Here we go again! Just a few months after Google Panda 4.0 rolled through the Internet landscape, the search engine company hits us again with a mysterious new update that many are calling “Google Pigeon”. Maybe you’ve heard whispers about its emergence; maybe you haven’t heard about it at all and are ready to act now. Well before you do anything, here is the scoop on what we know.
What is Google Pigeon?
Just as Google Panda targets on-page SEO and Google Penguin targets off-page SEO, Google Pigeon has set its eyes on another important search engine facet: local SEO. To be clearer, Google Pigeon is a recent algorithm update whose goal is to improve local search rankings. The name is not an official Google term (it was a term coined by the reputable folks at Search Engine Land), but we think it works well too.
What can I expect from this algorithm update?
Google Pigeon is utilizing hundreds of web search ranking signals, in addition to search features like spell check and its knowledge graph, to provide stronger local results to searchers. If your website relies on local searches (for example, if you own a retail store or localized professional service), you may notice a change in your website’s search rankings.
This is particularly noticeable in Google’s designated “7-pack” or “3-pack” area where local search results are listed on the first page with a map pinpoint, address, phone number and reviews. Distance and location ranking parameters are appearing stronger, as are businesses with plenty of Yelp and Tripadvisor review support (which could be great news for small businesses). For example, businesses located closer to a city’s downtown center with strong Yelp reviews may see an increase in rankings while the big brand business located a few miles outside of the center may see a decrease in rankings.
In addition, many of the current 7-packs are being converted to 3-packs on desktop searches, reflecting a shift towards more targeted geo-searches, influenced by mobile results. As usual, everyone is experiencing a slightly different impact, and only time will tell the true results of this update.
Who is affected?
Right now Google Pigeon is only affecting US English results. We can assume that Google is using the US as a testing ground and will eventually roll out the algorithm updates to other languages and countries. Google has not explicitly announced what percent of queries have been impacted, but if past algorithms are an indicator of sorts, then we predict somewhere between 1% – 5% to be affected.
What do I need to do?
As noted above, only time will tell the true impact of Google Pigeon, so don’t make any rash moves just yet. However, there are plenty of things you can do in the meantime to help improve your local search rankings:
- Claim your Google listing and complete it 100% – Claiming your Google listing is crucial, but you also have to make sure it’s 100% completed. The most important thing is to complete it with honest information – don’t try to game the system and beat Google, because it will come back to bite you.
- Claim your local directory listings and encourage reviews – Make sure you’re listed on review sites like Yelp, Tripadvisor, and Yellowpages.com, all three of which appear to have benefited the most from this Google Pigeon algorithm update. Then do your best to encourage reviews from customers.
- Optimize title tags, keywords and more – There are plenty of other ways to improve your local search results. Discover them all here in our article about integrating local SEO into your digital marketing strategy.
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Has your website been impacted by Google Pigeon? Do you have any other insights into this intriguing algorithm update? We’d love to hear your thoughts below!