Google updated their search engine algorithm back in July, including changes that would make a significant impact on search engine optimization marketers, especially those that work in local SEO. While Google didn't give a name to the update as it had with Panda and Penguin, the website Search Engine Land bestowed the name "Pigeon" to it because it was a significant change to the algorithm. They chose the name because of the update's focus on local SEO - pigeons always fly home.
The algorithm change will provide more relevant and accurate local search results that are more closely connected to traditional web search rankings. The update is not penalty-based.
Local businesses, particularly small- and medium-sized businesses, will likely be most affected by the update because the new algorithm is more deeply related to web searching capabilities like spelling correction, synonyms, Knowledge Graph, and more. Upgrades have also been made that relate to distance and location ranking variables. Newer search results give more weight to local businesses rather than global brands. For example, a search for "Italian food" will give more local and small- to medium-sized businesses and restaurants rather than larger national brands like the Olive Garden.
Local businesses will also see a positive change when it comes to Yelp search results. In the past if a user searched for "[business name] yelp" the search engine results page would return business Yelp pages as the 3rd or 4th result instead of as the first. The Pigeon update has caused an increase in local directory results, which means that organic results have more of a chance to appear in the SERPs than ever before.
Post-update some websites may have experienced a decrease in traffic. For the short-term businesses can remedy this by using pay-per-click advertising campaigns to boost traffic. In the long-term small- and medium-sized businesses will need to focus their efforts on acquiring search listings for keywords. SEO marketers should also perform competitive research and analysis to learn more about how they stack up to their competitors and make all the necessary updates and fixes to strengthen SEO campaigns.
The new algorithm is connected to conventional web search rankings, which means local search rankings could be more deeply affected by website authority. Back-links and domain authority may determine local rankings. Any business without a local presence needs to work on building one as soon as possible.
While building an effective local presence may take valuable time away from other activities, the value will be clear in the end. Businesses that optimize their websites and overall web presence will see positive changes in the amount of leads, referrals, and business that comes in as a result.
The Pigeon update will certainly require SEO professionals to be more open-minded and adaptable, but it could prove beneficial in the end. With more attention being given to small- to medium-sized businesses instead of big corporations, more SEO marketers dealing with local results will likely see the update as a positive because it will help local businesses compete in the market.