3 March 2015
local search ranking

Pigeon Proof Your Google Local Search Rankings

Perhaps you’ve heard of Panda, Penguin, or Hummingbird – Google’s famous (or infamous!) algorithm updates. But you may not have heard of its local search update. This update, named “Pigeon” by Search Engine Land, rolled out last July, and is designed to enhance the leading search engine’s local results.

google local search

Google wants their local search results to be more relevant and accurate. According to them, the Pigeon update does this by:

  • Tying the local search results more closely to the traditional web search ranking signals
  • Improving the distance and local ranking parameters

Search engine marketing experts are still scratching their heads as to what its final effects will be.

But all agree there are distinct changes in the search results pages, and that the patterns produced by the Google Pigeon update will be important. This is particularly true if you are a small business with a local brick-and-mortar presence, or if you are a major brand with stores in multiple areas. The update effects both the traditional search results and map results.

How is Local Search Changing?

Directory Sites Move Ahead

There’s one obvious result of the algorithm relying more heavily on the traditional search ranking signals for local results. Directory sites with information about local businesses now have higher visibility. National directory sites such as Yellowpages.com, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and OpenTable, as well as smaller more localized directory sites are gaining in the rankings for many search phrases.

Local Packs Shrink to 3 Positions

Another significant change is in the local “map packs”. In SEO lingo, a map pack is a set of local results that is displayed within a SERP (search engine results page).

In the past, Google generally displayed 7 results in this “map pack”. The reduction down to 3 means it is now harder for a local business to show up in the pack.

Recommendations for local search optimization

While we’re waiting for the full affects of Pigeon update to become clear, here are a few things you can do to keep ahead of local search competition.

Rev Up Your “Local Pack Attack”

Companies will need to work harder to show up in the smaller local packs. If your local business was doing well, but only because it appeared in the local packs, it’s time to broaden your approach. Put some time and energy into:

Claiming and optimizing both your Google Places for Business as well as your Google+ Local page. This post by Amanda DiSilvestro from at Search Engine Watch explains how to take advantage of these two Google tools.

Garnering more Google+ reviews (and make sure you are active and respond to reviews.)
Including traditional search engine optimization in your marketing strategy. Attach your business to strong domains, if possible. This “barnacling” approach has helped other local businesses rise to the top.

Join Directories

Join business directory sites such as Yelp and YellowPages.com to take advantage of their rising importance. If you are in the hospitality industry, OpenTable and TripAdvisor are also great directories to belong to.

In general, directory lists that are both relevant and actively curated (screened and maintained by human beings) are the ones that are most valued by the search engines.

But make sure you stay away from “spammy” directories – those that are set up only for the purpose of hosting a large number of links.

Add Local Content

Create individual pages within your site that have informative content about your different area locations. This will send strong “local signals” to the search engines.

As Google improves its ability to serve up local results, it’s imperative that you make your physical locations clear. Make it easy by including zip codes and local area names on your pages. Experiment with different levels of local information, so you won’t be penalized by what Google perceives as “over optimization”.

Keep Your NAP Consistent

To make it easy for the search engines to maintain a clear profile of who you are, it’s a good idea to have a consistent Name, Address, and Phone information (NAP). So make sure your NAP is the exactly the same on your site, plus on Yelp, Chamber of Commerce, YellowPages, or any other directories you belong to.


As with all Google updates, stay calm and keep up with the tried and true methods of search engine marketing. As you take these recommended steps to strengthen your local approach, continue to:

  • Create great content that earns in-bound links.
  • Stay engaged with your social media presence.
  • Use your analytics to measure how your site is being impacted, and adjust accordingly.

If keeping up with local SEO takes too much time from your schedule, we’ll be glad to do it for you! Give us a call today at 425-246-7897 or ask us anything here.

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