This is Google’s new layout view on Local Search, Google Maps and Google Plus (+). The official name or concept is called the interactive “Carousel”. Google started using this horizontal bar in December 2012 on tablets, but Google made an official announcement on June 18, 2013, where its use is limited by geo locations and limited search topics.
It seems to be expanding pretty fast. Do a search on restaurants, bars, hotels, grocery stores, coffee shops and other similar things that mostly are a local type search. Google seems to think that if you search for BBQ restaurants, you must be looking for a local BBQ place to eat at right now. Google displays an image, review counts, price range and puts them in a black bar at the top that is clickable and scrollable. Then a map is place on the right side below the carousel bar display.
When you click an image, business listing, the whole page is all about that specific business you clicked on. The search text you typed in changes, the map now has all the details of the business and the search engine results are all sites, pages and social listings about the business you clicked on.
Google will be adding more features to this local search concept and making it more interactive. The black bar does seem like a good start. From the early reviews and comments I’ve read, most people like it. From an SEO point of view and how it will affect ranking or getting more traffic to you site, the picture is playing a large role right now (at least for the initial click). For now, the top ranking sites in Google SERPs are seemingly the same order of the Carousel business listings.
Reviews and review rankings from Zagat, Google user reviews and info from the Google+ pages is used in the listings. It seems that the better information, pictures and optimized your Google Maps and Google+ pages are, the more benefit you will get from this new layout… Google’s new Black Bar, called the Carousel for Local Business. Note that parts of the Google Knowledge Graph are also being used.