What does Google’s Local Pigeon Algorithm Update mean for Businesses?

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After Google pushed out the Pigeon Update on July 24th, we’ve had a chance to analyse and reflect the impact it has had. So what has changed when it comes to local search, and how will it impact your business?

The update affects organic local listings, in both the general Web Search, and the Google Map Search, so it’s worth taking note, and ensuring your brand is still ranking well.

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The Aim of the Pigeon Local Algorithm Changes

Google’s main aim with this update is to improve local searches, providing relevant and useful results for anyone seeking out localised results. There have been no aesthetic changes, so searching works the same, but the back-end alterations mean the results that display have changed quite significantly, using a more contextual search.

Google is becoming more in tune with what it is users are actually searching for, and adjusting the results to reflect what it is they really want to see. Instead of displaying irrelevant results you may not find useful, Google is identifying keywords to actually understand what you wish to see, and integrating local businesses.

For instance, if you are based in London, and do a search for “Italian Restaurants”, the new algorithm will pull together your location, alongside their keyword tracking, to display a list of relevant restaurants in your area, instead of generic Italian restaurants that may have been indicated from your search terms alone.

What has the Pigeon Algorithm changed?

Google have made the change in order to improve distance and location ranking parameters, tying in with features such as Knowledge Graph, synonyms, and spelling correction. The update has meant many changes behind the scenes, which subsequently impact local search results rankings. If you’re a local business, then you may witness a change in website referrals.

The update is said to tie local results more closely to standard web ranking signals, that are used in general Web searches. This means that local rankings are now more heaviuly influenced by backlinks, domain authority, and other SEO factors. So we should be seeing more accuracy when it comes to searching for local businesses. Google may be attempting to hyper-localise search results, in order to keep consistency between geo-location influenced results on mobile, now spreading to the desktop.


It also appears to have made less seven-pack results, where local businesses are listed in a single search result, and so SEO for your own site is crucial. However, Google seems to be opting for a less “visual” SERP, with the removal of authorship photos and now the Pigeon update shaking up how we view results. Carousel results became a staple in localised results, followed by organic results related to your search terms, including local businesses that you may also be interested in. The Carousel seems largely unaffected for now, so ensure you have great imagery to gain exposure for any local keywords.

Local Directories Gain Prominence

One big change has been that local directory sites have gained a lot more visibility in the results page on Google, with Yelp results no longer side-lined for Google’s own listing. Alongside this, listings on UrbanSpoon, TripAdvisor, and other websites have gained a boost. This does mean however, that individual business listings may be relegated to the second page, as directories and other search results seem to be ranking higher.

It’s debatable whether this silent change is a good alteration or not, with popular directories being listed multiple times for the same search terms. Displaying what is essentially search results within search results may seem backward, but at least it shows Google is promoting businesses other than itself.

What should Local Businesses do?

Improve your SEO, and ensure your SEO signals are as strong as possible. In doing so, you are sure to appear ahead of your competitors in the Search Engine Results Page on Google. If you are still encountering a traffic-drop in the future, then it may be worthwhile to run a PPC campaign, to ensure you don’t miss out on business in the near future. In the long term, you can then focus on ensuring you rank well for keywords which will bring you customers.

Additionally, ensuring your business information is up to date is essential. Maintain your opening hours, pricing, business details, and other terms people may search for, and you’ll be sure to stay relevant in Google Results. Ensure you provide as much information as possible to your customers, and Google will ensure to list you well.

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Aside from this, tracking what terms are bringing traffic to your site, in comparison to before the Pigeon update hit, is essential. Making use of Google Analytics to do so could help you no end, as that you can optimise your website to take advantage of these key terms, and gain new traffic, which will inevitably lead to new business for your company. It may also be worthwhile to ensure you have a great presence on local directory pages, to ensure any traffic that is redirected to places like Yelp still ends up on your website.

Google are constantly evolving their Search Result offerings, and for now, it seems that Content and Localised results are key parts of what they suggest to searchers. If you’re not producing quality content on a regular basis, whether via Content Marketing or quality web copy, and ensuring you are ranking well SEO-wise for local search terms, then you could be missing out on business.

Another addition is that Google appears to be penalising companies who have multiple Google+ pages, as this is seen as spamming, and so it’s vital to ensure you only have one business Google+ page. Check that there isn’t a separate local listing that may be lurking as a separate Google+ profile entirely.

What do Google have in store?

Coupling this update with changes to Google Maps, Google Places, and the Google Plus Business page, local businesses are getting a lot of focus from Google.

Despite all this, there are sure to be algorithm changes within the next few weeks, or even days, so it’s vital to stay on your toes to ensure your business gets as much organic traffic as possible. If you need help with SEO to ensure you’re ranking high on Google, or creating a Pay-Per-Click campaign to combat these changes, get in touch with us here, we would love to help you out.

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