October 25, 2014

Local Marketing and the Google Pigeon Update

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google pigeon update

Recently, Google made a change to the algorithm to help improve the accuracy and relevancy of local results. To be clear, the algorithm was coined “Google Pigeon” by Search Engine Land and not Google, but the change happened nonetheless. When Google comes up with a name for the algorithm, we’ll update you right away.

For now, the algorithm was significant enough to earn its own animal. Although we still don’t know how many companies were affected, we do know that overall, local businesses are seeing either increases or decreases in website referrals and traffic.

The idea is to offer local search results that are more closely related to some of the ranking signals they use in Web search as well as other features like the Knowledge Graph, synonyms, etc. The Google Pigeon algorithm change is also said to improve distance and location parameters, so local search should be more accurate overall.

Analyzing the Google Pigeon Update and Its Effects on Local Businesses

The Google Pigeon update was officially launched July 24, so there has been a little bit of time now to really analyze what has changed and whether or not the update was significant. For local businesses it is significant, and fortunately in a good way. Local directories are specifically getting the most benefit out of the change.

In the past, when you would search for something local, you would get your carousel results and then a list of organic results, typically individual restaurants. Now, you will sometimes see directories showing up in the search results below the carousel including OpenTable, Urbanspoon, and even TripAdvisor. This doesn’t happen with every search query, but we’re seeing it more and more so this may be a trend for the future (or something Google is trying).

Below is a screenshot example of a query with local directory results. For this particular query (and with many other examples), an individual restaurant didn’t show up in organic results until page two. If you were to continue scrolling down this page, you would see results from Zagat, Yelp, and even Groupon:

google pigeon

[Click image for larger version]

Again, this is only the case for some search results.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Yelp ordeal has been solved with this change. Last week we reported about some of the confusion with Yelp and Google, essentially reporting that Yelp wasn’t showing up on search results even when the word “yelp” was used in the search query. In other words, Google was accused of putting their own local results first even when they weren’t the most relevant.

Since the new update, this is no longer the case and Search Engine Land gives several examples here.

What It Means to You

As discussed above, if you’re a directory this is a good thing. However, other local businesses may suffer. Keep in mind the goal of this Google Pigeon algorithm update – to tie local results more closely to standard Web ranking signals. With this in mind, it’s those sites that have solid and strong SEO signals that are going to prevail. Directories generally do outrank individual companies in this area, so local businesses are going to have to work harder to come out on top.

Currently this update was only rolled out to US English results, and so far that’s about all we know. We don’t know when Google plans to roll Google Pigeon out to other countries (if at all), and we don’t know the percent of queries impacted. We’re hoping the details will come soon and we will keep you updated.

In the meantime, check out your own metrics and let us know if you’ve seen any changes and what you think of the Google Pigeon update.

Carrier Pigeon Photo via Shutterstock

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HigherVisibility HigherVisibility is part of the Small Business Trends Publisher Channel, offering a full range of professional interactive marketing services. The mission of HigherVisibility is to provide clients “Valuable Solutions with Visible Results.” HigherVisibility works with companies of all sizes, offering advice on topics ranging from keyword research to algorithm updates.

16 Reactions

  1. We’ve certainly noticed a change! And very definitely not for the good. We work nationally but most of our current off-line events are in Bristol where we get lots of PR, hundreds of attendees and a regular stream of comments and members. But we’ve been working online nationally for a while now. However what has happened is that unless we put the word Bristol into the search term we don’t appear. Our site is one of the main content-driven platforms for female entrepreneurs throughout the UK yet we simply no longer appear.
    So now we will have to slog through all our pages trying to take out refs to Bristol I guess. Can’t think of what else to do.

  2. After content, now the focus is on local. I’ll wait until Google gave it a formal name.

  3. I don’t agree with that for local businesses the change it is significant, and fortunately in a good way. We got our google map listing completely deleted, cause there is another business at the same address, so how is this possible??? We have been at this address 3 years wtf ,I think google tolerate the big companies which are paying for adwords campaigns. I have seen screenshots in other forums in NY for hotel search, in old search you see 2 probably small businesses(hotels) in the new one these two are gone and guess what is the line up : Hilton, Sheraton, Marriot etc…very fair is it!!! F google this is e joke, I hope somebody develop new search engine and take over and of course be more fair to small businesses.

  4. Google’s really honing in on local marketing. Calling on Foursquare to start reviving it’s platform.

  5. “Its Affects on Local Businesses” .- I’d make that an “E”ffects … As for: “… update was only rolled out to US English results …”: the further Google tries to deliver “semantic” (instead of schematic) results, the more error prone these could eventually get, the further removed from (US) English. Because the more “local” you get, the more vernacular you get. And as long as Google translator has difficulties, so will the search engine providing the translator too. Which bodes ill for future language-dependent updates and, at least, I would guess the time lag between US English algo updates and other languages will increase with each iteration.

  6. Our Phones have all but stopped ringing. IF we get calls they’re almost guaranteed to be from yelp.
    Due to Google entirely taking us off the search. “Jeep dealer boston”
    We are facing layoffs.

    It is despicable that a 2 bit business around the corner from us comes up in front of us. Also disgusting is the fact that ALL OF OUR COMPETITION COMES UP BUT WE DONT.

    Anyone seeking suit against Google yet? With great power comes great responsibility & they should be held accountable for theyre actions!

    • It’s a sad situation to be in but it’s hardly Google’s fault.

      You’re not showing up for the search term “Jeep dealer boston” because you are not targeting that particular search term, after looking at your website I can see no reference to that term not even in your list of keywords.

      You need to revise you keywords and target more service related ones such as “Boston Jeep Service” Boston Jeep Maintenance” and search terms without any location reference like “Jeep Service” “Jeep Maintenance” because Google know where you are.

      You could also market your great 5 star reputation to get more customers.

  7. Cool article, really informative, will definitely help with our business marketing strategy.

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