Chris Silver Smith just penned a good article over at Web Marketing Today that I wanted to share.

Optimizing for Google's New Local Image Carousel » Web Marketing Today

...So, the carousel is primarily a user-interface refinement applied to the local ranking algorithm that’s already been in play for a while.

But there’s one exception: If your business doesn’t have images associated with it, it is now going to appear naked at the top of the search results.

The innovation brings with it a few benefits. Displaying businesses in a horizontal row seems to equalize them, compared to displaying them in a vertical list. Some of the changes Google has made lately to maps and local search results appear to downplay relative rankings, such as removing the alphabetical numbering system that associates business listings with map pinpoints.

Another benefit is that the images give businesses greater promotional power. Having a more compelling, attractive image than your competitors’ can influence your clicks and conversions.