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Google puts a Pigeon amongst the SEO cats with latest update

Anyone who keeps up with the latest SEO news will already be familiar with Google’s Panda and Penguin updates. Now following the trend of the animals whose name begins with ‘P’ we have the Pigeon update. Unlike its predecessors Pigeon is not an official title given by Google but has been dubbed that by the SEO community.

While not on the same scale as its black and white brethren Pigeon has implications for local businesses, and could cause them to lose out in local search rankings if they don’t pay attention. The upshot is that the latest algorithm tweak does benefit the user searching for local information, more than it does the websites of businesses local to them. Because Pigeon relies on traditional ranking signals to determine what makes it to the top of the pile larger directory sites such as Yelp!, and Google’s own Google+ pages, tend to do better than the businesses that might (or might not) have a Yelp! entry or Google+ page.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that local businesses are going to be any worse off than they were before, but they’re not going to be doing as well as they might. The main way to make sure your business ranks high in local searches is to set up a Google+ page for your business, and if you already have one make sure it’s filled out and optimised as much as possible.

The other noticeable change that the update brings with it is the difference to “pack” results. Previously it was common to see “seven packs”, a list of seven Google Maps local search results. This has now gone down to three results, seemingly making local searches more mobile friendly.

Having a crawlable store finder page is also going to help search engines to display the location of brick and mortar stores, which will feed into directory sites as well. Although it might not be possible for your own site to rank higher than these directory sites making sure they have most accurate and relevant information about your business is still going to benefit you. So it’s always worth keeping your contact info up-to-date.

While carousel search results, the film strip of images that appear at the top of searches for businesses, aren’t a new feature of Pigeon they are increasing in popularity and it’s as good a time as any to make sure your website features high quality images that show off your business at its best.

At the moment the update has only been rolled out to the US, it’s not yet clear when it will make it to other countries and the effect it’s having on local searches is still changing. Being ready for it is still going to help your search engine rankings though. To summarise here’s how you can make your site more local-friendly and prepare yourself for Pigeon’s landing:

• Establish a presence for your business in Google Search, Maps and Google+ with a Google My Business listing

• Make sure all your business contact info is up-to-date

• Claim your listing in major local search directories

• Optimise your site for local search terms