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Pigeon is a Google search engine update that affects local search results. The algorithm change focuses on providing more accurate, relevant results for local searches. Initially rolled out in late July in the US, the effects of Pigeon have recently been noticed in other country search results.

It is important to note that while Google has not made an “official” public announcement regarding this change, Search Engine Land was able to get comments confirming the update from Google. They commented

“… that the new local search algorithm ties deeper into their web search capabilities, including the hundreds of ranking signals they use in web search along with search features such as Knowledge Graph, spelling correction, synonyms and more.

In addition, Google said that this new algorithm improves their distance and location ranking parameters.” Search Engine Land, July 24, 2014

So what is Pigeon and how does it affect search results?

What we are able to surmise is that, like Hummingbird, Pigeon is a core change in how the Google algorithms present local search results. While there does not appear to be penalties associated with the update, some local results may have shifted. Any site that targets a local market – big or small should take note however as search visibility may be affected as there may be cases where a business was dropped from the results.

To see if your site was impacted by the change, look in your analytics software for organic traffic levels in late July and August. If you are targeting specific markets, be sure to segment your organic traffic by location. For US based companies, look for movement on or around July 25, 2014. Canadian results were not originally affected, but in late August, the updated algorithm was noticed in local results.

Local directory sites feature prominently in this update and are clear winners. Review sites such as Yelp, Urbanspoon, Yellowpages Trip Advisor appear more frequently after a local search. For example, in this search for “Ottawa sports bar” most of the results under the “map pack” are review sites.

What this means for local businesses

Local businesses should benefit from the update. With a consistent focus on providing relevant and quality results, Google appears to be surfacing truly local sites. Sites that take advantage of best practice optimization tactics for local sites should see an increase in search visibility. Ensuring listings in the major local directories are up-to-date will be a recommended tactic for both competitiveness and visibility.

With Google tying in traditional web search to local results, sites with poor local user experience, little to no local optimization and no visibility in directories such as Yelp will need to catch up. This will mean ensuring your site is both optimized for best practice search engine optimization techniques and for local search.

Larger brands

If Google is focusing on an enhanced local experience for local search results, then larger brands may find themselves with reduced visibility. Brands will need to increase their focus and attention on optimization for local markets. Location page optimization will be an important tactic as businesses will need to develop content with strong local signals.

As the changes become more visible and the search results settle it will be interesting to see how larger companies and organizations fare compared to their local competition. Was your site affected by this update?


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