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Has Google’s Pigeon Lost Its Way?

On July 24, 2014, Google released a new update to its search algorithm that Search Engine Land dubbed Pigeon, in light of no internal name being provided by Google. Just like a homing pigeon finds its way home, the latest algorithm update form Google is designed to show users more relevant local search results.

But what will it mean for your website?

Pigeon is the biggest algorithm update to hit local search results since Venice. The new update is designed to put local search results more in line with the hundreds of ranking signals used in traditional Internet searches. Essentially, ranking well for local search results is now more dependent on how favorably Google views your overall web presence – and less on where your business is located.

A businesses that has a strong web presence with a well optimized website will see little affect. However, local businesses that have not invested in optimizing their websites, or have out-of-date directory listings, or lack a strong presence on the web, may notice a decrease in traffic.

In some industries, Google’s Pigeon algorithm update has resulted in higher rankings for big brand directories and review websites – like Yelp, Yellow Pages, Urban Spoon, Trip Advisor or Angie’s List. These big brand directories are now more easily found in the top 10 search results listings.  The update has also resulted in less search engine results page “real estate” for smaller business websites. The big directory websites have stronger linking signals and more domain authority (factors in Google’s traditional ranking algorithm) than most diminutive business websites. As a result, outside of appearing in the carousel, some truly local businesses may find their websites being pushed down in local search results.

For example, a search for “Asheville restaurants” (without quotes) showed plenty of local results in the carousel. But not one organic result below the carousel is the website for one of these, or other, local restaurants. Instead, the first 10 local search results are populated with directory listings and guides for websites like: Trip Advisor, Urban Spoon and Yelp.

A Google Carousel:

This screen capture shows the first 5 local results
for this search term: Asheville restaurants

Local business owners are encouraged to take the time to ensure their directory listings are up-to-date in Google My Business, as well as other trusted name brand directories. Even if your website is pushed off of page one, you may be able to retain some local traffic if your listing is the one that appears in the local listing carousel, as well as in a ranking directory.

Be sure that your company listing appears under the same company name and has the same address and contact information listed across all directories.

The History of Local Search Algorithm Updates:

  • October 2005: Google merges Google Local Business Center and Google Maps data.
  • May 2007: Google integrates local search results, video and news into organic listings.
  • April 2010: Google Local Business Center becomes Google Places.
  • February 2012: Google release the Venice update to better integrate local search results with traditional web search results.
  • April 2012: Google makes a series of search updates, including changes to how local search intent is interpreted.
  • October 2012: Google publishes a series of search updates (plus changes to how local search results are determined).
  • July 2014: Google releases the Pigeon update to better integrate local search results with traditional web search results.

For a complete list of Google algorithm updates, see the Moz Google Algorithm Change History timeline.

Note: Google’s Pigeon algorithm update is not to be confused with PigeonRank. PigeonRank was an April Fool’s Day hoax that Google played in 2002.

Has the Pigeon update affected your website’s positions at Please post a comment and let us know.

If your website recently experienced a drop in traffic and you don’t know why, please contact us and we will be happy to look into it for you!

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