Google Pigeon and Local SEO

Local SEO

  • Google's Local Algorithm Update

    Google Pigeon algorithm changed how websites rank for local SEO results. It applies to search terms comprising of a keyword + geographic locator, like "Paris restaurant", "near me" searches, or other local keywords where Google Maps are shown.

    Moz’s algorithm change report said the following about the algorithm update:

    "Google shook the local SEO world with an update that dramatically altered some local results and modified how they handle and interpret location cues. Google claimed that Pigeon created closer ties between the local algorithm and core algorithm(s)."


    What is the Pigeon Update?

    Even though Google didn't officially give it a name, Search Engine Land decided to call it “Pigeon” and the name stuck.

    Pigeon is designed to improve Google’s search results in the following ways:

    1. To provide more relevant and accurate local search results that are linked to organic search results within the Google Maps feature.
    2. Improve the Knowledge Graph, spelling correction and synonym features which are parts of the hundreds of ranking signals Google use.
    3. Improve Google’s distance and location ranking parameters.

    Some of Google’s previous algorithm updates probably unintentionally made it harder for local businesses to rank well and it looks like Pigeon is an attempt to redress this.  It is too soon to tell how well it will do this and as usual Google haven’t revealed exactly how the update will work, however there are some early indicators as to what the changes are and how you can improve local SEO after Google Pigeon.


    Knowledge Graphs

    The part of Google's improvements to their knowledge graphs doesn't really impact SEO for businesses.  It instead enhances the extra information that you see in the right-hand section of the site when you search for e.g. "Pigeon facts" or "How high is Mount Everest".  The improvements include extra images appearing along with the information.


    Pigeon knowledge graph

How to improve your local SEO

Each of the changes Google have introduced with Pigeon suggest a way to enhance your local SEO:

  1. Improve your overall on-page SEO and build high quality links to your site.

    This has always been important and Google are now taking into account more data on organic SEO in Google Map results, meaning that sites with better organic SEO are more likely to get the “A” spot on a map.
  1. Use good grammar and spelling on your website.

    Pigeon aims to improve Google’s ability to second guess poorly entered search text and still show the correct results.  This means that if you enter “webdesn”, Google searches for “Web design” for you and if you look at the words in bold in the search results, these may include closely related synonyms and phrases like “Website designer” or “Web development”.

    Google values good spelling on your site, but doesn’t expect searchers to necessarily use it.  Because Google looks for the correct spelling, even if someone enters a typo, you’re better off using the correct spelling (including relevant accents for foreign languages).  Similarly avoid artificial strings of text just because people search for keywords in that order.  Instead enter those prepositions like “in”, “of”, “for”, etc. as they would appear in a real sentence.

    Having done a quick analysis since Pigeon was implemented, it appears that Google still tends to show pages with the exact or very similar words as those entered and few pages that use synonyms; therefore if there are multiple keywords that people might use to search for your product or service, either select the most important (typically the one with the highest search volume), or create multiple pages to target different search terms.
  1. Use NAP – Name, Address, Phone on your site and in local directories

    Local directories like Yelp have seen a clear gain in search positions as a result of Pigeon and it’s therefore a good idea to submit your site to the top directories in your area.  Using unique content for your company description with each submission, but keeping the Name, Address and Phone number the same as those that appear on your own site will give you the maximum benefit to your local SEO.

    This helps in two ways. Firstly by varying the details of the submissions, you make it more likely that one of the directories will be found for a wider range of keywords.  Secondly, this sends Google a clear message as to where you’re based and that you’re a real company.  Submitting full details to Google+, including opening hours, etc. is also an essential, as Google+ profiles often appear in local search results.

    Finally, if you’re a local business, it’s essential to include the town and area where you live on every page of your site.  Remember your visitors may not know anything about you and if you’re a restaurant in London, but don’t mention where you’re based in London unless visitors search for it, they’re unlikely to visit.  Your local city name will almost certainly be an important keyword for SEO and including it a few times but not excessively will help your site appear higher when someone searches for a related search.

Following the above SEO guidelines will help local businesses to improve their position with Google and take full advantage of Pigeon.  Other search engines will use similar algorithms and many of the above recommendations would help your site to gain trust and reputation, even if search engines didn’t exist.