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What is Google Pigeon?

Google Pigeon was a major algorithm update aimed at improving the relevance and accuracy of results displayed for local search queries. It was rolled out on July 24, 2014. 

Il Pigeon update integrated Google’s local search algorithm with its web search algorithm. Before the update, both algorithms were independent of one another.

This meant a site could rank for local search results even if ineligible for display in regular web search results. However, that changed with Pigeon, and sites now require a strong web presence to rank for local queries.

The Pigeon update also improved Google’s ability to calculate the distance between a searcher and a business. This meant that searchers now got results closer to their location in local search results.

For example, if you searched for “locksmiths in New York City,” Google would show you locksmiths close to your location rather than showing you locksmiths from all over New York City as it did before the Pigeon update.

How the Google Pigeon Update Got Its Name

Google did not name the update when it was released, so Search Engine Land, an SEO-industry news site, named it Pigeon

Search Engine Land selected this name because it was a local search update. Also, pigeons, which are known for their homing ability, symbolized the update’s emphasis on providing local search results that effectively “flew back” to the user’s home or local area.

How the Local Pack Changed After the Pigeon Update

The local pack refers to the map and business listings displayed on Google search results pages. It is displayed in response to local search queries entered into Google. 

Before Pigeon, local packs typically displayed seven or even ten business listings. However, this was greatly reduced a year after the Pigeon update. The local pack now displays about three business listings on average.

Sample of the local pack on a search results page

Benefits of the Google Pigeon Algorithm Update

The Google Pigeon update provided several benefits to searchers and businesses alike. We will now address some of them below.

1 Improved Local Search Quality

Pigeon introduced precise distance and location parameters to local search. This allowed Google to provide relevant and accurate results based on the user’s location. This feature greatly benefitted users searching for nearby locations.

2 Integration With Core Algorithm

Pigeon integrated Google’s core search algorithm with local search signals. This led to SEO factors like website quality, content relevance, and backlinks playing a significant role in local search rankings. As a consequence, sites with an authoritative web presence saw improvements in their visibility. 

3 Improved Understanding of the Search Intent

Pigeon improved Google’s ability to understand the search intent of local search queries. This allowed Google to deliver results that better matched the search terms and intent of the searcher. This resulted in delivering helpful and accurate results to searchers. 

Types of Sites Affected by Google Pigeon

The Google Pigeon update significantly impacted various types of websites, particularly those that relied on patronage from people within the local community. Some affected sites include:

  • Local business websites
  • Local directories and listing sites
  • National brands with local presence
  • Service businesses

1 Local Business Websites

Local businesses that had optimized their online presence with accurate and up-to-date information saw improved search rankings. Meanwhile, those with inconsistent or outdated information experienced a drop in visibility.

2 Local Directories and Listing Sites

Local directories and listing sites that provided comprehensive and reliable information on local locations greatly benefited from the Pigeon update. Their visibility in search results increased due to their focus on detailed local content.

3 National Brands With Local Presence

Large brands with multiple local outlets or branches saw changes in their local search rankings. Those that effectively handled their local SEO for each location were positively impacted.

4 Service Businesses

Businesses offering local services, such as plumbing, electrical, healthcare, or hospitality services, were also affected by the Pigeon update. Those who optimized their sites for local SEO typically gained more visibility, while those who did not experienced a drop in traffic. 

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