Limited time offer: FREE SSL certificates for all new website clients* Find out more

How does the Google Pigeon update impact local searches?

Google Pigeon Update
Last updated: Tuesday September 02nd 2014
Reading time: 6 minutes

How does Google Pigeon impact local search queries?

Google’s latest local algorithm update, “Pigeon”, took off in late July, 2014, affecting U.S. English queries. Local business website owners have been scrambling to adjust, as some deal with the fact that they’re no longer showing in the seven-pack local results at all.

Indeed, some are referring to Pigeon as the biggest Google update to the local search results since the Google Venice update in 2012. Google has said that the latest update would make local search results more closely mimic traditional organic rankings.

Early reports showed consistent feedback that specific queries and sectors had been impacted, like real estate, and that directories were now being favoured in the results above local businesses (possibly due to the authority of a directory site like Yell over a local business’s site). Take my client Automax, a car repair centre based in Banbury, Oxfordshire. For the search term “car repairs banbury” they show up as listing B for the local map results and then 5th and 6th in the organic results but 2nd and 3rd place organically is taken by

Whilst the latest local algorithm update fixes the problem for Yell, many businesses have experienced a loss from Pigeon. New data coming from BrightEdge’s Data Cube analysis reveals more about what businesses have been impacted – both positively and negatively – since late July.

So who has benefitted From the Google Pigeon update?

Not everyone complained after the latest local algorithm update. As previously mentioned, directories seemed to get a boost, and, so did certain queries. The latest analysis using BrightEdge’s massive data set from June to August shows an uptick in the results for queries related to the following:

  • Hospitality (28 percent growth in Google Places results)
  • Food (19 percent growth in the Google Places results)
  • Education (13 percent growth in the Google Places results)

Additional wins occurred in smaller percentages for queries related to:

  • Spa +4.64 percent
  • Shop +4.32 percent
  • Law +3.55 percent
  • Medical +1.83 percent
  • Transportation +1.31 percent
  • Fitness +1.12 percent

Who Experienced a Loss From the Pigeon Update?

According to the analysis in BrightEdge’s data set, we found queries related to the following topics being the most negatively impacted by Pigeon:

  • Jobs (68 percent decline in Google Places results)
  • Real estate (63 percent decline in the Google Places results)
  • Movies (36 percent decline in the Google Places results)
  • Insurance (11 percent decline in the Google Places results)

Reports across the Web from multiple sources show real estate queries experiencing dire consequences from Pigeon, and as you can see, the BrightEdge data confirms the same.

Other queries related to the following showed somewhat negligible losses:

  • Finance -6.21 percent
  • Furniture -3.34 percent
  • Government -0.07 percent

The following is a table of the findings. Note that some of the queries were difficult to classify in the analysis, so the industry data by row does not add up to “all” data.


What’s Next for Google Pigeon, and What Should You Do?

Will the results we’re seeing be definitive? Maybe not. Those who are following the algorithm agree: the Pigeon update has not quite settled into its new home.

As we wait and see what the algorithm will do, it’s best not to panic. Continue to focus on the tried-and-true methods of local search that you’re used to.

Here are a few things you should consider …

Good Ol’ Fashioned Local SEO

Don’t stop performing the best practices, like:

  • Being listed on Google Local Places (Businesses)
  • Being listed in directories like Yell (especially now that we are seeing a boost for directory listings)
  • Creating a great, local-focused content strategy
  • Utilising traditional on-page SEO tactics
  • Continuing an engaged social media presence
  • Managing your listings well and consistently

Hopefully, your local SEO campaigns have not been affected too badly, but we’re interested in hearing what others are seeing from the Google Pigeon update. Please leave your comments below.

About the author

I am a 28-year-old WordPress web designer and SEO consultant based in Banbury, Oxfordshire, UK. I have designed and maintained sites with over 20,000 pages on large corporate websites, smaller small business sites, and tiny personal websites and blogs. I provide freelance WordPress web design services in my evenings and weekends and also work full time for a local design agency in Banbury. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and on Google+.