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Google Launches New Pigeon Update

Monday, July 28th, 2014

Google recently pushed out a new algorithm update for local search, which Search Engine Land dubbed the “Pigeon” update.

Why “Pigeon”?

Depending on how your site has been affected and your recent SEO efforts (or lack thereof), some might argue it’s the proverbial kaka that you may have to deal with in the local search results.

But more likely, it’s based on the heart of Google’s search technology, PigeonRank™, a system for ranking web pages developed by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. PigeonRank’s success relies primarily on the superior trainability of the domestic pigeon used for thousands of years to carry brief written messages.

But, I digress.

Google confirmed that the update started to roll out on July 24th for US English results. The aim of the update is to provide a more useful, relevant and accurate local search results, with enhanced distance and location ranking parameters. Google also said there were relevancy improvements to distance and location ranking. And unlike Penguin and Panda updates, this is not a penalty-based update, but a core change to the local search ranking algorithm.

  • Local listing packs disappear for a large number of keywords
  • Local rankings are expected to depend more on website authority
  • Local carousel stays as a way to gain extra exposure

Google Pigeon UpdateSEO expert, Mike Blumenthal, noted that 7-local listing packs have disappeared, many real estate related searches have dropped out, while SEO and web design local packs are back after being dropped in 2009.

Search Engine Land reported that the Pigeon update solved Google’s “Yelp problem”:

It looks like Yelp and other local directory-style sites are benefiting with higher visibility after the Pigeon update, at least in some verticals. And that seems logical since, as Google said, this update ties local results more closely to standard web ranking signals. That should benefit big directory sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor — sites that have stronger SEO signals than small, individual restaurants and hotels are likely to have.

In a sense, this update has reduced organic duplicate results, and while the overarching impact is still unclear, there’s speculation that Google is attempting to better align desktop and mobile results.

The assumption of local intent has now been dialed back in a number of cases, so local companies that were experiencing good local pack rankings – despite having a poor SEO website presence – will likely have to step up their game.

Tips:

1.    Create a Google+ Local page for your local business so that you’re included in Google’s local index.
2.    Use a local area code on your Google+ Local page. It should match the area codes traditionally associated with your city.
3.    Make sure the website URL, name, address and phone number of your business match your Google Places/Google+ Local page. Google cross references this to verify everything matches.
4.    City or state should be included in your website’s title tags.

One could speculate that Google *might* be doing what another web powerhouse did recently, working out to their financial benefit. Facebook just experience its biggest financial quarter to date. Did Google just pull a “Facebook”?

Time will tell, but let’s hope not.

Someone once said (attributed to Scott Adams but most likely originated elsewhere), “Accept that some days you’re the pigeon and some days the statue.”  Keep up with your site’s SEO, local search and updates to make sure you don’t get – you guessed it – pigeon-holed.