Googles Pigeon Algorithm Local SEO Changes Mandy McEwen


While Google’s Matt Cutts enjoys an extended vacation, the SEO community is a flurry of activity, trying to keep up with the latest top-secret algorithm change: Google’s Pigeon update. For SEO clients, this could mean that top-ranked pages may fall by the wayside. It could mean that local search listings have suddenly dropped off Google Maps. (For instance, we heard that lawyers and real estate agents were particularly hit hard!) Just as Mod Girl Marketing has helped clients stay afloat during Google’s Penguin and Hummingbird updates, we’re here to address any concerns in light of the latest switcheroo. Here are a few of the major changes, as we see it.

Tweet This: Top #8Ways Google’s Pigeon Algorithm Has Changed Local #SEO – via @mandymodgirl


1. “Pack” results were hurt.

A Google “7 Pack” refers to the highlighted Local listings (business name, address, phone number, website) displayed on a map within the first page of a Google search query — say, for something like “restaurants Boston Massachusetts.” In the past, small, independent mom-and-pop businesses had a hard time competing with multi-location franchises. These little one-off businesses seemed to be outgunned and never appeared among the first results. Suddenly, you’ll notice there are only two or three “pack” results listed — perhaps not the biggest chains anymore — and so many websites saw their number of queries drop by more than 23%. Other common searches affected included: jobs, cars for sale, cruises, apartments, train tickets, and sofas.

Takeaway: It pays to claim your enterprise through Google by creating a specific Google + Local Business Listing. You’ll also want to update all social media and website meta data to include your business address. If you have suffered tremendously with the latest update, you may need to run a new PPC campaign to boost referrals. 

2. Review sites were given more prominence.

People love searching local reviews. Google knows this. Now you’ll see a business’s review sites enjoy increased prominence on the first page of Google results. For instance, when we search the home of the chicken wing in Buffalo, NY — the “Anchor Bar restaurant” — the results show up as follows:

1. – the official Anchor Bar site

2. – Anchor Bar reviews

3. – Anchor Bar’s crowdsourced page

4. – Anchor Bar reviews

5. – Anchor Bar reviews

Takeaway: If you haven’t offered patrons an incentive to give you a good review, now’s the time to get on that! At least be sure you have an official page created on each of these sites with photos and information. You should also be monitoring reviews to ensure your customers are happy.

3. Google reviews are king.

Naturally, Google wants to point out the fact that they offer their own verified reviews. On the right hand side of the screen, a local search reveals the name of the business, a click-for-directions tab, a social media “follow” button, address / phone number / website info, hours a “view menu” tab, and Google review snippets. WOWEE! Talk about everything you could ever need to know all in one quick listing!

Takeaway: Get your business data updated on Google+! P.S. Mod Girl can help! 

4. Visual “carousel” results are popular among searchers.

Well, OK — this update came in June — a little before the July 24th Pigeon update — but has soared in popularity over the past few months. When you search for something like “Kansas City hotels” or “Kansas City restaurants,” listings pop up in a horizontal row, along with visual photos that searchers can scroll through. By some estimates, these carousel style results enjoy 48% of all clicks, compared to just 14.5% of people who were clicking on Google Map search results.

Takeaway: Be sure your local listings have attractive, high-quality photos uploaded. Again, try to get more favorable reviews in, as the sorter tends to select results based on review stars. 


5. Neighborhoods are given more prominence.

One SEO pro searching for local tacos found that he used to see search results for Costa Mesa, CA in general… but more recently, Google noted that his location was “the East side neighborhood of Costa Mesa, CA,” so the taco restaurants in his carousel of local results tended to be concentrated closer to his geo-location.

Takeaway: This is good news for building an ultra-local fanbase. However, this involves a little extra work on your part. If you want to go this route you’ll need to add your neighborhood name to the end of your business name and the description paragraph of your Google Business page. You’ll also need to add your neighborhood to your website’s title tags and text. All social media listings should also be updated. You should also double-check to see that Google Maps has your neighborhood properly demarcated and submit an update if it doesn’t. 

6. “Traditional ranking signals” still matter.

Google hasn’t said much about the Pigeon update, but they did mention that their local searches will rely more on “traditional ranking signals.” This means factors like domain authority, backlinks, keywords, and content. In other words, it’s not enough just to have a spammy placeholder of a website. You’ll need to update content — either in the form of a blog or at least fresh new web pages every so often. You’ll need other authoritative sources to link to you as well.

Takeaway: Run a competitive analysis to see what your competition is doing. Make sure your site’s SEO characteristics are up-to-snuff with other high ranking sites. 

7. Mobile customers can access customized listings.

Googles Pigeon Algorithm Local SEO Changes

In the past, listings may have been tailored to a person’s home PC or laptop location. Now, Google listings change based on a mobile phone user’s travel — thus, possibly expanding your business’s reach. We have included a number of location-based words on our client’s websites, then, to attract traffic from people who may not live next door, but who still frequent the area. One has to be careful to casually mention these terms in a not-so-spammy way, however. Simply dropping a bunch of location words on a page won’t do.

Takeaway: Regularly tailor blog posts to focus on one nearby location. Build an optimized, responsive mobile version of your website if you haven’t already. 

8. Working with a white hat SEO company can help you cover all bases.

Mod Girl Marketing offers individual consultations for those businesses that have seen a recent dip in traffic as a result of a Google algorithm update. Often we can make the necessary changes in just a few days to get your referral traffic where it needs to be. We’re well versed in all things LOCAL and we’d love to improve your search visibility. We can also help you out with social media, content, competitive analysis and more. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with a strategic marketing consultant today.

Takeaway: Contact Mod Girl Marketing for your SEO needs & beyond!