Digital Insights

How Local Businesses can Survive and Thrive in Spite of the Pigeon Update


Published: August 12, 2014

Google recently rolled out an unnamed (unofficially dubbed the “Pigeon” by Search Engine Land) local search algorithm that has been trampling across the search engine landscape in a manner more consistent with that of a maddened bull elephant than a mild-mannered bird.

Some local businesses have gained ranking position while others have lost theirs. Certain 7-pack results have vanished altogether while others have remained virtually unchanged. Results for some search queries have been totally taken over by directory sites.

As with any major Google update, it will take time before the new Pigeon algorithm is fully dialed in and running at 100 percent of its intended function – improving the local search experience by embracing traditional organic SEO signals.

What We Know About the Pigeon Update

  • The major beneficiaries of the Pigeon update have been the big directory sites such as Yelp, Urbanspoon and TripAdvisor. Leading SEO practitioners believe that this phenomenon can be tied to the weight of their strong SEO signals.
  • The directories are in many cases pushing individual local establishments such as restaurants and hotels down and off the first page of the search results.
  • While there seems to be a greater number of local result packs across a variety of niches, the number of results returned in each pack has dropped dramatically.

What You Should do Before Your Site’s Rankings Fly South
Take your cue from the words of Google – “improving local search by embracing organic signals.” This means you should seriously consider combining local and organic search signals in your SEO campaign.

  • Update and optimize your Google Plus Local account. Since local businesses continue to be well represented in Google’s Carousel, be sure to include high-quality, professional photos that represent your business in the best possible light.
  • Collect and display as many positive reviews about your business as possible. Monitor your online reputation, and respond to negative comments quickly and professionally. Claim your business listing with the important review sites for your area and industry.
  • Add as many citations as you can from relevant local and industry sources.
  • Add your business listing to relevant local and industry directory sites.
  • Stay active and engaged with your social media channels.
  • Make sure that your website is properly tagged for SEO and is mobile-optimized.
  • Continue to add relevant high-quality content to your company website.
  • Create quality “link-worthy” content and market it aggressively to relevant sites and blogs.

Build Strong and Solid SEO Signals
While successful SEO focuses on a great many ranking factors, five signals that your website absolutely must convey stand out above the rest:

  • A degree of quality that provides a highly satisfying experience throughout every single element of your business. This includes website content and page load speed as well as the wording of legal pages and your response time to questions and problems.
  • Unique content that simply can’t be found anywhere else.
  • Authority that establishes your company as the go-to source for reliable, up to date information about your industry or niche.
  • Relevancy that aligns with visitor intent by addressing important questions and problems.
  • Trust that is developed from positive visitor experience.