As we all know, Google makes a lot of changes to their algorithm every day, but when a codenamed update gets launched, its probably going to change SEO quite a lot as Panda & Penguin demonstrated. Pigeon was launched on July 24th 2014 for US English results, it is a new chunk of code that makes the search engine more useful, relevant and accurate for local search results and are tied very closely to traditional web search ranking signals. In an official Google statement, they mentioned that Pigeon will improve their distance and location ranking parameters.
Yelp specific queries
Yelp has been in talks with Google since mid-2014, accusing them of disregarding searches related to Yelp, the local review site, in the search engine’s results. They mentioned that even when searchers specifically request yelp related search, google’s algorithm pushes its own results above Yelp’s. This has since been change with the new Pigeon update.
Other local directories
A few other smaller directories also saw a boost in traffic, sites like Urbanspoon, OpenTable, TripAdvisor, Zagat, Kayak etc received a welcomed improvement in visibility following the introduction of Pigeon.
Pigeon seems to have had mixed results for most local businesses
As with most algorithm changes, the reaction seems to be mixed in most businesses. Some reports that they have gone from #1 to completely wiped clean off search results, only to be replaced by irrelevant search results with no address, while others saw a huge ranking boost. There are also reports of some specific businesses types experiencing a reduction in ranking, of which includes based on Abacus Marketing analysis:
- Mold removal
- Emergency plumber
- Real estate/realtors
- DUI lawyer
- DUI attorney
- and anything with the keyword commercial coming first
Cities are now multiple locations
With the introduction of Pigeon, large cities are now sliced up into smaller geolocation suburbs, which means it is no longer as effective to target city search queries but rather on a much smaller micro geolocationing scale. Originally this caused a lot of problems because some businesses from one neighborhoods is now in another due to how the geographical radii was calculated by the new equation. Also some of these businesses lost ranking in their own neighborhood which seems counterproductive to what Pigeon was trying to achieve in the first place.
Forget directory list spamming
Pigeon also affected webmaster’s ability to spam web directories with listing requests to get a free backlink going back to their site. Now it is significantly more rewarding to optimise your directory placement for only the top-ranked directories and not all of them.
Focus on content marketing & link earning
Prior to this, the local strategy to get high SERP for local businesses was to attain a large number of reviews, NAPs and spamming directories. This is no longer exclusively the case, the new update has placed less of a weight on reviews received and has put local businesses back in line with more traditional SEO link building strategies. The two things that local businesses with websites should focus on now is content marketing and good old fashion link building.
Believe it or not, local SEO is always moving and shifting, and with the recent update for mobile content weight businesses will now have to focus more on mobile optimisation too. The reality is that most searches to find local businesses on Google is coming from a mobile trying to find direction.
The post-Penguin era is an interesting one, with businesses that have skyrocketed in the ranking while others plummeted into abyss. As Google’s algorithm grows more complex, the ability for webmasters to manipulate the search engine becomes less likely and is increasingly becoming a bad practice or at least a very short term solution to getting decent SERP.