A Guide To The Pigeon Update

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Last week we explained the impact of Google Hummingbird, this week we’re discussing the Google Pigeon algorithm! Hummingbird tackled understanding context in searches whereas Pigeon focuses primarily on Local searches and how Google interprets location searches.

Google Pigeon was released on July 24th 2014 in the US and later on in the year Google announced that the algorithm had been rolled out over the UK, Australia and Canada mid-December.

The Pigeon algorithm aims to show the most relevant and accurate local search results to the user specifically targeting areas nearby. Google is able to do this due to the Pigeon update improving their location perimeters and location ranking signals; this should help local businesses target their demographic as long as they are relevant. The algorithm allows Google to connect web search and map search more effectively.

Prior to Pigeon it was hard for Google to differentiate between two ways to search for the same place i.e. Birmingham High-street and Birmingham Town. Both search terms mean the same thing but historically may have bought us different local search results whereas now Google can understand that these two terms mean the same thing.

However, retailers with physical locations whose local listings are not correctly set up correctly may lose online traffic and customers visiting their stores if they are not appearing correctly to their audience. Local listings that have branches in multiple location areas and postcodes may notice their rankings slipping.

When the algorithm update hit the US, webmasters had mixed opinions on the impact of Pigeon and whether it was beneficial or not. Many saw the update roll out during their peak period which hindered projects and their overall project because their local listings disappeared. Several business sectors seemed to have been affected more than others, such as plumbers and handy-man services.

Webmasters took to the Internet to share their experiences. Below are a few comments by webmasters in the US on their experiences with Pigeon:

With Google Pigeon now rolled out across the UK, it is important for webmasters who rely on local search for website traffic to take action to ensure that are still visible in the local map packs of the SERPs. Local listings are an essential part of an SEO strategy and it is important to ensure that you are utilising your listing as much as possible without over optimising it and staying within the parameters of ethical SEO.

What can you do?

To ensure that you experience minimal damage from Pigeon, compile legacy ranking data in the form of a benchmark for local listing pages and review your local listing implementation strategy. Once you have all your data collected, do some research on what US webmasters found worked and did not work when hit with the Pigeon algorithm in July 2014.

  • Optimising your local pages is the most important thing you can do at this stage;
  • Ensure that the page title tag includes your brand name, your priority keyword and the location you are located in/targeting.
  • Ensure that you have a local page for each of your locations (if you have multiple) and have not duplicated the image for each location,
  • Have an original image of the store front for each location page to differentiate between branches.

Google Pigeon: Overview & Impact

  • Google Pigeon aims to improve local search by ensuring that the SERPs are geographically relevant for each individual user
  • They have achieved their aim by improving their location perimeters and location ranking signals
  • Google Pigeon is yet to be rolled out worldwide
  • Google can now understand multiple ways in which a user may search for a specific location
  • Webmasters have mixed views on the impact of Pigeon; it seems there has been an equal amount of SERP rankings rising and falling due to the update
  • Local pages should not be over optimised to appear in the rankings, the most relevant pages according to relevance and location will naturally rank high

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