Pigeon update effect

Local business owners should respond positively to a new Google Pigeon Update. Only U.S. local search queries have been effected up until now. There are more changes to come and more queries will be effected.  Search Engine Land says the results interface in the Google Places “7-pack block” and results for queries with location intent are to be displayed with improved distance and location ranking parameters.

The Pigeon Update has been so called, not only because they needed another animal name beginning with “P” but because the pigeon is a “homebird.” The algorithm change was designed to tie local (home) search results with standard web ranking signals. The search result pages have been enriched with links to local-directory type sites (Yelp, OpenTable, TripAdvisor) listed above the stand-alone local businesses. Google has not yet commented on the possible algorithm effects and will probably keep further changes in secret. However, we can see some outputs from local search experts’ takeaways.

There are several possible motives for Google to have made the Pigeon Update. It is evidently that these new changes in the Google ranking system have stimulated some questions that still hang in the air:

  1. Has Yelp improved its customer service and is now getting rewarded by Google?
  2. Is the Google Pigeon Update a part of Google’s tendency to improve mobile user experiences in order to make users do local shopping on mobile devices?
  3. Is this a kind of amplification added by Google to the old Hummimgbird Update?

Some experts see Google abusing its own guidelines if it pushes the rankings of local directories to the top of search engine result pages.  Let’s take Yelp as an example. Does Yelp pretend to be unbiased? Earlier Yelp pitched itself as the most cost-effective advertising platform with aggressive sales people and many complaints from small business owners about the Yelp review filter system policy. Why is Google now placing Yelp and other directory site links higher than its own local listings and what will be the consequences of the Google Pigeon Update?

Let’s consider the possible after-effects of the Google Pigeon Update.

Positive effects:

  • The growth of the authority of local businesses thanks to user reviews and recommendations on local business directory sites.
  • The local search results provided by Google may become even more relevant and neat on both desktop and mobile devices.
  • The reduction of duplicates between organic and blended page results.

Negative effects:

  • Because of the existence of paid-for reviews on many cloud-sourced directories, local business owners may find themselves having to pay to be displayed higher than competitors.
  • Taking into account the boost of Yelp visibility and that of other local business directory websites, displayed result pages may lose relevance and flood organic SERPs with random or paid results. Google users may just start going to Yelp.com directly.

The fact remains that Google will change its policy terms when it wants and you will either be in or out of the game. Forewarned is forearmed. Local search marketing goes hand in hand with listing management. This is a good marketing strategy for your local business if you want to claim high rankings on SERPs. You should pay attention to your local citations, listings and user reviews  in order to strengthen your online reputation and your overall backlink profile.  That being said, a focus on your Online Reputation Management is a must if you want your business to be in the mainstream.

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