In July 2014, a local search algorithm update was released, which was dubbed Google Pigeon. Under the algorithm, Google aims to release more useful, accurate, and relevant local search results, which are visible within Google Maps and Google Web search. With local searches attracting 50 percent of mobile users to visit stores, Google Pigeon may cause a pretty significant impact on local businesses as 18 percent of local searches lead to sales. With the threat of losing local rankings, the update has ruffled a few feathers of location-based businesses.
What is Google Pigeon?
Google announced the local search algorithm will dig deeper into search capabilities with the use of hundreds of ranking signals. As a result, local searches will now closely imitate those of organic search rankings. The loss in local ranking from the algorithm is attributed to Google’s tighter focus on local businesses within the precise area of search. Currently, Pigeon appears to be hitting specific queries and sectors, such as real estate, but other sectors are reporting an impact as well.
Although Pigeon is said to be the most significant local algorithm since the release of Google Venice, business owners may not see a huge impact on local search rankings. However, a change in website referrals and leads are bound to differ as distance and location ranking parameters will improve. Basically, the more your site is “pecked” by local visitors, the higher it will rank.
Changes to Local SEO
One of the biggest changes caused by the update is to Google 7-pack, where you’ll no longer see 7 listings, Now, you may only see two or three, if any at all. In addition, review sites are now taking prominence on the first page of Google, especially reviews that are posted on Google. Plus, Google Carousel is gaining in popularity as the results are more relevant, leading to 48 percent of all clicks as specific neighborhoods are now featured.
Sites Hit by Google Pigeon
So far, local directories, such as Yelp, have received a boost in ranking, as well as certain queries. After the release of the algorithm, hospitality queries experienced a 28 percent increase in Google Place results, while food queries increased by 19 percent and education by 13 percent. Other queries experienced only a slight increase, which include: spa, shop, law, medical, transportation and fitness.
Unfortunately, the algorithm isn’t all good news. There were some losers after the release. According to BrightEdge, queries relating to jobs plummeted 68 percent with real estate queries not far behind at 63 percent. In addition, movies, insurance, finance, furniture, and government queries were also negatively impacted by the update. Many businesses related to these queries suffered due to the fact the local carousel and the 7-pack results were changed by the algorithm.
“In the past, when you would search for something local, you would get your carousel results and then a list of organic results, like individual restaurants,” says SmallBusinessTrends.com. “Now, you will sometimes see directories showing up in the search results below the carousel including OpenTable, Urbanspoon, and even TripAdvisor.”
As Google continues to make listing management one of the most critical factors of local SEO, there are steps to take to ensure you stay on the positive side of the update.
Protection Against Google Pigeon
Whether you’ve been hit by Google Pigeon or just want to protect yourself against the algorithm, the solution is simple. Maintain your SEO strategy and focus on local ranking factors, such as local business directories. Naturally, the foundation to your local SEO strategy must include a well optimized and high quality website with a variety of local search terms. Other important factors include:
Local Listings– Stay on top of your local business directories, Google Maps, and Google+ Local to ensure your contact information is always current and any listings associated with your business are accurate and complete. Don’t forget to claim all listings that are associated with your business.
Backlink Profile– Maintain a quality backlink profile to strengthen your website’s authority. With solid backlinks from reputable local business directories pointing to specific pages within your website, you’ll build your backlink profile for local results.
Content Strategy– In addition to the 87 percent of buyers attributing online content to impacting their purchasing decision, your content strategy will also build your local authority and attract a more extensive customer base. Develop and implement a content strategy with a local focus and distribute your content on local-based platforms to further build a strong location factor.
As Google works to improve the distance and ranking parameters, local search results are now being displayed for a much smaller radius in an attempt to pinpoint a more relevant browser experience. With 97 percent of consumers searching for local businesses online, now is the time to start thinking locally using neighborhood indicators to allow Google to tune in to your exact location for the most relevant local ranking.
“Google “Pigeon” Updates Local Search Algorithm with Stronger Ties to Web Search Signal” SearchEngineLand
“Is Google’s New Local Algorithm ‘Pigeon’ for the Birds?” SearchEngineWatch