Google Pigeon Update Ruffles a Few Feathers

Google Pigeon update

The unofficially labeled Google Pigeon Update, was released late July 2014 in the US has left many ruffled feathers in its wake. Google’s most recently released algorithm was designed to deliver more accurate and useful local results (associated with Google Maps’ 7-pack) that are more closely related to Google’s regular web ranking signals. It also ties into search features such as synonyms, spelling corrections, Knowledge Graph, and more.

A popular SEO blog, SearchEngineLand.com, reported:

Google has released a new algorithm to provide a more useful, relevant and accurate local search results that are tied more closely to traditional web search ranking signals. The changes will be visible within the Google Maps search results and Google Web search results.”

Although some businesses have benefited from the changes incorporated in this algorithm, many others have suffered. Many businesses have reported that their website rankings have improved in the search results; unfortunately they are not seeing an increase in traffic to their sites.

While the impact of this latest update to the algorithm will take some time to be fully realized, we at The Xcite Group are beginning to see some of the effects it has already had on the local search landscape.

Some of the Problems with the Pigeon Update

There are those that believe that the Pigeon update is actually doing a disservice to the general public by forcing big directories to appear prior to the businesses who are backed by good solid reviews.  So the search engine results pages are now filled with links to other directory’s own results page.

Many previously high-ranking local listing sites dropped off the map finding themselves replaced by Google Plus listings and pages that had never been in the 7-pack at all.

Businesses and industries who are heavily associated with review sites and directories, such as hotels and restaurants, find their search listings to be populated first with the review site and directory listings, such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Urbanspoon. These sites and listings rank higher due to their size giving them stronger search signals than the individual businesses themselves.

Some businesses and industries, such as law firms, real estate businesses and apartments, have discovered that Local Results have been removed completely for their search terms.

Here’s an example of a search for “dui lawyers denver” that prior to the update had the local map right under the PPC ads:

impact of Google pigeon update

As you can see, the “local” results are now gone and in their place, there are directories like AVVO and Thumbtack.

Some individuals in these businesses and others like them feel that Google is trying to bolster their profits by trying to force them into using AdWords campaigns in order to drive traffic to their sites.  Google will always be shaking up their organic listings and making any SEO results short lived and making people turn to their SEM  to continue to generate consistent traffic.  This has been seen over and over throughout the last several years; so it’s nothing new.   Internet marketing should never be an either/or conversation when it comes to SEO vs. PPC, but we will explore that in another article.

Some local business listings for brick and mortar shops have completely disappeared from the 7-pack and have been replaced by services with no shown address.

While Google’s intentions where that the update would improve search results for end users, so far the net result is leaving many frustrated.

Tips to Overcome Problems Caused by the Pigeon Update

If you find that the Pigeon Update has been detrimental to your SERPs, you may be asking yourself what you can do to boost your ranking. The following actions should get you well on your way:

  • First and foremost, you will want to make sure that your business’s listing details (name, address and phone) are correct and consistent across the various directories on the web.
  • Develop a strategy around getting reviews for your business online
  • If you are in one of those businesses or industries containing review sites and industry directories, you need to ensure that your business appears in those directories. Identify the directories and register your business providing complete information. Then work to collect positive reviews.
  • Ensure that your business/industry related Local Search terms have not changed. If they have, you will need to make changes as well.
  • If you find that your business/industry keywords no longer result in the local search 7-pack, concentrate on Organic SEO to make sure you appear in organic results and invest in PPC to drive a consistent flow of traffic to your site.
  • If your ranking has dropped since the Pigeon update, you should work on things like backlinks, social media and on-page optimization to create stronger Organic SEO signals.

In Closing

One positive change from the Google Pigeon update is the improvement of location and distance ranking parameters.  Further evidence that mobile is taking over a large percentage of search, which means it’s now more important than ever to have a well optimized Google My Business Page.  Having accurate information, reviews, pictures, videos and posts in this key Google platform, you will improve your results in local and map listings.

The main lesson in all of this:  Relax and don’t freak out.  What we have seen so far, is far from the end result of this update.  Google has constantly changed its search algorithm over the years and it is not uncommon for them to correct the course of an update like Pigeon.  Xcite will be keeping an eye on how things shake out and we will recommend adjustments to strategy as we see them.

Although many small to medium businesses have been detrimentally affected by the Pigeon update, others have benefited. Whatever the impact, it is apparent that Organic SEO has become a much more significant part of the Local search; and small to medium businesses who take advantage reviews, social media, SEO and PPC will come out on top.

If you need some assistance in formulating or optimizing any of your digital marketing strategies, call us today for an evaluation.