Google’s New Locally Focused Algorithm Change, Pigeon


pigeon on a white background, isolatedGoogle’s search algorithm, the program that helps it decide what to show you when you run a search, is updated often… and when I say often, I mean practically daily. Most of these changes can seem insignificant, and some are just Google experimenting with different ways to display results. Some of the changes can be pretty major, such as the algorithm change that focused on combatting web-spam, which was codenamed Penguin, or the update that focuses on content quality, Panda. This past week a new animal has entered the Google zoo with a fairly significant update, this time it’s a pigeon. Barry Schwartz and the team at Search Engine Land have dubbed this updated ‘Pigeon’ because ” this is a local search update and pigeons tend to fly back home.”

Algorithm Change for Local Search Results

This updates focus is on improving the quality of results served for local-centric search phrases and can make some big changes to the results you see when searching for local goods and services. These improvements come via making local search results more closely tied to standard search ranking signals, improving ranking placement based on geographic location, and likely well set-up local business profile on Google Plus.
Another result of this change is the fact that many authoritative local directory type sites are getting much more visibility, such as Avvo for attorneys or TripAdvisor for hotels.

Google Packing it In for Many Local Packs

The incredibly clever Mike Blumenthal has noted on his excellent blog that since the algorithm change occurred, there’s been a large drop in the amount of “local packs” you’ll see in search results. A pack refers to the cluster of local businesses, usually denoted alphabetically and often in a set of 1, 3, 7 or even 10. The reason why is anyone’s guess, but this drop (as much as a 24% decline, says Mike based on information from Whitespark) is going to affect a lot of small businesses that formerly showed up in local search packs that are no longer triggered.
Google "7-Pack" for "Business Law Attorney" in Berkeley, CA

Google “7-Pack” for “Business Law Attorney” in Berkeley, CA

Our Experience with Pigeon

Many of our clients have clearly benefitted from the change, and we attribute that to well crafted and organized local citations, content-rich websites, and healthy linkbuilding. This tells us that local search is going to become more difficult for those business that don’t want to play the SEO game. It’s also important to note that after more significant algo changes, there’s often a period of flux and volatility. What we see today may change over the next few weeks.

Your Experience with Pigeon

Have you noticed a change in the search result pages? Has your business benefitted or have you lost visibility? Are you finding the Google search results more or less useful as a result? Let us know in the comments!

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  42. Thanks for this! I did a search for my business just yesterday and was surprised how much the results had changed so quickly. I guess this is why! Just goes to show the importance of good SEO.

      • Ross
      • August 3, 2014

      Thanks for the comment Clayton. What did you see from the change, are you better off now or have you dropped behind? Are the “packs” still showing for your marketplace?

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