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Local Search: Did Google Pigeon Soil the SERPs?

Posted on the 01 April 2015 by Marketingtango @marketingtango
  • April 1, 2015
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Local Search: Did Google Pigeon Soil the SERPs?

What concerns you most when pigeons fly overhead? Exactly.

It’s the same worry marketers have about Google’s latest update for local search, dubbed Pigeon by SEO authority SearchEngineLand.

In case you hadn’t heard, Google changed its local search algorithm back in July, pushing some small business types higher up and into the top slots (aka the “Google 7-pack”) while moving others out completely (real estate firms may have been hit particularly hard, according to one recent report.)

Better for Whom?

SearchEngineLand says the changes are Google’s most significant for local search since 2012, and will be immediately visible within Google Maps search results and Google Web search results. Critics claim it’s a weakly veiled revenue play aimed at forcing small businesses to buy more Google PPC ads. But the search giant says it’s merely trying to give users a more relevant and useful experience by tying local search results to a broader set of organic ranking signals, such as Knowledge Graph, synonyms, positive reviews, and more.

Whatever Google is doing, Pigeon has many businesses feeling like the proverbial park statue.

Rankings Fly the Coop

According to an article by Search Engine Watch, rankings for sites touting real estate, jobs, movies and insurance services have fallen by up to 60% in the Google Places results. Conversely, some companies in the hospitality, food and education sectors have seen double-digit gains in their search query volume.

Some local search marketing pros, like Linda Buquet, speculate that Google was (or still is) testing different versions of the new algorithm, so your search results rankings may continue to fluctuate until the flighty bird decides to light.

Avoiding the Fallout

Meanwhile, small businesses should stay calm and not panic. But it would probably be prudent to meet soon with your web developer, in-house marketer and/or analytics person to see if and how you’ve been affected. The more you know about your pre-Pigeon SEO and rankings, the better equipped you’ll be to make the proper strategic adjustments.

We don’t like to get overly techie here but this Search Engine Watch article recommends some specific remedies your web developer or IT person can help with, including increasing directory listings (like Yelp!), hyperlocalization, and re-optimizing page titles and other on-page SEO tactics.

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