- General Best Practices
In his popular webinar on school digital marketing realities people will love and hate this year, Red Abbott, Manager of Consulting Services at Finalsite, discussed a feature many users have started to come across in search: the Google carousel. This is a feature that appears in Google for certain searches in a list-like display called a carousel. Because of this feature’s influence searches for schools, Red hosted an in-depth webinar on the topic.
If you Google a category like "NFL teams," you'll see a “carousel” at the top of the page made up of "cards" representing the members of the group you just searched for — which looks like this.
The carousel is now a reality for many school-related searches, and is making an impact on the school research process for prospective families because the search results look different and the carousel sparks curiosity. It is also influencing how schools maintain search engine optimization to improve search results, rankings in search, and ultimately drive website traffic back to their school website because the carousel depends on their Knowledge Panel and the information behind their Google My Business to have their school come up in the most relevant searches.
How Does the Google Carousel Work?
When searching the term “boarding schools in New Jersey,” a carousel comes up with the best results according to Google.
Each card in the carousel represents a school that qualifies for that search term. The image pulled in is based on the information found in your Knowledge Panel, which often appears on the right side of a branded google search for your school’s name, specifically.
Pro Tip — The best way to control the image that ends up in the carousel is to clean up your school’s Google My Business listing and populate your profile picture in the profile in that account, as that image powers the image in the carousel.
Watch this webinar on demand any time here.
From the carousel, a user can select a card to find more information about the school. For instance, when you select Blair Academy, the search engine results page (SERP) changes, but the carousel remains at the top. On the page you’ll see the results change to content solely related to Blair Academy, including their Knowledge Panel. This feature allows prospective parents who are searching for boarding schools in New Jersey to quickly toggle through a variety of schools to learn more about them, without ever visiting their websites — resulting in something we refer to as “the search impression.”
Since Google is still working toward perfecting the carousel, you should also be aware that your search results may come up with a similar looking carousel from another source. Some common sources that Google will use to populate school search carousels are:
- Wikipedia category pages
For example, when you search “private schools in kentucky,” you may see a carousel “according to niche.com”. Niche.com is considered by Google to be a reliable source for individuals to discover schools and neighborhoods that are the best fit for their families, so it makes sense that they are a source Google uses to pull in similar information about schools in a given area.
Similarly, you may also see a view like this that looks exactly like the Google carousel, but is actually outsourced from Niche (in this case), which is noted by Google.
You may get the search results you want, but Google is simply pulling those results from another place. However, you also have control over this. By ensuring your directory listings have accurate and up-to-date information across the board, you can improve the accuracy of your school’s content in the carousel for related searches.
Google Carousel Functionality
When a prospective student does a Google search and a carousel of results comes up, their curiosity is piqued and he or she may start browsing through the carousel results. The user is able to click on a card, which will lead them to a new Google search that is specifically for the card selected.
For the search “boarding schools in new england,” Berkshire School is the first school to come up.
It’s important that your school’s information is as up-to-date as possible whenever someone finds your school from a search. For the most accurate Knowledge Panel on the right hand side, manage your school’s Google My Business listing to update information. You should also be paying attention to any online review written about your school and other important (and new) trends we’re still talking about that are influencing your online presence including:
- Posts from Google My Business
- Expanded Descriptions in Google Search
- Advanced Site Search
You can also influence the settings of your homepage title and description tags that come up on the first page of Google as well. Composer makes it easy for you to keep these updated in the backend SEO settings where you can update your SEO title, descriptions, keywords, image, and more.
Keep in mind, the links that come up below your homepage (Athletics, Login, and Student Life for Berkshire School) are controlled by Google. The search engine suggests these are the interior pages people are looking for most often.
Google keeps changing and searches evolve over time. Therefore, it’s important for you to pay attention to where your school is ending up in search. Is the most accurate, up-to-date information being listed online? Is the information coming up in your knowledge panel on Google the most important?
With these changes, we have to accept Google is not always perfect either. Don’t be surprised if you continue to do searches in Google and find that the carousel does not come up for you, or that Google will pull carousels from sources you don’t consider high-quality.
Be mindful that the information you list for your school should be clear and consistent across all search engines or directories in case Google pulls that information from elsewhere. With this in mind, be aware of the popular sites that Google trusts for results, such as niche.com, patch.com, and Wikipedia. One of the easiest ways to begin your SEO strategy is by optimizing your website for branded and unbranded searches.
Sound like a lot to manage? Don’t worry — we have an entire team that can help!
If you’re looking to improve your school’s search results, overall web presence, or grow your school’s marketing efforts, learn more about Finalsite’s Consulting Services and discover how we help schools with search engine optimization, school marketing strategy, digital advertising, social media services, and data insights & analytics.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite's Events Marketing Manager, Stephanie is passionate about sharing what's happening at Finalsite with all school professionals. She is a co-producer for the FinalsiteFM podcast network and brings a fresh perspective for marketing with her background in social media, communications, and radio broadcasting. Stephanie enjoys helping schools stay ahead of their marketing goals by tracking new trends and developments.