Google has officially launched Carousel, an interactive set of local search results that appears at the top of the page once you’ve entered a Google query. Sweet! Aside from adding a snazzy visual element to search results, Carousel highlights the ever-growing importance of local search—and why your business needs to pay special attention to this area of SEO strategy.

How Carousel Works

First things first: how Carousel works. Hop over to Google and type in a local search query. We tried “Mexican restaurants Kansas City.” At the top of the page, you’ll notice a line of local results with prominent images, Zagat ratings, reviews, price category and other pertinent details.

Click on an image and the restaurant’s website and Google Places listing will appear at the top of the search results page, underneath the Carousel. From there you can click through to the website or continue searching.

Why Carousel Matters To Your Business

Sure, Carousel looks cool—but is it really that important? You bet your you-know-what. Local search (and visibility) has become increasingly important, and this new Google feature underscores how optimal online visibility can help your prospective customers more easily find you (translation: spend money with you).

Your first step? Make sure your business has a Google Places listing—and a complete and updated one, at that. See how prominently photos are featured? Make sure your Google Places listing includes photos and other relevant details like type of business, address, contact information, hours of operation, website, etc.

After that, take Carousel for a test run. Search your business category and city and see what sort of visibility your business has in the results. If you’re not as high in results as you’d like, take some steps to improve your local search visibility. Consistently deliver kick ass customer service, figure out a way to get your customers to write reviews, and make sure your business is listed on other directory sites like Yelp, CitySearch and InsiderPages, to name a few.

The Internet is, more than ever, all about serving up the results that people need, when they need them. And if someone is searching for a local business, you want to make it as easy as possible for that person to find you and become a customer. Features like Google Carousel are making it easier for business owners to truly cash in on SEO optimization—you just have to be ready to take advantage of them.