At the end of July to mid-August, a local Google update began to roll out. Although Google has never really said much by way of an official announcement, this shakeup has been dubbed “Google Pigeon” in the SEO world. As always, the goal of this local update is to also provide more relevant and accurate search results.
The rationale for the name comes from the fact that some birds (pigeons) fly in a “local” pattern. You can read more about it here on Search Engine Land, where the name first originated.
We all know that Google’s algorithm is updated all the time. Pigeon matters in local and organic search even though it’s not a penalty-based update, per se. As marketers, pinpointing major Google updates helps create a point of reference that we can look back on historically. Check out Moz’ Google Algorithm Change History here.
For years now, Google Local has been royally screwed up, for lack of a better word! The back end has been hard for businesses to use and many have been stuck in Google hell waiting for their listing(s) to be updated with the correct information or un-suspended. On top of that, local search results seem to change by the hour and don’t really follow any rhyme or reason. Unlike organic and PPC, which has structure, local has been very mysterious, not to mention not transparent.
In the past, some smaller businesses (or even large businesses) may have relied on being in the top of Local search results. The Local or 7 pack has drastically dropped for queries. Pre-Pigeon, it was estimated that the 7 pack showed up for about 12% of local search results. After Pigeon, the local pack only showed up for 3% if queries. That is a huge drop and many businesses may have felt that drop from a loss in traffic.
Local search results were so volatile because Google was making changes to the ranking factors. It’s suspected that some of these factors include website authority which can be measured by directories, local directories, and authoritative review sites like Yelp. Customer reviews on third party websites are crucial for user experience but it seems like they have more weight not, especially when it comes to local search rankings.
Along with getting more customer reviews, it’s important that you have the basics covered. Meaning that your NAP (Name/Address/Phone Number) is correct throughout the internet where possible. Also, don’t forget about listing your business using the correct categories, locations, and keywords.
As much as you hate or love to admit it, local search is becoming an integral part of organic SEO. This means that you need to stay on top of what current best practices are. As we see from a recent example, preaching the importance of Google Authorship couldn’t be avoided. But Google took all that away within days! Even though Local 7 packs are disappearing or shifting at the moment, it doesn’t mean that it’s a permanent change. Be ready to stay on your toes and coordinate local as you would organic SEO.
Tweet us @Emarketed or contact us (323) 340-4010 if you have any questions or need help with these recent changes in Google Local. We’re here to help!