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Google Pigeon and the State of Local SEO

Matt Brady
#Digital Marketing, #Inbound Marketing, #SEO
Published on November 20, 2014

Learn about how the latest changes to Google's search algorithms affect your local business's search results.

In our always-connected world, it’s important for any company to make sure people can find out about them online. This is especially true for smaller businesses that serve a local clientele, since statistics show that people who use mobile devices to search for local products and services are likely to make a purchase. While there are a number of tools available for managing your company’s online information, such as Google My Business and Moz Local, it’s also important to understand how to manage your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to make sure your website can be found by local searchers. Let’s look at some of the current issues affecting local SEO:

Google’s Pigeon Update

Google regularly releases updates to the algorithms they use to determine the results that will be returned in their users’ searches. These updates often cause a great deal of discussion among SEO experts, since they affect the carefully crafted strategies people use to help their sites rank as highly as possible in search results. However, it’s important to remember that Google’s intention is to provide the best possible answers for what people are looking for online, and while their updates may not affect a site in the way the site’s owner feels is ideal, they are striving to make sure that people can find exactly what they want to find every time they perform a search.

In July 2014, Google released an algorithm update affecting local searches, and while they did not give it an official name, the online SEO community has decided to call it the Pigeon Update. The main changes that seem to have been included in this update are an improvement in location targeting, with Google being able to pinpoint a user’s exact location and give them the results that are closest to them, as well as what seems to be an emphasis on recognizable brands.

What does this mean for me?

Since Pigeon appears to emphasize larger, more recognizable brand names, one strategy that smaller businesses can use to make sure they can get found is Barnacle SEO. By making sure your company is included in directory listing sites like Yelp and Yahoo! Local, you can make sure people can find your company even if you aren’t appearing at the top of Google’s search results.

Local Search Ranking Factors

In October 2014, David Mihm, Moz’s local search expert, released his annual report of Local Search Ranking Factors, which is composed from answers to a survey of SEO experts, detailing their experiences in how certain aspects of various sites affected their rankings in local search results. This year’s report looked at general and specific ranking factors as well as what factors were affected by the Pigeon update. The results contain a lot of interesting information, but the main takeaways seem to be an increased emphasis on domain authority and the continuing importance of company address information.

What does this mean for me?

Domain Authority is a metric that determines how well a site is likely to rank in Google’s search results. This metric shows how competitive a site is against other sites, and it is based on a variety of other metrics related to a site’s overall SEO. Local businesses are not often as well known as larger brands, so they will often have a lower domain authority. However, this doesn’t mean that it is impossible to increase your search rankings; utilizing techniques like the aforementioned Barnacle SEO or trying to get sites with a higher domain authority to link to you are some of the ways you can make domain authority work in your favor.

The Ranking Factors survey shows that incorrect information about a company’s location or address information has a major negative effect on search rankings. Making sure that your Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) are correct not only on every page of your site, but in any directory sites, is essential for ensuring that you can be found in searches. In addition, it is a good idea to include your City and State in page titles, headings, and within your site’s content, letting both Google and searchers know exactly where you are and making sure that you can be found in searches in that area.

SEO is important, but it can be tricky to figure out exactly what you need to do to make sure you can be found in searches. Tried-and-true SEO techniques like establishing yourself as an authority, ensuring that you have quality content, and providing a great User Experience (UX) will increase your search rankings, but there are many other things to consider, and the SEO landscape is always changing. If you want to make sure you are following best practices, sign up for a Free Local SEO Report, and our SEO experts will let you know if there are any issues that you need to correct in order to be found in local searches. Do you have any other questions about SEO? Please contact us to speak with one of our experts, or feel free to leave a comment below.