← Back

Share this

We’ve had Panda. We’ve had Penguin. So it was only a matter of time before Google threw another animal at us. And, as this new algorithm hasn’t been formally named by Google, the online marketing industry has taken it upon themselves to christen it instead. Introducing Pigeon!

What is Pigeon?

This new update was first released in July 2014 over in the US, but only recently has it been rolled out in the UK. It largely affects local search results and is likely to be noticed more by businesses whose main keywords are accompanied by a location.

For instance, let’s take “ Accountants Shropshire” as an example. When using this search term prior to the Pigeon update, it’s likely you would have seen a few Google ads at the top of the page, followed by a list of natural results underneath. Now though, things look very different:

Google results page 1

As you can see, the Google ads are still there, appearing in both the top ranking positions and down the right hand side. But everything else looks very different. Firstly, there is a very prominent map in the top right of the results. The one and only natural listing appearing above the fold (meaning before you have to start scrolling down) is for Yell.com. Finally, there is a list of accountants in Shropshire, but they look very different. Yes, the firms’ names are stated along with links to their websites, but where are their meta descriptions? That place has been taken by links to the firms’ Google+ pages and their Google reviews (when applicable). Also, next to each result is the company’s address and telephone number, along with the letter ‘A’ or ‘B’ or ‘C’… etc.

So what’s going on here?

Let’s delve into this a little further. Firstly, the Google ads are still there – no change here. Fairly unsurprising though really, given that Google basically wants everyone to give up on SEO and instead pay them lots of money for the priority listings (or maybe that’s just us being sceptical…)

Everything is now very “local-based”. The letter next to each result corresponds to its position on the map and, generally, it seems that this set of results is much more focused towards the searcher’s location and intent.

But why is Yell.com ranking above the firms’ websites? It seems to be because the Pigeon update places much more emphasis on local map and directory websites.

This new update can be good for some businesses and bad for others. On the negative side, for instance, CTS Limited can be seen further down the page:

Google results page 2

It seems they are not showing in the local listings. You have to scroll past 7 map listings and 3 natural listings (Yell.com, Dyke Yaxley and Crundell & Co) to get to CTS Limited; that essentially puts them at position 11 even though, technically, without the map listings, they would be at position 4.

On the other hand, it can be a good thing. We can see from the above that TaxAssist Accountants are essentially ranking at position 2 in these natural listings even though, as you can see, they’re not appearing further down the page. We kept scrolling and scrolling and eventually, we found their natural listing was actually appearing near the bottom of page 4 at position 39! It only seems to be because of these new listings that they’re appearing much higher up.

We have a theory. What do TaxAssist Accountants seem to have here that no other result does? Lots of Google reviews. Is Google ranking these firms based on how popular they are with their customers? I guess it makes sense, in a way. If you’re looking for a new accountant, you want to pick one that’s got a great relationship with their clients and even a few glowing testimonials to prove it. This however, is only our theory. After all, we have seen other results that have been listed higher up thanks to their 14 Google reviews. Again, that made complete sense – that is until we looked a little further and saw that not all those reviews were good – some were rather critical indeed! So it seems you can rank high in these positions for having multiple Google reviews, even if they’re not all glowing references.

Again, just a theory! (For the record though, all of TaxAssist Accountants’ reviews are five stars – top marks for them!)

What can I do to help my website?

As we’ve seen, even if you were ranking at position 1 before, this new update means you won’t necessarily be in that same position within these local map results. And this could have a huge impact on your website traffic and the number of enquiries you receive.Google Pigeon update

So now’s the time to act. If you don’t have a Google My Business (also known as Google+) page, get one. Make sure your NAP (Name, Address and Phone Number) are correct, write an accurate description of what your business does (remembering to include your most important keywords) and try to obtain as many customer reviews/testimonials as you can. Whilst it seems they don’t necessarily have to be singing your praises for Google’s sake, at the end of the day, real people will be looking at these reviews and you want to make sure your business has a good reputation. So only ask people that you have a great customer relationship with. For more information on how to use Google+, take a look here.

Add your business to local directories across the internet. Don’t go mad though – remember Google only considers good quality directories so concentrate your efforts more on websites such as Yell, Yelp, Touch Local etc.

This Pigeon update means map listings will often rank above your website’s natural listing. Concentrating on local listings as part of your SEO strategy could secure you a map listing amongst these other results, helping your online visibility to grow and, hopefully, building your customer base.

Categories: SEO, News

subscribe newsletter

Never miss a post

Get free digital marketing intelligence and advice from our experts, directly to your inbox.
Have an upcoming project?