Google Pigeon Update – A Collection of Expert Opinions

15 Oct

Each year Google’s algorithms are changed between 500-600 times. Most of these changes are minor. Occasionally Google will roll out a major change, such as; “Panda” and “Penguin”. 

For digital marketers knowing when these change occored helps to explain changes in ranking and website traffic. Resulting in improved search engine optimization. 

For a complete list and description of all Googles updates click here

Googles latest update has been called “Pigeon” due to of a lack of an official name from Google. The named was dubbed by Search Engine Land on Jul 31st. The name was decided because the update is a local search update and pigeons tend to fly back home. 

According to Google the local search algorithm will work deeper with sites web search capabilities. Local sites are already experiencing improved visibility in Google Search Engine results:

“It looks like Yelp and other local directory-style sites are benefiting with higher visibility after the Pigeon update, at least in some verticals. And that seems logical since, as Google said, this update ties local results more closely to standard web ranking signals. That should benefit big directory sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor — sites that have stronger SEO signals than small, individual restaurants and hotels are likely to have.” 

                                                                                                          ~Search Engine Land

Nicole Hess Senior SEO Strategist at Delphic Design said… <<Read More>>

Nicole Hess

After reading about the potentially spammy results being brought in by the newest Google local algorithm update, I immediately began wondering the affect of it on several of my clients.

First and foremost, a national client of mine has hundreds of locations that conduct business independently and need organic traffic to produce valuable business leads.  I began digging into the data to spot any trends that already may be happening or developing and take action on it.
In reviewing the local rankings pack, I did not find spammy results creep into listings; although, I have seen this in some searches – such as “Casino” and “Interior Design” – but not in this client’s space.
My three primary observations:
  1. Locations not appearing in local results: There were a few locations that are not appearing in the local pack of results, though at some previous point did appear there. The average drop in traffic for a location that is no longer in the local pack is 16% less traffic month over month (and this is in a good season where overall organic traffic is increasing).
  2. Locations appearing in local results, less traffic: Of the 50 locations I reviewed, seven are receiving less organic traffic month over month, though still rank in the Local results and have the same organic rankings. Five of the seven locations rank second in a pack of seven local results and for each of these, there are paid ads with star ratings that appear above the local pack.
  3. Locations getting more traffic: Ten of the 50 locations I reviewed are receiving more organic traffic, on average 24% more organic traffic than the same week of the previous month.  Each location ranks in the local pack and most rank No. 1 or No. 2 in the local pack. Their organic rankings have also maintained steady positions month over month, so that factor can be eliminated.
Also, while there were still paid ads, most listings had paid ads that didn’t have star ratings to detract from the organic results. Noting that this is a good season for the client where organic traffic is improving in general, I’m not ascribing all the lift to the local pack rankings, though the lift in traffic for these locations is greater than the month over month lift in organic traffic overall.
So it appears there has been some favorable shifts caused by Pigeon driving more organic traffic.
From what I have witnessed, some local ranking shift has occurred and is driving more organic traffic to several locations. Being out of the local pack correlates with a loss of organic traffic for a few locations. A loss of organic traffic is also occurring where listings are competing against paid ads that have star ratings.”

Mike Blumenthal, search Expert and Author of Google Places and Local Search Blog Blumenthals added: 

“To a large degree the jury is still out on the what, whys and outcomes of the recent Local algo update. Things have been changing since the roll out Thursday evening and are just now stabilizing.
Mike Blumenthal
Things we do know: there seem to be fewer seven-pack results than before although the drop is not as big as first reported as Google seems to have changed the impact of some local query modifiers. It was originally reported as a sixty percent drop in MozCast, and by their metric it was. However many of their search queries no longer seem to function the same way.
Things that seem to be “more so” since the change include:
  • Localization of geo search results appear to have increased based on user’s location.
  • Brands appear to have benefited with additional listings in the pack results and more three-packs.
The update does appear to have reduced duplication between the organic and local results. After the October 2013 update that ended blended results, a number of sites were seeing both organic and local pack results. Those seem to have been reduced to one or the other.
The directories, at least anecdotally, appear to have benefited from the change.
On many searches the radius of the “view port” of the Map has changed. This obviously leads to an effective ranking shake up as the businesses visible within the view have changed. On some searches we are seeing cross geo border expansion of the port and on others a reduction in the radius, totally excluding the locations in the burbs.
Whether this is a cause or effect, we simply can’t yet tell but it does lead to turmoil in the rankings.
One could group this update with a number of other recent Google updates that have reduced visual “distractions” from the main search results; loss of video snippets, the loss of author photos, reduction in the number of review stars shown, etc. etc.
The impact is still unclear; we will have to wait for analytics data to accumulate to assess the net of the change both specifically and more broadly.”
Since the release, savvy search marketers noticed fluctuations and changes in the quality of the search results since – some may call it Pigeon version 1.1 has been released.
One example was the embarrassing NY hotel listing showing Expedia, which was fixed sometime last Friday.
When asked if Google had made a small update to their local search algorithm, Google would not confirm or deny the change. Google did say that they “don’t have a specific update to announce here.” Google added “we probably won’t detail all the changes to local search algorithms as we go.”
I doubt we will hear from Google about new local search algorithm updates in the future based on this last statement.
Enjoy a Brief Power point:


Compiled By:

Josh Martin



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Posted by on October 15, 2014 in Uncategorized


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