Google’s latest update didn’t come with too much fanfare, although it definitely caught the attention of many businesses – especially local ones. With no official name from Google, this latest update was dubbed “Pigeon”, and which also keeps the naming protocol in line with the recent “Penguin”, “Panda” and “Mockingbird” updates.
The reason for the name choice is not surprising, considering how Google’s latest algorithm changes “reverts” to the old-school search engine rankings. Essentially, it digs through a deeper layer of data when producing search results.
The Yelp Problem
To understand exactly what’s going on, we have to take a quick look back on local directories online. Yelp has been a giant when boosting online presence for local products and services. Being one of the few “firsts” in the niche, Yelp had all the important SEO-based elements to put it on the top of local searches.
In 2012 however, Google launched its own local directory dubbed “Google Places”. Despite being new, searchers have noted that Google Search Results is favoring Google Places in local searches, often placing it on the top of the list while websites like Yelp and TripAdvisor get the bottom bunk.
To prove their point, Yelp uses the keywords “Gary Denko Yelp”, only for Google to churn out the official website of Gary Denko followed by multiple Google Plus and Google Places listings. Even with the word “Yelp” in the keyword, Google seems to be favoring their own directories in order to manipulate traffic. In the new algorithm however, all this changes with local listings becoming more standard with long-standing websites like Yelp regaining the top spot again in searches.
Of course, it’s important to note that Google didn’t explain why they made this change. Is it because they’re trying to remove the suggestion of bias or is it something more?
Either way, this recent modification can help numerous local business owners with their online promotion.
What Happens Now?
Simply put, the impact of the Pigeon update is to keep local search results basic with heavy emphasis on SEO. For the most part, this translates to less Google+ and Google Places results at the top of the page, replaced instead by domains like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and UrbanSpoon.
Note though that Pigeon is still limited in its scope. Right now, the algorithm only works for the United States English with no news as to when it will affect other countries and languages. We’ll be keeping an eye out and looking for changes on Australian shores over the coming months.
Improving your Pigeon Ranking
If you’re a local business owner, what does this mean for you exactly? Not much right now, but you’ll have to start revisiting the old local directories you used to maintain. If you have accounts in Yelp and TripAdvisor, make sure to visit those immediately and start updating your information. Other things you should start doing include:
Check your Listings
Since the algorithm has changed, the old directories where you get most of your traffic and customers are no longer effective. It’s possible that your customers are coming from an entirely different listing now, which means that you have to reassess your position. Find out where most of your traffic is coming from and concentrate most of your marketing and improvement on that aspect to draw in more people. Create new accounts in large directory websites if you don’t have any yet.
Maintain Your Google Accounts
Google remains a very powerful force when it comes to search engine rankings, which is why you shouldn’t abandon it entirely. You can focus on your “higher ranking” directory listings, but take the time to update Google+ and Google Places as well, just in case a new algorithm is introduced.
Update Your Website
It doesn’t matter how many local directory listings you find yourself in – your website should still be top priority. This is basically the “landing pad” for your customers where they’ll find more extensive information about what you are and what you offer. Even if the Pigeon update gets rolled back, an active and well-maintained website will help maintain a respectable ranking.
Connect with Customers
Don’t forget to take the time in answering questions, posting comments and generally connecting with your clients. Advertise physically, put up pamphlets and encourage customers to leave reviews on your Yelp, Facebook, TripAdvisor, and other accounts. With more reviews under your belt, you’ll find that you’ll should still maintain your ranking even if Google changes their algorithm again.
Google’s Pigeon update might well be a game changer when it comes to local directories. Make sure you cover all bases and to play it safe and act upon any updates Google might make.