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Google is experimenting with a new change that could up the profile of local businesses in the search results. The search giant is conducting a limited test featuring a new card carousel of results and content from local businesses near the top of search results pages.

Mike Blumenthal first noticed the test, but it has since been confirmed by Google. The “Local Business Cards” use the same functionality as Candidate Cards, which were recently launched. The main difference with this new test is how limited it is.

Currently, Google is only including a “few dozen” hand-chosen local businesses in the experiment. Instead of pulling the content being used to fill the cards from search engine content or Google My Business listings, Google is also using custom content for the cards.

This test is also notable for being the first time Google has allowed animation or GIFs on the search results pages.

On desktop, you can see the Local Business Cards directly adjacent to the Knowledge Panel featuring that business. On mobile, it is shown below the Knowledge Graph. You can see an example below:

The idea behind the new test is to allow businesses to stand out more in search results and highlight content or information about the business’s products or services in ways not quite possible through the Knowledge Graph. With this in mind, Google has also made content directly sharable from within the carousel.

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Most likely this is an early test since Google chose such a small number of businesses and is using custom content to fill the cards. There’s no telling when or if Google will roll out the feature to a wider audience. Hopefully, the cards come soon, as they could be a huge benefit for local businesses that depend on organic search traffic.

Google Analytics is easily one of the most trusted analytics platforms out there, but new findings are suggesting it may not be as accurate as once thought. Most recently, Groupon published a study which indicates that as much as 60% of what Google Analytics calls “direct traffic” is actually from organic search.

The study was conducted by Groupon’s Director of Product Management, who manages their organic search. While not entirely scientific, his study involved completely deindexing Groupon from Google for 6 hours.

Deindexing means absolutely no traffic would be coming from Google for the duration of the study, which allowed the study to calculate roughly what percent of traffic is coming from organic search.

During the six hours the site was deindexed, Groupon’s direct visits dropped by 60%, which led Groupon to believe that 60% of what is called direct traffic is actually coming from organic search traffic.

Groupon isn’t the only site to conduct a study like this. Not long ago, Conductor, a well-respected internet marketing firm, released a similar study which led them to the conclusion that 47% of traffic came from organic search. Nearly a third of that was attributed to direct visits.

Conductor Corroborates Groupon’s Findings

Conductor Study

After Groupon released their findings, Conductor decided to revisit their initial study to see what would happen to the results if included the conclusions from Groupon’s study into their own data.

Conductor’s new findings state:

By taking 60% of visits originally attributed to ‘direct’ and reallocating them to ‘organic search’, organic search went from 47% of all visits to 64%. Direct visits dropped from 29% of visits to 12%. This significant discrepancy—17% separates the ‘before’ and ‘after’ allocations should be enough to give marketers pause—and question the assumptions on which their digital strategy lies.

While none of this means you should give up on Google Analytics (it is the best insight you have to website performance and how Google views your site), it does suggest that it is entirely possible that a much larger percentage of traffic is coming from organic search than previously thought.

It’s easy to get caught taking metrics at face value and not really interpreting what they mean. Benny Blum, for Search Engine Land, makes a valuable point about how time affects how you value your channels’ performances. You have to be wary of making changes too soon and effectively destroying what would have eventually been a great platform.

Obviously, there are difficult choices to make about where to allocate your ad budget across options like PPC, email, social media and organic search. However, if you looking at your click and conversion rates over an optimal amount of time, you might be overreacting to perceived underperformance.