Google Pigeon is a Google update that changed the game for local SEO by fine-tuning search results. It updated US English searches in June of 2014 and then updated internationally. The point of the massive update was to deliver quality results to local search queries.
Location, Location, Location
One part of providing high-quality, relevant results to local queries is location accuracy. Pigeon made Google’s location information more useful by offering more exact results within a smaller geographic area. Instead of searching for citywide results, the Pigeon update broke cities up into neighborhoods. Those neighborhoods can be identified by their official or colloquial names. Businesses have to make a concentrated effort to rank for a city, state or neighborhood by providing Google with their exact location and neighborhood information on forms, tags and landing pages. When people search for a business or service within that area, Google will provide sites that have included their relevant local information.
Quality Over Junk
The second part to providing good results for local searches is singling out those sites meeting SEO standards. This refers to meaningful content, regularly updated information, linked pages, organic use of keywords, short page load times, optimized landing pages and intuitive site navigation. If it all sounds familiar, it’s because the Pigeon update made local results rely more on traditional SEO identifiers. Well-made web pages with useful content rank higher than keyword-stuffed pages with shallow content even if the exact business locations are provided for local queries. If a low-quality page slips through the cracks, they are found again at some point and face Google’s penalties that can destroy their ranking. No matter the update, it’s always important to remember quality wins out over junk.
The Ups and Downs
Every Google update has it’s praises and complaints as rankings go up and down. The same is true of Pigeon. Local directories have benefited a lot from the update. They’re goldmines of location-specific data, constantly-updated material and customer reviews. Both big and small directories usually rank high. As a result, single business websites rank lower if they don’t appear on the map at the top of the search page. So there’s less competition from irrelevant and low-quality results, but more space is taken by high-ranking directories.
Another issue is the way cities were chopped up into neighborhoods. Providing results for a tinier geographic area helped out some small businesses that had been overshadowed by big name stores and restaurant chains. However, it placed other businesses in geographic areas they didn’t want. Businesses on the border of one community aren’t recognized as part of that neighboring community. Mobile businesses weren’t popping up in all the areas they serviced. The trick is to figure out their correct geographic area and fix their marketing or, in the case of mobile businesses with many geographic possibilities, create separate pages or tags that targeted multiple areas.
In the end, Google Pigeon has had some fortunate and unfortunate results, but it created local search functions that were more valuable to the user. A satisfied user is the goal of Google. It also should be the goal of business web pages and SEO experts. With work and tweaking to pre-Pigeon SEO practices, businesses can and have taken advantage of a better local search presence.