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Google’s Pigeon Update Explained and Local SEO Strategies

Like a homing pigeon is known for finding its way home, Google’s Pigeon algorithm update was specifically designed to provide users with relevant query results close to home. At its debut, Pigeon was revolutionary and especially loved by local businesses with good SEO practices. For the first time, Google’s algorithm made it so that local searches really had the opportunity to shine, ranking higher than other non-local competition. Below, we tell you everything you need to know about Pigeon: what it is, how it works, and how to adjust your SEO so that you can work the update to your advantage.

Launch Date: July 24, 2014

With the rollout of Pigeon, Google was able to provide more useful, relevant, and accurate local search results to its users. Building on the Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird algorithm updates, Pigeon’s focus is specifically on local queries. Unlike Panda and Penguin, Pigeon is not a penalty-based update but is a core change to Google’s algorithm.

What Google Pigeon Impacted

Though Pigeon isn’t penalty-based, it’s obviously still important that you know how the update affects Google’s web crawlers and what you need to implement in order to rank as high as possible, especially if local patrons fuel the lifeblood of your business.

Poor On-Page SEO

Penguin’s new local search algorithm is now tied more closely with traditional search ranking signals. In other words, your site needs to be as authoritative as possible and have good SEO E-A-T. Don’t skimp on SEO strategies when building your site.

Poor Off-Page SEO

Your site isn’t the only place on the web you need to be monitoring to get high local rankings. If you don’t have your business listed in online directories like Yelp, Trip Advisor, OpenTable, or the like, Pigeon can count it against you, and your rankings will be lower than your competition.

How The Pigeon Algorithm Works

Google’s Pigeon update affects local searches and those searches where location plays an important role. Unlike before Pigeon’s release, traditional SEO factors come into play when ranking local results. So local companies now have to invest more energy and resources into their SEO strategies, both on their site and on other locations online—specifically business directory sites.

One of the most obvious notable results of Pigeon was the decrease of Google’s local results “pack.” Originally, these packs were a set of 7 local businesses that would result from a search. Pigeon reduced that number from 7 down to just 3 listings beginning in 2015, about a year after it was implemented.

Additionally, Pigeon causes Google to take into account businesses with a location and distance most relevant to the user. Smarter than ever before, Google’s core algorithm alters the local listings in the search results and gives the top spots to local directory sites.

How to Update Your Local SEO To Take Advantage of Google Pigeon

Pigeon is a fantastic update for local businesses—if you know how to SEO. There are a few things you can tweak on your site to ensure that you achieve the highest possible ranking, snagging a spot in the coveted 3-pack local results.

Emphasize traditional SEO

Do the old-fashioned hard work of traditional SEO. Build links, publish content that goes above and beyond to give your users the best information, and utilize keywords your target audience is searching for.

Focus on the city or region-specific content

Create images, videos, or written content that associates you with a specific area, whether it be a city, state, or region. This will strengthen your authority on local searches.

Publish in local directories

Local directories, like Yelp, OpenTable, Four Square, and the like, are where people go to get reviews of the place places to shop, eat, and stay local—plus more. These sites are huge in not only driving business to your own site, but they help legitimize you in the eyes of Google’s crawlers. The more sites like these that you publish your information on, the more authority and legitimacy your own site will have, and the higher it will rank on local searches.

Register for a Google My Business page

Chances are, you have a Google My Business page, even if you don’t remember signing up for it. Google My Business indexes your business’s information so that it’s consistent across Google Search, Maps, and more. Once you’ve got your page, optimize it so that Google has all the info it needs to see that you’re a legitimate local business. 

Conclusion: Pigeon is Your Local Guide

When you’re conducting a local search, the Pigeon update makes sure you get results that are most relevant to you right where you’re at during the time of the search. Working off of the prior three algorithm updates, Google created Pigeon to give you local search results that you actually want: they’re nuanced, legitimate results—not spam— that are physically near to you. For searchers and local businesses alike, Pigeon provides an excellent experience for Google’s users. If you need help with your enterprise SEO or local SEO feel free to reach out.