Google Pigeon Update Targets Local Small Businesses

Google Pigeon Targets Local SEO

Google Pigeon Update Targets Local Small Businesses

Google Pigeon Targets Local SEO

On Friday, July 24, 2014 Google released yet another update to it’s ranking algorithm. This time the changes are directed toward the local search results.  Although Google has no internal name for this update (They didn’t name the Panda update until a few days after releasing that update either), industry authority Search Engine Land has taken it upon themselves to name this one “Pigeon.”

They said they like this name because it “starts with a P, Pigeons tend to fly home.”  Get it? Fly home… Local Search Results… Clever. 

Anyway, this is a pretty significant update – one of the most significant we’ve seen in a while.  So what is the Google Pigeon Update all about, you ask? Let’s jump in.

According to Google, the goal of this update is to return more relevant, useful and accurate rankings in the local search results. The effects of this update will be seen in the local listings portion of search results as well as the web listings.  So far we’re seeing that the local pack listings are being reduced and in some cases even removed.

However, this is not across the board.  Different industries are being affected differently.  You can see from the screenshot below that when we search for “Chiropractors in Rochester, MI” the local listings are continuing to appear.  However, if we change “Chiropractors” to “Realtors” the local pack disappears entirely.  It is not known as of now if Google is finished rolling out this update, or if they are piloting this change with a few industries to begin, and then expanding in the days/weeks ahead.

Google Pigeon Still Showing Local Pack

You can see that so far not every industry is affected. The local pack results still show up for this search query. It is not known if Google has finished rolling out this update or not.

Google Pigeon without Local Pack

You can see in this example that the local pack and map results have been removed from the search results. The only difference between this and the example above is “realtor” vs. “chiropractor.”

If your business is still lucky enough to be showing in the local pack, congratulations.  So far you’ve avoided the impact of this hit.  However, I would be slow to sound the “ALL CLEAR” signal, and get a head start on making adjustments to your strategy now.

Why did Google Remove the Local Listings from the Search Results?

We don’t know for sure.  However, many are speculating that Google is reducing these results because they have a high click through rate – meaning that people generally click on these results at a higher rate than other listings on the page.  This theory makes a lot of sense. Google is in the business of making money.  They sell ad space to businesses, which displays at the top of the Search Results Page, as well as along the side.  If people click on the local listings more than on the ads, it stands to reason that Google’s revenue would be decreased.  However if they were to reduce/remove these listings… You get the idea.

What does the Google Pigeon Update mean for my business?

Although businesses who were focused on a more organic approach to Local SEO – meaning that they were not as concerned with ranking in the local pack – have seen their traffic increase significantly, many businesses who were featured in the local pack have seen traffic drop off considerably. 

If you’ve experienced a drop in traffic due to Google’s Pigeon update, you’re left with two options.

  1. Mourn the loss, do nothing, and watch as revenue begins to wane in the coming months.
  2. Surrender to Google Adwords and launch a temporary PPC campaign to subsidize the traffic.  Although it will cost money to do this, with proper campaign management, you can reduce (or eliminate) the negative affect this update has had on your bottom line.

Is Local SEO Dead?

In light of these changes, you might be wondering if Local SEO is dead, and if it now makes more sense to invest your dollars in PPC.

At Brown Box Branding we provide both Local SEO and PPC Management services, so our opinion on this matter is unbiased.  Rather than abandoning Local SEO and shifting to a permanent PPC campaign (like many of your competitors will do!), a more strategic move would be to shift SEO methodologies and use PPC to bridge the gap.

Here’s what I mean…

A good Local SEO campaign has always focused on both the Local pack results as well as the organic results.  However, if your business has been eliminated from the local pack, and you’re not found in the organic results, you need to adjust your focus.

As with anything related to organic rankings, these moves take time.  In some cases we’re able to make simple on-page changes and see results over night, but in many cases this takes time.   I’m not aware of too many businesses that can afford a significant reduction in revenue for longer than a week, so if your niche is competitive, and it will take longer to rank organically, I suggest you bridge the gap with a PPC campaign.

Once you begin seeing results from your organically focused SEO efforts, you can either taper off your PPC ad spend, or continue with your campaign.  The added real estate you gain from ad space in the search results could very well prove to be a money-maker long term though, so you might end up keeping both as a permanent strategy.

Although there will always be twists and turns with internet marketing, neither Local or Organic SEO is going away anytime soon.  What’s important is that your methodologies for each are in line with Google’s Web Master Guidelines.  As long as your nose is clean, and you’re not employing any black-hat SEO tactics, you’ll always be good to go with a few tweaks here and there.

Jeff Bickley

Over the past decade, Jeff has worked with numerous Fortune 100 and Start-Up companies to establish, reinvent, and re-enforce their brand. A serial entrepreneur at heart, Jeff has a passion for leveraging his vast experience to provide solid and timely advice to business leaders at all levels.

  • avatar
    Todd H.
    Posted at 16:59h, 18 September

    Great idea about subsidizing organic traffic with an adwords campaign. Adwords is definitely more expensive, but the more you spend, the more you make – at the end of the day it’s about increasing revenue.

  • avatar
    Posted at 19:18h, 16 September

    We have a tendency to not appreciate what we’ve got till it’s gone. With every closed door, another one opens, though, so it’s all about finding the new opportunity.

  • avatar
    Posted at 22:21h, 01 September

    I’m noticing a lot of directory sites ranking on the first page of the keyword I’ve been targeting.

  • avatar
    Posted at 21:40h, 04 August

    Hey Jeff!!

    Our rankings are WAY up!! Thanks for all your hard work! We love you guys!


    • avatar
      Jeff Bickley
      Posted at 17:25h, 05 August

      Hi Glenda,

      Congrats! Wait till you see this month’s Executive Summary. I think you’ll be well pleased 🙂