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google pigeon affect on local search

 Local Business Search and the Google Pigeon Update

In July 2014 Google made yet another change to it’s search algorithm which once again highlights how SEO is an ongoing process and not a one off event. Google normally makes announcements of changes and give the updates names, many will have heard of the panda and penguin Google updates, but on this occasion it was not deemed significant enough to require naming. However, Google did confirm the change with Search Engine Land who decided the update was fairly significant and named it the GOOGLE PIGEON UPDATE (because this is a local search update and pigeons tend to fly back home).

This is a short article to shed a bit of light on the Pigeon update and how it might affect your website rankings in Google.

What is the Google Pigeon Update?

The aim of the new algorithm is to provide a more useful, relevant and accurate local search results. The changes will be visible within the Google Maps search results and Google Web search results and aim to provide users with relevant search results at a local level.

It seems Google classed this update as less significant than their Panda update probably because it isn’t a penalty based update. Penguin and Panda updates penalised low quality websites with poor content. However, this doesn’t mean you wont see significant movement in your rankings up or down the search engines which will in turn affect your online business leads and and referrals. Webmasters are reporting considerable changes in their local rankings over the recent weeks.

So what has Google Pigeon changed?

google pigeon update

1. Disappearance of the local 7 pack listings

One of the main changes is the disappearance of the local seven-pack listings for many searches. If over the past few weeks your website has encountered a traffic drop, this may well be due to the disappearance of your local listings.

The question is: Is this a good search engine algorithm change?

Well yes I think so. The front page had become cluttered with paid Google Ads ( the addition of Google Ads section before the organic listings as well as to the right of the search page) and local search listings were taking up a large area on the first page. Therefore, some websites (regardless of relevance and quality) were on the first page listings. It was common place to keyword stuff Google business pages to achieve first page ranking, until Google made changes.

It’s good to have some “7 pack” or local listings perhaps, but there were just too many, pushing good, reputable companies (who had failed to realise the necessity of a Google plus business page) onto the 2nd and 3rd pages. Seems to me a smaller “7 pack” search listing is better, providing the user with only 3 local companies and then a list of great websites for their search term too would surely provide more relevance and choice. However, in some cases, it appears the 7 pack” has disappeared altogether and I’m not sure this benefits the end user.


Google 7 Pack Example

How to recover rankings from Google Pigeon Update 7 Pack changes

If you have discovered a drop in traffic to your website this may well be due to the disappearance of certain of your local listings.

The only immediate solution is to run a pay per click campaign, but this could be costly if not optimised correctly and also depending on the competitiveness of your service, industry or product.

2. Local rankings affected by website authority

It’s expected that local rankings will be more determined by domain authority, backlinks and good SEO rankings factors.

The only way to improve this is to visit or revisit your onsite SEO and make it better than your competitors.

Run a thorough competition research to see how your backlinks, content and other SEO characteristics stand to those of other high ranking websites. You might have to consider employing an SEO specialist to help you out, particularly if you have little knowledge of on site SEO.

A great article to help you optimise your local listings is on MOZ here

3. Local directories like Yelp, Freeindex and Trip Advisor are seeing a boost in rankings

Local business directory sites have seen a considerable boost in rankings. Searching for “Plumber in Leeds” was the first time I noticed such a change. The first page and much of the second page listed only directory links, mainly to Freeindex, Yell, Mybuilder, Thomson Local, Rated People and Gumtree!

The simple solution is to make sure you have a profile on all the directories relevant to your business and then some more! Make sure these profiles are filled out in full with as much detail possible about your business.

Even if less of your potential clients may now be able to find your business website, many more of them can find you via local directory sites.

The key is to find as many local directories as you can in your industry or niche. Use online tools to find which directories your competitors are listed on and find more. Keep them industry or product related though.

Make sure you verify your business on Google My Business, Bing Places, Yahoo Local Listing, and Yelp for Business Owners.

I, amongst many, believe this change to be at the detriment of the quality of search engine results. Basically Google now lists search results within search results, directories fill the first pages of Google for many search terms. If you’re a small local business, you will probably need to work even harder to come out on top, and one of those steps is to utilize the fact that directories are listing higher, so encourage reviews off site on third party directories to list higher on those for your business category.

What should you do to improve Google rankings?

Here is a short list of recommendations for your local business to get better Google exposure, particularly since the Pigeon update.

  1. Make sure you have a Google+ page for your business – This is the easiest way to make sure you get listed in Google’s local index but it’s very important to make sure you verify ownership. This involves receiving a postcard/letter from Google containing a pin number which you must enter in order to complete verification.
  2. Make sure you list a proper category for your Google+ Page – If you are a Plumber and want to appear in Google for “Plumbers in Leeds” make sure you are listed as a Plumber or the closet related category n your Google Plus page.
  3. Use telephone number with a local area code – Best practice is to list your local number i your Google Plus page. You may have a mobile or a freephone number but your local area number should be the first number on your page.
  4. Make sure the Name, Address and Phone number on your Google Plus page is the same as that listed on your website. Local SEO experts believe that Google and the other search engines cross-reference this information across a variety of websites as a validation that you are a legitimate business.
  5. Confirm that your business address, name and numbers match across all local directories in which you are listed.
  6. It’s important to encourage reviews of your business, products and services on third party directories such as FreeIndex, Yelp, Trip Advisor and any other places you are listed which allow for reviews, most importantly Google Plus page. Make sure to encourage happy customers to leave positive reviews of your business.
  7. Your City or business location should be included in your website title tags. You may need to employ an SEO to help you with this.
  8. This is somewhat debated over but I can’t see how having service or product keywords in your business name or web address hurts your rankings. It may not have the influence it once had but your certainly are unlikely to be penalised for it and it might just give you that boost in rankings above your competitors.

If you’ve been ignoring local search engine optimisation, now’s the time to make it a priority in the light of the Google Pigeon Update!

Have you noticed a change in the search engine listings? Has your business dropped in the listings? Please feel free to comment below, I may be able to help!

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