Google quietly rolled out a significant local algorithm change in late July that has rocked local SEO. This update has been nicknamed, Pigeon, and there a number of things about it that are still a mystery.
The SEO community is reporting considerable changes in local placements across the board, and the changes are still fluctuating. Let’s take a look at what we know about Google’s Pigeon update, how if may affect your local search engine rankings, and what you need to know going forward for your local SEO strategy.
This new Google algorithm update has been labeled “Pigeon” by Search Engine Land because this is a “local search update and pigeons tend to fly back home.” Although the “core changes” are behind the scenes, the visible changes will be within the Google Maps search results and Google Web search results.
- According to Search Engine Land, this update aims to “provide a more useful, relevant and accurate local search results that are tied more closely to traditional web search ranking signals.“
- This is not a penalty based algorithm update like the Penguin and Panda algorithm updates, but a “core change to the local search ranking algorithm.”
- Pigeon currently only affects local queries in English in the United States.
What Types of Businesses Benefits from Local SEO?
You may be wondering if Pigeon has any affect on your business website’s search engine rankings. Any business that serves the local community and has clients in the local vicinity will be affected by local SEO and potentially Google Pigeon. Examples of some of those businesses include:
- CPA Firms
- Hair and Tanning Salons
- Day Spas
- Insurance Agencies / Brokers
- Basically anyone who serves clients at a physical business location with an address in a city and may be affected by Google’s Pigeon update. This includes social media marketers, web designers and other professions.
What Changes has Google Pigeon Brought to Local Search?
Google Pigeon has brought significant local algorithm changes. While the SEO community is still observing and analyzing local search data as it relates to Google Pigeon, here are five observations that you will want to know about:
- Local Pack Lists Results Drop
Google’s local pack is a group from 2 to 7 local listings in the local search results that list a group of businesses by name, address, and phone number. What we are seeing after Google Pigeon is a drop in local packs for specific keywords. In Moz.com’s tests, there was a 23.4% drop in net change. The tests also indicated that there were both losers and winners in this local pack display change. The following is an example of a Local Pack in Google search results:
- Local Rankings Influenced by Website Authority
It appears that local rankings are being influenced by traditional search ranking signals including backlinks, domain authority and other ranking factors.
- Local Directories Given Prominence
Some experts in the SEO community are seeing a ranking boost to local directories including Yelp and TripAdvisor. When checking one client’s local listing post Google Pigeon, I actually observed what appears to be a correction. Yelp listings had been predominant in the search results in that particular local market. After Pigeon, the 7 Pack is appearing before the Yelp results. One suggestion as to why Pigeon appears to be favoring directory sites is that they are most likely authority sites.
- Local Carousel
Google’s Local Carousel appear to be unchanged in Pigeon. Results predominately show local businesses and organic results are predominately directory results. Below is an example of a Google’s Local Carousel results for the search term, pizza in Ann Arbor:
- Google Reviews are Golden
Google reviews appear to be giving weight to local search results. In one market that I observed, it actually appeared that the number of Google reviews influenced the ranking within the local pack.
Google Pigeon – Watch and Wait
What we do know is that since Pigeon rolled out on July 24th, results have been changing daily. It will be a watch and wait game to see what ultimate changes Pigeon will bring for local search when the algorithm levels out.
What you need to know going forward for your local SEO strategy
Going forward, it will be essential to follow best practices for ethical organic search engine optimization including:
- Google+ Local Page – If you don’t have a Google+ Local Page for your business, either claim the listing that Google may have set up for your business or have one set up. If you do have one, be sure that you have verified and have optimized it.
- Provide Value – Concentrate on creating unique and valuable content.
- Consistent NAP on Website – Be certain that your website is optimized for local search by including your company’s NAP (name, address and phone number) on each page.
- Consistent NAP on External Sites – Be sure that your website’s NAP is consistent across external website and directories including Yelp, CitySearch, etc. This includes your Google+ Local Page.
- Google Reviews – You may like to carefully encourage honest and legitimate Google reviews. Ways to do this include including links to your Google+ page on correspondence. Google has clear review guidelines that include:
- If you own or work at a place, please don’t review your own business or employer.
- Don’t offer or accept money, products, or services to write reviews for a business or to write negative reviews about a competitor.
- If you’re a business owner, don’t set up review stations or kiosks at your place of business just to ask for reviews written at your place of business.
Google’s Pigeon local algorithm update has rocked local search engine rankings and the rocking is still rolling. There are some important observations that have been made since its debut of July 24th, 2014. As things are still shifting and changing on a daily basis, it is a “watch and wait” game. For now, following local SEO best practices is highly recommended.
Your turn: Has your business been impacted by Google’s Pigeon update? Have you observed any significant changes to your website’s local search results since Pigeon rolled out?