November 18, 2014

What Google’s Pigeon update means for you

“Google has released a new algorithm to provide more useful, relevant and accurate local search results that are tied more closely to traditional web search ranking signals. The changes will be visible within the Google Maps search results and Google Web search results.

The core changes are behind the scenes, but it does impact local search results rankings and some local businesses may notice an increase or decrease in web site referrals, leads and business from the change.

Google told us 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

On July 24, news hit that Google had quietly made changes to its local ranking algorithm, dubbed “Pigeon” by Search Engine Land (SEL) in the absence of an official name by Google.

The changes look fairly positive, moving toward more traditional signals that aren’t as reliant on search engine optimization whiz-kids involvement, presumably to give a chance to more traditional offline businesses which may improve the Google users experience.  For example, would a typical user prefer a coffee made by a barista more interested in optimising search for rankings?  Or would a better user experience come as a result of a coffee aficionado’s work who could be blissfully unaware of the concept of SEO full-stop?

So generally this is being viewed as a step forward in offline user experience, even if it has ruffled a few feathers in the SEO community.

What It Means For You

Local Businesses
Local businesses are being helped by Google to appear ahead of ultra optimised pages. Eg. An optimised blog about ‘New York Style Sushi’ will no longer appear before your Manhattan Sushi Bar when a user searches for “New York Sushi”; especially if the search is made from a local IP address.  The shift from link authority and onsite SEO toward offline address and directory listings has worked in your favour.

Location Based Blogs
Not as rosy an outlook unfortunately, much of the traffic you were receiving, especially in branded search (related to specific destinations/attractions) will now be affected. Whilst your content could be valuable to the user in research queries, Google is prioritising Local Business sites themselves; which are more suitable for users closer to taking action.

Agencies
Agencies should be taking action to ensure their clients are optimised for this algorithm change. Placing extra emphasis on citations and NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) consistency.  Tools such as Get Me Everywhere allow agencies to manage multiple client details, tackle inconsistencies, handle information changes and stay Google friendly.

Users
You can expect to see more relevant results in searches with local intent.  You will also see that smaller businesses should be more visible and the chance that community ratings would begin playing a greater role in optimizing the results page.

How to Optimise for Pigeon
Of course, if you asked Google how to optimise for this update to benefit your coffee shop, Google’s response would be the usual “don’t”…simply serve the best coffee possible and the users will review the shop organically, and Google will incorporate these signals into future searches.  There are however, once again, ‘tweaks’ to encourage this better ranking faster.

What Google doesn’t know, unless they are told, is that the business exists.  If your local business is not showing up on page 1 of Google’s SERP or on the map, make sure you are registered with Google.

Once your business is registered, optimizing it for the new Pigeon update may give you an added “edge” over your competition.  Here are a few adjustments you can make to enhance your visibility on Google (which will also benefit visibility on other search engines).

  1. While having ‘link juice’ from directory sites has been downgraded for most websites, Google now gives added weight to a presence on directories for local businesses.
  2. Make sure you add complete information to profiles on all of your directory and social media sites, especially Google+.
  3. Social Media signals continue to be very important so continue expanding your digital footprint with informational blogs and post to social sites daily.
  4. Engage customers on Social Sites – respond to comments, mentions and questions on all social and directory sites.  If you receive a good review, ask that it be posted on your Google+ page.
  5. Optimize your website per Google’s SEO Guidelines for ease of navigation and user experience. Minimising bounce rates will work in your favour as it’s a good indicator of accurate search results.

Of all of the recent Google Algorithm updates, this may be the most important for retail establishments, bars, restaurants and all other forms of location centric business.

Compared to other recent algorithm updates from Google, especially the introduction of Negative SEO, the results indicate a friendlier attitude to local search.

Get Me Everywhere offers agencies and businesses a single platform to create and manage over 300 directory listings.  This process is staggered to remain organic and centrally controlled for ease of maintenance.  Get Me Everywhere was developed as a response to the growing demand from local businesses to rank highly in appropriate queries after Google’s pigeon update and has transformed the way directory listings are handled.

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