Pigeon is the name given to the most recent Google search algorithm update, though not by Google. Directory sites and spammy sites stuffed with keywords and violating SEO best practices have risen to the top of the search results. Web search professionals and analysts have been quick to call these results “Pigeon poo.”
The roll-out of the algorithm update became obvious as results for the same search terms changed drastically day after day, and sometimes even hour after hour. Businesses popped in and out of map results; the number of results in various map packs changed from seven to three to even one. The chaos has been ongoing for weeks, though lately it seems to be settling down.
What is the Pigeon update?
Theories are that with the Pigeon update, Google is running tests and trying to incorporate mobile search and desktop search into one algorithm – hence the hiccups and chaos in search results.
Desktop, or home-based, searches seem to have recently reached their peak and are now beginning to fall. Total search volume is increasing, however, and the difference is mobile. People are using different search terms as well. Before, they used to type “best Seattle restaurant” into their laptop. Now, from Bell Town, they are speaking “restaurant near me” into their phone.
Google is able to precisely locate mobile users, and the radius of search returns in maps has been reduced to as small as two miles by the Pigeon update. This is arguably more valuable for the mobile user, but less so for the home-based searcher. This update appears to attempt to follow the shifting behavior of the searchers.
It should be stressed that much about Pigeon behind the scenes is unknown, and experts are making their best guesses about the logic of the update based on the results they see.
Why should I care?
Unfortunately, the Pigeon update seems to be penalizing small businesses in local search that have been utilizing quality SEO practices, and rewarding those using bad practices like keyword stuffing. Irrelevant results, including employment listings, directory sites and duplicates, have been cluttering the top results. The actual businesses that people are searching for have been driven to the second and third pages.
If you’ve been doing everything right, using above board SEO techniques and optimizing your content for humans, you may feel punished by this latest algorithm change. This update is particularly frustrating because the results seem to be random and there’s no clear way to optimize for it.
Additionally, Google appears to no longer be using the indicated service area, for example Seattle, WA, but your actual physical address, like Fremont. This has implications for your Name, Address and Phone Number, or NAP, information.
So what should I do now?
The operating assumption is that Google really is trying to provide better search results for complicated, changing humans, and so they won’t be satisfied with this update either. Pigeons can be trained, and we expect and hope for the same with this latest Google update. Whatever you do, don’t try to game this latest update, when the Pigeon finally learns, you’ll find yourself on the wrong side.
Instead, continue to focus on building a great business. Provide excellent customer service – and ask your satisfied customers to post reviews and feedback. Build and maintain a user-friendly website optimized for conversion. Write regular blog posts.
Finally, the importance of ensuring your NAP is consistent cannot be overstated. If you have one address listed on one directory site, a different phone number on your website, and a third variation on another directory site, Google will not trust what it sees and will downgrade your inconsistent results. Search for your own business and correct any discrepancies as quickly as possible.
If you need help making this happen, contact us at Black Fin. We love to work with clients and see their businesses rise to the top of Google searches. Let us know if we can help by filling out our contact form or by calling our CEO, Gerrid Smith, today at 530-215-1159.