Google’s “Pigeon” Local Algorithm Update: What You Need to Know

On the evening of July 24, Google released a major local search algorithm update affecting both Google Maps search results and Google Web search results. Search Engine Land broke the story, and was provided additional information from Google around the recent local algorithm update. This change in Google’s local algorithm is now being referred to as the “Pigeon” update. While there is still some uncertainty around which verticals are affected (and how), information is continuing to unravel as the days go on.

What We Know About the Local Algorithm Update So Far:

  • Google told Search Engine Land that the new local search algorithm ties deeper into their web search capabilities, including the hundreds of ranking signals they use in web search along with such search features as Knowledge Graph, spelling correction, synonyms and more.
  • Google has not commented on the percent of search queries impacted by this algorithm update, nor if certain web spam algorithms were deployed in this update.
  • There appears to be less duplication of search results in both local and organic listings, where previously the order of results mirrored each other.
  • In some situations, there’s been a significant decrease in the radius of a local search based on your current location (i.e. Google is now providing local listings within a closer distance from your current location).
  • The algorithm update currently applies to U.S. results only, with no word of if/when it will roll out to other countries.
  • Yelp and other local directory-style sites seem to be benefitting with higher visibility after the Pigeon update, in some verticals. This does seem logical since Google said this update ties local results more closely to standard web ranking signals. This should benefit large directory sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor — sites that have stronger SEO signals than small, individual restaurants and hotels are likely to have.
  • There have been reports that the majority of real estate, realtors, realty, and real estate agencies have lost the local listings in their entirety.
  • SEO managers, web designers, advertising agencies and marketing firms have been added back in to local results for the first time since 2009.

How to Spot Check Your Listings:

With a great tip from Blumenthals, we’ve found that Google.ca can be utilized to check search results before this recent local algorithm update, as Google.ca seems to still be using the old algorithm. Be sure to incorporate the location identifier into the search queries during investigation on both Google.ca and Google.com (e.g. Auto Insurance Chicago), so it gives an apples-to-apples comparison of before and after.

Here is an example of the changes in the search results between Google.ca (left) and Google.com (right):

New Google Local Search Algorithm


Actionable Insights:

With this major change in Google’s local search algorithm, it’s very likely to experience ranking changes within the Google listings for the correlated industry, and it’s also a possibility that the local listings have been removed entirely. It’s important to monitor any fluctuations in organic traffic and monitor any fluctuation in rankings using tools like the Rio Local first page position report.

Although all specifics of this algorithm are not yet clear, if rankings decrease, it’s recommended to ensure that your local listings are following local best practices:

  1. The business is submitted to Google Local, Yahoo and Bing; plus all information (name, address, phone number) is accurate and up-to-date.
  2. Develop individual local landing pages per location and optimize each page around the appropriate keywords.
  3. Utilize structured markup on the developed local landing pages.
  4. Frequently distribute and manage listings with accurate location information to third-party data aggregators, and send updated information when any details change.
  5. Identify any duplicate or inconsistent listings across the web and request the adjustment or removal of them.

Because this update is still in its infancy, it’s difficult to tell what new ranking factors have been introduced and how traditional local ranking factors have been adjusted. However, we are closely monitoring this change and will continue to provide detail as more information is discovered.