Google rolls out ‘Pigeon’ algorithm as organic search continues to change

Jul 31st, 2014

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” – John F. Kennedy

In the ever changing world of organic search, there are things that come to test us and those that come to aid us. As you would expect when looking at the market share of search engines, Google holds the keys; they have by far the largest share of the market, (around 89%) and are vastly important when it comes to the evolution of search processes.

On Friday, in the latest phase of their systematic release of algorithms, Google rolled out their latest offering, the unnamed local search update (dubbed Pigeon by leading industry voices within search), in what is one of their largest process changes for many years.

The idea behind the name is that pigeons return home and therefore the localisation angle is suitable following up from the other ‘P’ updates, Panda and Penguin. The general concept behind the update however is far more important and has been put in place to provide users with a more useful, relevant and accurate set of  local search results and tie them in with the ranking signals of traditional web searches. 

The changes, which will be visible within search results for both Google Web and Google Maps users, will include:

1. A change in Google Maps and organic listings for search terms that return a local search results box within the main results.

2. An improvement in location detection (GPS/cellular) making the service more accurate.

3. Results returned will use more data from Google’s knowledge graph as wells as reviews, citations, mentions, PR and local directories.

4. Yelp local listings are more prevalent in search results than before. When the search term includes the word “Yelp”, this will feature above Google’s own local listings. This was not always the case.

Insiders at Google have said that the new algorithm goes far deeper in terms of search capabilities and can improve a business’s distance and location ranking parameters. As yet the search engine is still to comment on the number of searches that will be affected by the update. They have also neglected to mention if web spam algorithms form part of ‘Pigeon’.

Released at first to look at results and queries in the US and in US English, it has not yet been made clear, if and when the algorithm would roll out in other countries or languages. It has also been muted as to the effect it will have on local businesses who may or may not see an increase or decrease in their web traffic. This is largely to do with the fact that many experts believe the update to be more of a ‘housekeeping’ exercise for Google, helping them clean up internally.

Although the update has only featured since the tail end of last week, organic search experts are seeing a reduction or the complete removal of local search results shown in SERPs for search terms such as ‘real estate’ and in the inclusion of local search results for terms related to SEO agencies. The latter had previously not shown up after being manually restricted by Google.

All things considered, if and when ‘Pigeon’ makes its way over the Atlantic, and you’d have to think it will, this is one update to keep up with, or risk falling foul of. As the great film director Claude Chabrol once quipped: “Sometimes you are the pigeon, and sometimes you are the statue.”

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