Launched in the UK in December 2014, the Google Pigeon Update began to take a more serious look at the location of Google Users when making a search and aimed to let local search resemble and behave similarly to the organic search. It has been noted as one of Google’s biggest algorithmic updates in terms of impact.
Pigeon improved the relationship between the core index and the local algorithm and aimed to generate more relevant local search results by rewarding local business websites that had a high ‘quality score’ and a strong organic presence online with better visibility in the SERPs.
Local businesses saw the effects in their analytic data as size or brand popularity was no longer solely determining ranking position. It also ensured a better user experience for people using the search engine to discover and gain information on local businesses.
The sole aim of the Google Pigeon Update was to improve the effectiveness of search. Enhancements were therefore made to hundreds of ranking factors including Google’s distance and location ranking boundaries in order to provide more accurate and relevant local results.
Like many updates, there have been some hiccups but tweaks and some suspected further updates have ensured that local search has improved drastically.
It is thought that the Pigeon algorithm update is deep-rooted and integrated into Google’s general web search potential and features including spelling corrections and synonyms.
However, the most noticeable changes surround Google Maps and user experience. Since the update, the SERP for a regular search and a Google Maps search now look and function more similarly.
Before the Pigeon update, the local pack was also different and often would include around 7-10 businesses which did offer more room for businesses to rank on page one. However, it is now known as the 3-pack.
The new changes meant users were able to gain the most relevant and useful information, based on location, and in fewer steps. Google now favoured those within a certain radius and level of relevancy and often those with visible information such as phone number or address. This did result in a decrease in website traffic for some businesses as the user no longer needed to click on the actual website.
It does seem though that this is the way Google and search results are heading in terms of giving the user the information required in the least number of steps. The same can be said for snippets where Google shows relevant content to a query on the SERP and again many users won’t need to click on the website the information came from. As always, SEO technicians and webmasters should aim to roll with the times and continue to adapt their website in order to remain visible and rank well.