Google Pigeon, announced at the end of last week, is an update to the local search algorithm. It’s the largest update to this algorithm in a while, and one that has been long overdue. With people’s search habits evolving, plus all the effort Google has made to update the local dashboard, it really was only a matter of time before the algorithm changed too. Although only rolled out in the US at this stage, it’s further confirmation that Google is getting more serious with local search.
Australian businesses could win big or lose big
It is unclear what percentage of searches in the US have experienced changes, however even before the update was announced forums were abuzz with users reporting large ranking fluctuations. Google hasn’t specifically announced when or if the local algorithm update will be rolled out across other languages or countries. However historically we know and as we’ve seen with many updates, elements of the original Pigeon update will likely be rolled out worldwide in some form. So what are we seeing in the US that could mean businesses win or lose in Australia?
1. Reduction in the number of packs around more generic searches – Moz has reported around a 60% decrease in searches that show Google Maps in the results. These mainly seem to be around more generic terms (i.e. searches without locations – e.g. currently the term ‘computers’ has 7 map listings showing, but in the future Google might show less map results or none at all).
2. Maps showing in search results are becoming more specific to your location – We’ve already been experiencing more accurate search results based on where we’re searching from (e.g. Searches for physical stores in the CBD often show different results to searches in the suburbs). Google has announced further enhancements in this algorithm update to better improve accuracy over distance and location.
3.Local directories are becoming more prominent in local search – Directory site Yelp saw great ranking increases for a larger variety of local search terms (as reported by Search Engine Land) after the Pigeon update. This means having a good presence in local directories (such as True Local, Yellow Pages etc.) is more important than ever.
What should businesses be doing to stay ahead?
Digital marketing, SEO companies and businesses alike should be paying attention to what happens in the US to stay ahead of the trend. How?
1. Think – Google My Business has made it easier for business to gain a presence and interact with customers so if you haven’t already started thinking about your local strategy then it isn’t too late.
2. Plan – If you’re just relying on map rankings in Google search think about how you’re servicing that area and how you can improve and really create a local strategy.
3. Act – Don’t sit and wait for Pigeon to be rolled out in Australia. Be proactive about your strategy or the harmless Pigeon may end up being as harsh as Google’s other “cute and cuddly” updates Panda and Penguin.
Whether you are with an agency or do your digital marketing in house Google’s local algorithm update is confirmation on just the way the search landscape is changing and how important local strategies is becoming to online marketing.