August 8, 2014, 12:32 PM

What Google's 'Pigeon' update means for local search marketers

Google has changed the way it displays search results for local businesses. SEO experts are still studying the impact, but here are a few changes digital local marketing agency SIMPartners has observed.

On July 24th, 2014, Google began rolling out updates to its local search algorithm, an updated some have dubbed Pigeon. (Google hasn't named it.) Most would agree that this was a fairly large update that shook local search results. Like others, we expect search radius plays a large part in determining what results are displayed. We are actively testing several hypotheses to see if the data proves or disproves these theories.

The update was rolled out and can be outlined by the two points below:

  • Local search results are now tied more closely with traditional SEO signals.

  • The update supposedly improved distance and location ranking signals.

Additionally, there seems to be a decrease in the local pack results. (These are results that group several search results together, such as restaurants in a given area.) Some queries lost the 7-pack while others gained it.

Many of you will notice there are many more 2-pack and 3-pack results. At first, it was estimated there was a 62% drop in queries that produced the 7-pack. Upon further investigation it turned out that wasn’t the case. Overall, Whitespark saw around a 23% drop in searches that displayed the local pack. Along with that, we saw less duplicates in the organic and local search results. This makes sense since it appears Google pushed search and traditional SEO signals closer together.

In some instances, queries that lost the local pack only did so in certain regions. We are noticing that these tend to be larger metro areas (Las Vegas, Seattle, Dallas, etc.). Additionally, it looks like directories, such as Yelp, are big winners.

It’s clear that the release is still in its infancy. Expect more changes and updates over the coming weeks and months. Some results are inaccurate and Google will look to resolve those issues.

Right now, the impact of this update is still unclear. As the dust settles and we continue to collect more data, we can start to better understand Pigeon’s impact.

SIMPartners provides online local marketing technology.

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