A little while ago, Google brought in a new algorithm update, known as “Pigeon.” The goal of this algorithm is to make sure that local results are more relevant and useful. This is done by ensuring traditional web searches and local searches are more closely related. Whenever Google releases an update, however, people in the world of SEO and internet marketing panic. What are the implications of this update? How will they need to change their current practices to keep up with new rules? Indeed, the new update, although described as “generous” by many, does have a number of strong implications for brands. The biggest factor that matters is that the local listing has to be attached to a very strong domain. But what does it all mean?
The Goal of Pigeon
Pigeon has been designed to reward good behavior and quality.
Feedback from various sectors suggests that Google has chosen to reward authority sites. Established directories, such as Yelp, have benefited. Industries reporting an overall increase in results shown via Google Places include hospitality, food, education, law, transportation and fitness.
However, there are many rumors flying about in the SEO world as well, including the idea that there are multiple Pigeons and that each of these will be looking for different things. This is why, at the present time, the recommendation is to stick to your current strategies, including having a strong social media presence, asking customers for reviews and making local references in any content you produce.
Watch Out for Over-Optimization
At the same time, it is important not to over-optimize your site for local results. With the preliminary data that is available, it is shown that those businesses that are located inside city centers or just outside of it are having the best search results, with the largest and most significant drops happening for those businesses more than 20 miles away from that center. However, this still doesn’t mean that you should over-optimize for location.
Without question, optimizing your content remains a sound practice on local sites as it does for any website. That said, it appears that the over-optimization dial has been turned up significantly with the Pigeon update.
Indeed, the current recommendation is to take some of your postcodes or areas away to check whether your traffic and conversion rates will increase. It is far more important to be attached to a strong domain. However, once again, you must realize that Pigeon is still incredibly new and a lot of changes may still be on the horizon. If it is true that there are multiple Pigeons flying about, you will have to work on trial and error. If you do not see an increase in traffic and conversion by removing some postcodes, for instance, then simply put them straight back.
Experts throughout the industry have all stated the same: so far, Pigeon is only being tested on the US market, but this does not mean international sites aren’t affected, as they often try to get in on the local market. Additionally, although many industries have seen an increase in their traffic, some industries (job searches, cinema, real estate and insurance) saw a very significant drop. All of this means that, at the minute, you need to see the world of online marketing in terms of business as usual.
Just continue to use standard white hat SEO practices: write for humans, not robots. Pay attention to your keyword spread and density, and make your URL structure transparent. Now, more than ever, it’s also important to make sure your business is listed on local results databases in order to take advantage of a potential new business relationship.
So Far So Good?
Whenever there is a Google algorithm update, people panic. Google may give them cute little names like “Panda” and “Hummingbird,” but what they actually mean is tons of work for website owners, who suddenly have to rethink all of their SEO and content marketing strategies. However, at the moment, it looks as if the new Pigeon algorithm is actually working and that this effect is positive for people who are involved. This is particularly true for local website traffic.
While the SERPs were definitely shaken up, the reduction of local packs actually resulted in more traffic to local websites when we were expecting it to be less.
Additionally, local search strategies are improving, which can only be a good thing. The problem is, however, that people seem to think Pigeon is temporary. Naturally, Google tweaks its algorithms some 500 times per year (yes, that is more than once a day), but the big ones tend to be few and far between. Pigeon is classed as a big one, not in the least because it has a fancy, cute name. However, the effects on SEO activities seem to be too limited as of yet, so most experts are now sitting on tenterhooks, in the expectation of something bigger showing up all of a sudden. We can only wait and see.
In the meantime, there is a concern about how the algorithm will affect small- to medium-sized businesses and there is a significant worry about whether or not Google cares at all about the fate of these smaller businesses. It is certainly true that the mega-directories, like Yelp, are being favored massively through this new update, when it is these very huge directories that actually need the least amount of help. However, this is where the story goes back to a potential other Pigeon flying around the internet without people even knowing it. Indeed, it does not sound like Google will trample all over the smaller people by focusing on the bigger players. Luckily, however, help is being provided to smaller businesses who feel that they have been negatively affected by Pigeon.
If you are no longer included in the search radius you have several choices (besides opening another office). The one that makes the most sense is learn what geographic areas you are showing in and emphasize those AND find the less competitive categorical searches where you can compete to get some visibility.