’t really know how they got there, as I am living proof:
It makes sense, though, that you’re on the right path if you’re building your brand and connecting with sites currently identified in Google’s knowledge carousels and graphs.
In practice, this includes:Conducting queries for “best in/of” in your niche Reaching out to all those listicle authors in the results and asking them to include you on those lists as well Creating a more detailed About-Us page and linking to your industry’s entities (awards, companies, known sites, etc.) Getting your site linked from Wikipedia (I have some tips here.)
Whenever I optimize for the Google knowledge base, I start with Text Optimizer, which grabs search results for the query and clusters them into concepts and entities based on what Google knows about that topic.
In other words, grab a currently well-known brand in your niche, run it through Text Optimizer, and find what and who Google associates that brand with:
This is what you want your own brand to be associated with to get into that knowledge map.
Step on the carousel
It’s hard to keep up with Google’s search engine result pages. By embracing a higher-level content strategy that includes content diversification and intent optimization, you will organically capture more search carousel opportunities.
All tools mentioned in the post come from the blog author. If you have another tool to share (your brand’s or another’s), please include in comments.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute