Don’t Let Google Pigeon Give Your Biz the Bird

Posted September 09, 2014

By Tamara Weintraub

Google recently released a major update to their local search results that Search Engine Land (a site covering the search marketing industry) nicknamed "Pigeon." This algorithm update may cause local businesses to experience either an increase or decrease in their organic search traffic, both from browser searches and searches directly in Google Maps.

What do these changes look like?

Google is moving local map results lower on search results page—or removing them altogether—and replacing them with other local directories like Yelp, Yellow Pages, and directory-specific sites like Urbanspoon, TripAdvisor, and Realtor.com. What's more, these directories often rank higher than Google business listings. In addition, this update may be related to Google penalizing improperly formatted listings.  

Google Pigeon Update Strategies

As a business owner, what should you do to get more search traffic from these new search results?

Update All Your Local Listings

If you rely on your Google listing alone to get found by local searchers, you need to broaden your approach. For instance, a search for dentists and apartments in my local area shows that local directories other than Google listings are featured more prominently in Google's search results.

What this means:  it's now critical to make sure your business is listed across top local listings—including general business listings like Yelp, as well as industry-specific sites like Urbanspoon—relevant to your business type. Also, make sure all your local listings are up to date, accurate, and consistent: even the ones you already own for your business.

Know What Sites Show Up for Your Business in Search

One tip to see what local listings are already populating in the search results is to conduct a few private or incognito searches for your business name and business type + location. Then, claim or update those business listings that show up first, since they're already being featured in Google's search results. But, even if there are sites that you don't see on the first page or two of Google results, but you think they might be relevant, claim and optimize them anyway, because Google still looks at consistency between all your local listings, or "citations," as an SEO signal when determining your business' search results.

Update Your Google Business Listing

Google appears to be de-emphasizing its own listings in local search results, but that doesn't mean it is getting rid of them. These listings are still incredibly important to your site's SEO and helpful to local browser and mobile searchers, especially since the organic results may not have changed much for your business type.

Make sure your business name and information, images, and website URL are all up to date and optimized for local search. If you don't have a Google business listing already, you can create one using Google My Business portal.

Adhere to Google's Policies

In addition to optimizing your Google business listing for search, you need to make sure that it's aligned with Google's policies and best practices. One reported outcome of the Pigeon update is that Google may be penalizing local business listings (primarily service businesses like landscapers or maid services) that don't list a physical address, and may remove these listings from the search results.

Google recommends of adding a primary physical address such as the proprietor's home address, and then adding service areas, so double check that your service business is listed accurately in your Google listing.

What impact has your business seen from this Google Pigeon update? Have you noticed an uptick or decline in local traffic from your local listings? Let us know in the comment section below.

As a Content Marketing Manager at ReachLocal and writer for the ReachLocal blog, Tamara Weintraub helps local businesses reach more customers online with helpful tips about online advertising, social media marketing, and Web presence optimization.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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