Neil Cumins looks into the nature of Google Pigeon and what it means for your website…
The algorithm determining the order of search engine results is hugely complicated, and its parameters are regularly adjusted and fettled. Google recently introduced its latest set of revisions, known colloquially as Pigeon, fancying its chances of resolving problems revealed in previous search engine results pages (or SERPs).
The first thing to bear in mind is that Google Pigeon isn’t an official title, because this nameless update doesn’t actually have one. The ornithological moniker was created by the Search Engine Land website, following logically on from the ascending-vowel Panda and Penguin updates. Presumably Possum and Puma will follow in due course.
The second thing to note is that this update has only been implemented on US English searches, which means it doesn’t affect UK SERPs at the time of writing. Pigeon is likely to migrate over the Atlantic at some point, but for now its effects are only being felt by a small percentage of global search engine users. Nonetheless, it’s worth being aware of the potential impact on future rankings.
Google rarely discuss the details of algorithm updates. Firstly, because it discourages spammers and marketing agencies from inventing loopholes and workarounds. Secondly, because it prevents them being liable for any official predictions they make about live data, which can’t always be predicted with pinpoint accuracy, even if you’re Google yourself. What we do know is that Pigeon delivers more locally-based results when people look for companies or businesses in text or map-based searches.
Until now, national or global companies had an unfair advantage because their larger sites and superior link trees propelled them to the top of any results list. If you search for an accountancy firm post-Pigeon, you’re more likely to discover a local accountant with its HQ two miles away than nearby satellite offices for KPMG. However, there is a downside to this. The general radius for local companies has halved, from 12 miles down to six.
More is now less
The impact of Pigeon dropping these peripheral search results should be mostly positive, and an equally significant change involves Google’s welcome attempts at minimising duplicate entries. It’s not uncommon for a company to hold the top four SERP spots if they’ve promoted themselves effectively, and Pigeon focuses on avoiding such repetition.
Paradoxically, directories are beneficiaries of this update. In particular, local directories that correctly catalogue formatted location data by cross referencing multiple directories for the same link profile. Although, it also seems that American directory Yelp appears to be a big winner from this revision. Nor will laboriously-crafted SEO on directory sites count for much in the new rankings – a basic listing should be perfectly adequate.
Because Google+ can supply reviews, thumbnail photographs and basic pricing information for SERP results, companies should encourage customers to upload comments as a way of promoting good service and making listings stand out. Regular blog entries and updates are also highly recommended for demonstrating to Google’s algorithm that the site remains popular and contemporary, while a healthy social media presence is as vital as ever.
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