It’s been one year since Google’s Pigeon rolled out, and hyper-local SEO has never been more important. Pigeon is the Google local search ranking algorithm that debuted in July 2014. The pigeon update turned local SEO (LSEO) hyper-local, which (if your LSEO is done well) can help your business rank better in more immediate areas and neighborhoods. In time, you can gain momentum and strength by ranking in areas surrounding your hyper-local area, too. For example, maybe you once ranked well for Utah or Salt Lake City. Pigeon may have made it so that you now only rank well for smaller cities and suburbs. However, just like any type of SEO (or LSEO), your rank is almost completely within your control — or that of your SEO agency.
Pigeon took local search to a different level, honing in on specificity. Just a little after Pigeon’s debut, where it rocked the SEO world, an update seemed to appear (on Aug. 1), but Google never officially confirmed this. As it stands, Pigeon impacts search results in Google Web Search and Google Maps Search. Previously, searching via Google versus Google Maps led to different results, but Pigeon changed that so they aligned better. Pigeon also ensured that local results have closer ties to classic web ranking signals, utilizing hundreds of ranking signals while blending them with the Google knowledge graph, spelling corrections, and other key search features.
Something to Yelp About
Yelp and Google have had their differences, with Yelp calling out Google right before Pigeon was released for allegedly ignoring the major review site in Google search results. Yelp claimed that Google favored its own reviews, even when users included Yelp in their search. Pigeon addressed this complaint, although it’s unclear how much Yelp’s allegations had to do with it. This update also prioritizes search result recognition in regard to local directories overall (not just Yelp). It’s why UrbanSpoon, Kayak, OpenTable, and the like have enjoyed a boost in visibility.
In Google’s history, Pigeon is the largest local search update ever released. Maps now has better location ranking details and distance. Whether users search correctly for specific cities like Orem, if they misspell them (Oren, Utah), or slang is used for neighborhoods, Pigeon is pretty good at figuring out what searchers really want and delivering local and hyper-local results. There’s also an emphasis on local results that are a little beyond the more popular neighborhoods people search for, making border neighborhoods more searchable — while getting more traffic.
A Mixed Bag
Not even Google can please everyone, at least not right away. Pigeon ushered in a mixed bag of results, with businesses either loving it or hating it, depending on how Pigeon immediately changed its search ranking results. For example, a business that ranked No. 1 for “clown camp Utah” might have gone down to seventh place, thanks to Pigeon. Obviously this fictional clown camp wouldn’t be happy about that. However, maybe now this camp ranks as No. 1 for “clown camp Poplar Grove,” which makes a lot more sense if that’s where this camp takes place. It’s not that helpful to a clown wannabe hours away in Salt Lake City to find technically local results that aren’t that local at all.
For the most part, only certain niche business types saw reduced rankings with Pigeon. Most businesses didn’t even notice the update at all — although that may be because they’re not keeping pace with their SEO needs. Pigeon can be a great tool if abided by and leveraged. Rely on Be Locally SEO for all your LSEO and hyper-local SEO needs.