Google recently made an update to its algorithm that may have significantly affected your business’ ranking on local search.  Given the importance of local search, this may mean a change in the number of referrals and traffic your website is getting from local search terms.  While Google has not officially released a name for the update, it has been coined the “Pigeon” update by Search Engine Land.  The update is aimed at improving distance and location parameters on local search results to improve overall relevancy.  In short, the update focuses on ease of choice for users by minimizing the number of choices available in the Google Local search results while providing those users with expanded options through the local directory results that will now rank higher.

The Pigeon update will focus on tying web search capabilities into local search results as well as local search features such as the Knowledge Graph, spelling correction, and synonyms.  A major focus of the update has been the prevalence of directory sites ranking above individual business sites and the removal or reduction of Google Local and Carousel results from specific search terms.

What does the Pigeon update mean for your business?

The Pigeon update has largely meant two things to local businesses.  First, Google has hyper-localized the Local search results and reduced the number of Google+ local results showing up from seven to three or one in many instances.  Second, Google has placed added emphasis on directory sites over sites of individual businesses.

The primary change brought about by the Pigeon update is the shift from individual business websites to directory sites on certain search queries.  Where you may have previously seen Google Carousel or Local results followed by those of the highest ranking businesses, you will now begin to see relevant directories appear below the Carousel or Local results.

Google Pigeon

For your local business, this will mean an added emphasis on directory sites, both those that cater to all business categories as well as the specialty directories that are relevant to your business.  The most noticeable change in results has been the widespread presence of Yelp among the top of the search rankings for a number of category searches.  Other directory sites that have added importance to your business following the update include Yahoo, Yellowpages, Trip Advisor, and Urbanspoon.

How can your business benefit from the Pigeon update?

While the fact that Google’s Pigeon update shifts focus from individual businesses to relevant directories may not sound ideal, especially if your business ranked well for popular search terms, this update can significantly help your business and provide you with a leg up on your competition.  As for Local results, ranking is now even more valuable as the queries are increasingly geo-targeted and you are only competing against two or in some cases no other businesses.

Local Marketing Mistakes

The hyper-localization of Local results may mean that your business does not show up as often on Local searches as before, but the relevancy of your exposures will increase as those finding your business are even more qualified than before.  Following the update, many businesses are actually reporting an increase in traffic likely due to the higher quality and localization of the search results and the reduction of the number of businesses appearing in Local results.  If you do not already have one, create a Google page for your business so that you will appear in Local and Carousel results.  If you do have a Google listing already, ensure that your information is up-to-date and you have verified your page and you will likely see an increase in qualified leads through the Local search results.

With the focus of organic search results shifting from individual business websites to directory sites, your business has the opportunity to ensure you are listed and predominant on relevant directories.  Find the directories that appear for relevant search queries and ensure that your business is listed on every directory.  From there, you should add enhanced content such as a quality description and pictures, a link to your website, and other relevant information the directory will allow you to add.  Ensuring that you are on as many directories as possible will increase the odds that your business is found regardless of which directories Google boosts in algorithm updates.  Many directories reward reviews and consistency in information for higher rankings so make sure that you encourage your customers to leave you reviews and that you show up under the correct and same information across the web.