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Google is at it again with their algorithm updates.

This time they’ve gone after local search results and Search Engine Land has affectionately nicknamed the update “Pigeon” in its early days.

While there is still a lot of speculation and many are trying to determine just what type of effect Pigeon will have on local businesses there are some important facts you need to know. In this article we have compiled some of the most important questions about Pigeon and how it will affect your website’s visibility in search. Make sure to scroll to the end as we also give some pointers to start benefiting from Pigeon!

When did the Google Pigeon Update occur?

Google launched the Pigeon update on Thursday, July 24, 2014.

What is Pigeon algorithm update?

Unlike previous Penguin and Panda updates, Pigeon does not address quality or spam but is more of a fundamental change to the local search ranking algorithm. This is not a penalty based algorithm aimed at getting rid of low quality content from Search Results but instead a change to the actual search ranking algorithm itself.

Why is it called Pigeon?

Search Engine Land nicknamed this latest Google update Pigeon, in keeping with Google’s “P” animal naming system (Penguin, Panda). Pigeons are known to fly back home, which is fitting for this local search update. In the next few days we may get Google’s official name for this latest update.

How many queries are affected by Pigeon?

Usually Google gives an estimate of how many searches are affected by each of their updates. They have not released this percentage for Pigeon as of yet.

What Google Search results does Pigeon affect?

These updates apply to both Google Maps search results and Google Web search results.

So what is Pigeon all about?

Google says that this new local algorithm goes “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.”

What does that mean?

Previously small and local businesses had the advantage of being “local” and would appear in results for people who were searching within their proximity. According to Search Engine Land, as Google ties local results more closely to standard web raking signals we can expect bigger sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor (which have stronger SEO signals) to rank better than individual restaurants, hotels and other local-type businesses.

Many speculate that local search has just gotten a lot more difficult.

Is Pigeon worldwide?

Google has only launched Pigeon updates in US English search results so far. It is still to be known whether it will apply to other languages and countries. Furthermore, many SEOs speculate that the update is still in testing stages.

What type of changes have been noticed so far?

  • Google’s distance and location ranking parameters are said to be improved.
  • Local directories are getting better visibility in Google search results, particularly for restaurants. For example, a search for “Seattle Restaurants” shows some specific restaurants in the carousel but also lists directory sites like Urbanspoon, TripAdvisor, Yelp and Open Table.
  • Yelp listings are now showing at the top of search results when the word “Yelp” is used in the search.
  • Some have noticed that local listing packs (Google Places listed right in search results) have diminished. Mike Blumenthal reports a 24% drop, from being shown in 12% of localized results to being shown in only 9% of localized search results.
  • It also seems that local results for web designers and SEOs is back!

What can you expect from Pigeon?

It is still early to know how this update may affect your website traffic. Search Engine Land predicts that “some local businesses may notice an increase or decrease in web site referrals, leads and business from the change.”

Are there any bugs with Pigeon so far?

After the Pigeon update people noticed that Expedia was showing in the local carousel for a “New York Hotels” search along with Sheraton, Hilton, Marriot and other hotels. This issue has since been fixed (their Google+ local listing was in the travel category and has since been changed to Corporate Headquarters category) but it makes the important point that the category you choose to list yourself in is crucial!

What I can do in light of what we know about Pigeon so far?

  1. Make sure you claim your Google+ Local Listing and are in the right category. Provide enough content and pictures to entice visitors to come to your place of business.
  2. Make sure you are listed on the major directory sites relevant to your industry, as these seem to appear in Search Results more.
  3. Do a search for several of your most popular search terms to see what type of results Google is now showing. Are you still competing against your competitors’ websites or are you now up against several big players such as Yelp? You may need to readjust your online strategy.
  4. As your local listings become more dependent on your website authority it is extremely important to build out the content on your website, gather more customer reviews, find ways to attract credible backlinks and even conduct an SEO Audit to make sure your website has all the fundamental optimization to rak well.

For additional optimization tips read our Tips for Successful Local Business Listings!

Are You Scared of Pigeons?

If you are a local business and realizing you may need some extra optimization to help maintain your visibility, call us at 1-888-262-6687 or send us an email at We’d be happy to offer our services of optimizing your website, claiming your Google+ Listings or even run an AdWords campaign to help subsidize traffic.

Have you already noticed a change in your local rankings and traffic? What are your thoughts?

Carissa Krause

Carissa Krause is currently a marketing and project specialist at 1st on the List. Over the years she has worked with clients on a wide range of projects that include areas like local SEO, backlink profile review, content development, social media, and more. Whatever the project may be Carissa focuses on achieving greater efficiencies and putting plans into action.