Google Pigeon Algorithm Update: What We Know

On July 24, 2014, Google rolled out a new algorithm update that has been dubbed the Google pigeon algorithm update, which affects local search engine rankings. Local search engine rankings refer to search queries that include a city name in the query. Since the update on July 24th, there have been some changes (fluctuations) in the search results, so as of the time of writing this, we still may see some further changes to the search results for certain keyword phases. Here is what we know about the Google pigeon algorithm update.

So far, there is speculation that this latest Google Pigeon update could be a version of the Google Venice algorithm update back in 2012 that included two main local search improvements, as reported by Google:

— “Improvements to ranking for local search results. [launch codename “Venice”] This improvement improves the triggering of Local Universal results by relying more on the ranking of our main search results as a signal.”

— “Improved local results. We launched a new system to find results from a user’s city more reliably. Now we’re better able to detect when both queries and documents are local to the user.”

There has also been further speculation that the Google Pigeon update combines data from the Google My Business database with the knowledge graph database. Frankly, this 2nd speculation seems much more plausible, that the current data from Google’s My Business has been integrated with the knowledge graph. We knew this was coming, and even a few years ago I started recommending the use of Freebase because it is part of the knowledge graph. If you have not listed your company in Freebase, I recommend you do so as soon as possible.

Regardless of whether or not Google has integrated the knowledge graph with the Google’s My Business database, here is what we know so far regarding the Google Pigeon update:

— There are less local listings are displaying in the actual search engine results pages (SERPs). Commonly referred to as the 7 pack, 3 pack, and 1 pack, those local listing callouts don’t show up as much as they used to prior to the Google Pigeon update.

— More review-type websites are showing up in the SERPs. Websites like Yelp.com and other Internet Yellow Pages (IYP) sites seem to have benefitted from this update.

— Some industries have taken ranking hits across the board, with all of the sites in the same industry having been affected.

— Some small businesses are seeing huge search engine ranking increases. It used to be that many multi-location brands were ranking well, but with this update there appears to be some rankings increases for single-location small businesses.

Chris Sanfilippo reported some of his findings, which are in line with what we’re seeing:

1. Some keywords are no longer showing a 7-pack
2. Some keywords that never showed a 7-pack are now showing a 7-pack
3. Some 7-packs are now “3-packs”
4. For “tampa house cleaning”, one website is ranking organic 1 &2, which are above the map listings, they are also ranking in the map position A. (location set to Tampa)
5. KW + city results have changed, and are no longer the same as “keyword” with location set to city.
6. Yelp’s rankings haven’t improved for my niches, it’s actually the opposite.
7. For my niches the Google+ centroid has changed in a major way and the map is zoomed out, showing results much farther away.

Linda Buquet, from the Local Search Forum, is reporting that “Geo searches are different now. In past if you search for City + KW and your location was elsewhere, didn’t matter much. You could change search location that that city and results would be the same. But now they are wildly different. So to do an accurate search you need to reset to location of the query.”

At this point, it does appear that the Google Pigeon update has affected a significant amount of local SEO, but at this point it’s still too early to tell specifically if it will have as much of an impact as other recent Google updates, such as Google Penguin and Google Panda.

I’ll keep you posted, as local search and local SEO has definitely been shaken up a bit by this Google Pigeon update. There are certainly winners and losers in this update.