Google Pigeon – a name coined by search marketing hub Search Engine Land – rolled out on or around 24th July this year for US English queries only (at present) but is already making quite a big splash. Google’s official statement was that the update, which was internally not named, tied local results more closely into their wider web search signals so that local results would come out looking more like conventional SERPs than specifically local results.

The effects and the reshuffle still seem to be a work in progress, as is typical for most major updates, but reports so far coming in from US search marketers and businesses include the following nuggets:

  • The local results “7 pack” that often appeared just below top organic results has vanished for many queries.
  • Local directories like Yelp, TripAdvisor and OpenTable have gained visibility over Google Plus pages and (in some cases) over the parent websites of local businesses themselves.
  • Local businesses are struggling, with many getting their own sites pushed down the SERPs in favour of entries on the aforementioned directories.
  • Big brands with multi business locations aren’t showing up as visibly in local search as businesses (and their local directory entries), which are based solely on particular locations.
  • Results on mobile devices are believed to be much more adaptive to the user’s location and change as users move to show, for example, restaurants or cafés in the immediate 3-5 mile radius as opposed to those in a much wider area of 10+ miles, bringing mobile local search to a far more truly “local” level.

So what is the end result of all this, and what do businesses worried about their local search visibility need to do now?

  • Local search is becoming more unified with the signals used in regular web search – so rather than relying on local listings and signals to pull your homepage through, make sure you have well-optimised pages on your main site that cover location-based queries.
  • Ensure that your search strategy and authority growth is based on a holistic approach rather than relying on local or other more niche techniques – this will ensure your visibility is maintained as local signals decrease for desktop search.
  • Make sure you are present in the most influential quality directories in your niche – Yelp being the obvious, but also look for others for your particular industry or local area that are relevant to you. Don’t try to outrank Yelp, just make sure you’re visible on Yelp and make their visibility work for you!
  • Keep NAP (name, address, phone number) integrity across your entire web presence – your site, social media and directory listings – to ensure you are sending clear signals so that you will show up in local searches when it is relevant.
  • Get schema.org on to the contact details on your website, whether you’re a series of branches or a single local business – semantic markup boosts visibility anyway, and ensuring Google understands the “place” component of your website will only help you get and stay visible.
  • Pay attention to the mobile visibility and UX on your site – if people visiting from mobile local search find your business, you want to encourage them to come by to boost your footfall and overall conversion rate, so a slick presentation across all types of devices is essential.

4Ps isn’t just another SEO agency. To discuss how technical SEO and search algorithms are evolving together in order to keep pace with new developments in user behaviour and organic reach, give us a call on +44 (0)207 607 5650 for a no-obligation coffee and chat about data, marketing and technology across all inbound channels.