After loads of effort to climb to the top and rank high with search engines, many businesses that focused on local SEO saw a sudden plummet in their rankings towards the end of 2014. Linked to Google’s new algorithm better known as the Pigeon Update, this sudden drop in rankings shook many businesses that had hitherto done relatively well.
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Has your business been impacted by this new algorithm? What can you do to fix your rankings? Is there a way in which you can make the Pigeon update work for you?
The Google Pigeon Update – In a Nutshell
The Pigeon update is a new algorithm launched by Google in July 2014 across the United States.
Focusing on providing more accurate and relevant local search engine results, this algorithm was progressively rolled out in late December of the same year to the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada.
According to Google, this new algorithm focuses on location ranking and distance parameters of each business.
Were You Pooped Upon?
If your business was among the many multi-location brands that have been pooped upon by the Pigeon update, you’ve probably seen a loss of at least 5 to 10% of your organic traffic.
The new algorithm’s brand queries focus increasingly on back links, location and knowledge graph results, narrowing implicit local queries drastically.
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This means that if you are located in California and if you search for local restaurants, you are likely to get a list of restaurants that are within approximately 20 miles of where you actually are.
So a restaurant that is even marginally away from this radius, probably on the edge of town, is less likely to show up.
If you have used earlier optimized your business for local SEO using cities, you’ve probably been pooped upon and your business listings have been impacted.
What to Do If You Are Impacted
- Use Business Descriptors – Try to give local queries a bigger boost when you use business descriptors for your page titles, especially in Google Business pages. For example, if you own a restaurant named Yummy Eats in St. Helens, Oregon, your business descriptor will ideally be “Yummy Eats – St. Helens”.
- Tweak Meta Information – While avoiding unethical changes to your website’s Meta information, make minor tweaks to Meta data and content to focus on target keywords so that they are more visible in local searches.
- Be Careful With Link Building – While building links aids organic traffic, make sure that the links you build are the right ones for target queries. Target specific store pages rather than non-local results.
Make the Pigeon Update Work for You
Despite all the shakeup after the Pigeon update, many SEO marketers and businesses are still doing it wrong. Make this update work for you instead of letting it be a deal breaker in your local SEO efforts.
The great part of the Pigeon update is that it forces us to let go of long-practised SEO habits that should have been overhauled earlier.
Making a few changes in the way you implement local SEO can make this update work for your business, rather than impact your rankings
- Modify Your Search Structure – Focus on neighborhood searches instead of city search queries as the whole shift around the Pigeon algorithm has to do with geo locations.
Cities are now diced up into smaller neighborhoods rather than being single entities. When calculating the area around a search, Google’s search radius is now reduced, leading to the creation of more neighborhoods, and moving neighborhoods that might have earlier been under one neighborhood into a totally new one.
As a result of this neighborhood shift, some businesses lost their ranking for the target area and had to re target their SEO and marketing efforts according to this change.
Therefore, if you are in city that may be divided into multiple neighborhoods, don’t limit your search terms to just your city name but also to your neighborhood or locality name.
While changing your neighborhood name, avoid making changes to your name, address or phone (NAP) data as this can end up harming your rankings. Google values consistency of NAP data and frequent changes are not advised.
Do a bit of research on your neighborhood, find out who your competitors are and capitalize on the area in which you have the strongest presence. Once you’ve decided on which neighborhood to focus on, build your local SEO initiatives on this environment.
Use online marketing and include neighborhood synonyms so that you reach those who are searching for different queries or neighborhoods with more than one name.
- Use Directory Listings Carefully – Instead of posting your NAP left, right and center into every online directory you can find, use only top ranked directories to boost your SEO. Indiscriminate posting no longer gives you an instant rank lift and may bring your business ranking down instead. Seek out listings, instead, in directories that rank high and which often appear just beneath local packs.
- Work with Link Earning and Content Marketing – Reviews, NAPs and directories are good for local SEO, but they are not enough. You need to also work on the good old links, content and domain authority.
A good chunk of local ranking factors are controlled by on page signals that include the page’s domain authority, evergreen content, keyword presence in the title and optimized content.
Keep adding fresh content and earn links with high ranking sites to build your local SEO with the Pigeon update.
In summary, remember that the world of SEO constantly changes, and even more so does local SEO. With periodic shakeups by SEO giants, the fundamental reality of keeping in sync with changes comes to the fore.
Additionally, with the vast amount of searches for local businesses stemming from mobile devices, constant changes in SEO strategies are bound to happen.
To keep your business on top of the list constantly, you need to keep your local SEO up to date, but must also strive to be a step ahead so that algorithmic changes don’t impact you adversely.
If you were impacted by the Pigeon update, don’t panic – stay focused on good marketing strategies and tweak your listings in line with the update and your business should be back on top in no time.
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