Back in July 2014, Google launched a new algorithm update, dubbed the Pigeon update, as a way to reward local small businesses that had big organic presences with more visibility in traditional searches. In order to give a substantive boost to those small ‘mom and pop’ shops we all know and love, Google enhanced Search and Maps ranking signals as a way to give users better results based on their proximity to those local businesses. Since the launch in 2014, Google Pigeon has forced marketers to re-think how they manage their local SEO presence due to changes in local search results and local visibility on Google SERPS (search engine results page) and it’s been effective, mostly.
The aesthetic design and functionality of the Google Maps and Google SERP changed and after a year of going live, users saw a change to the local results pack. Before Pigeon, around 10 businesses would appear in the list of local searches with star ratings, addresses and hours. Now, for example, if you type in ‘restaurants near me’, only three results will pop up on the main results page. For users, being able to access important information like phone numbers, addresses, reviews, photos of menus uploaded by users, and business hours in as few clicks as possible was a welcome change. For marketers and businesses however, it spelled trouble for website traffic, landing pages, and conversion rates.
With the most pertinent information available on the SERP, users had less of a need to click through to the business page. Results from online directories like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and UrbanSpoon were also more prominently featured which arguably furthered the gap between the user and the local restaurant or shop and took away some of their traffic. Now, three and a half years after the launch, the question of whether or not Google Pigeon is a marketing win or a loss still hangs in the air. Businesses are still getting a boost in search engine ranking but is it worth it at all if users aren’t visiting their sites and do we as marketers have any control in the matter?
Whether or not your business was positively or negatively effected by Google Pigeon it is still important to take steps to maintain traffic going forward. Keeping up with consistent quality content and writing an extra post or two a week, keeping track of user reviews and doing everything you can to encourage positive ones and staking your claim on every major local directory will help keep your traffic up.
In 2015, the WPromote blog published a nifty marketer’s guide to everything ‘Pigeon’ that has helped and is still helping marketers combat some of those changes and challenges.
For more information on Google Pigeon and it’s long term effects visit Search Engine Journal.