Pigeon: Google Makes a Flap with Local SEO

Posted by Lynnell Nixon-Knight on LinkedIn

1ff4a3dOn July 24, Google made (gasp!) another change. This new worldview-by-Google involved a shift in the algorithm for local organic rankings.

And, they did it very quietly – one might say, stealthily. There was no big splash press conference and the new family member wasn’t even given a name until Search Engine Land (SEL) dubbed it “Pigeon” – evidently following the alliteration of Panda and Penguin, and the species of Hummingbird.

I heard about it last week at the digital conference Mixwest (#mixwest2014) which I would like to take a brief moment to unabashedly promote as a great two day info-fest for marketing, social medial, design, and tech. (If you missed it this year – keep it on your radar for 2015.)

But about this… Pigeon. In its quest to ever refine the purity of listing management (its bread and butter), Google now sends local listings through a new algorithmic filter they say will “more closely mimic traditional organic search rankings.”

The search return 7-pack (a baker’s dozen of the six-pack, I suppose) generated by local reviews has always been a powerful tool for small businesses – a reasonably obtainable feather to put in one’s local SEO cap. But now Pigeon wants to pluck these and give them to local directories like Yelp.

Essentially this means that before Pigeon, when you’d search for a restaurant, you’d get an organic 7-pack listing of local restaurants. Now you’re more likely to get a list of directories like OpenTable or Urbanspoon.

Admittedly, the fuel of local SEO does come from the review. But a review is about a particular business – to help guide other consumers. So the debate rages, is this change actually helpful or not? And for whom is it helpful/not helpful?

Like its sibling, Hummingbird, Pigeon is query driven – and currently only applies to U.S. English queries. “It’s too early to tell how this will affect strategy,” said Site Strategics owner Erin Sparks, a presenter at Mixwest 2014 on local SEO, when he mentioned the new Google algorithm. “Local businesses still show up with some queries, but will disappear from the list. We have a lot of research ahead of us.”

One thing is certain, however – there will likely be a tremendous number of Pigeon droppings (sorry, I couldn’t resist) and SEO professionals will need to closely watch Google’s latest maneuver to control the nature of Internet marketing.

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