Have you ever wondered how Google ensures you find results in your local area when searching for a business? Or searching for anything for that matter. This post is for you if you’d like to find out.
When matching user location and search queries to specific results and websites that the user will find relevant, Google calls upon an algorithm named Pigeon.
Google Pigeon ties the local algorithm more closely with the web algorithm to improve the relevance of local rankings. Sounds complicated, right? Let’s break it down simply. From the very top.
Google algorithms are the complex systems that the world’s most popular search engine uses to determine where your website should be displayed for specific user queries.
For example, let’s say you were to type in Google Pigeon… as you may already have done to find this very post.
There would be around 78,800,000 different pages on websites that Google has to decipher before displaying results. Sounds a lot right? That isn’t a figure that we have plucked from thin air, either.
There would be EXACTLY seventy-eight million, eight-hundred thousand results.
In a total time of 0.53 seconds, Google analysed the vast array of websites that are relevant to the term Google Pigeon, and it did so using its list of algorithms. There are 8 key Google algorithms, and between them, they take into account over 200 different ranking factors, all of which can affect your ranking position in the SERPs.
Google Pigeon was the first update that completely shook-up Google’s core algorithms to increase the focus on local results. The intention of Google was to bring local searches and web results closer together, and it did so successfully. Google Pigeon allows you to find exactly what you’re looking for based around your location.
Google Pigeon caused an online earthquake in the world of local SEO; as the radius of results from local searches shrunk significantly to those that were physically closest to the searcher. That made it easier for local businesses to rank better in their local area of operation.
Here’s a simple analogy example that relates to the city of Manchester. A city that the team here at Circulate have just ventured into with a quirky new office.
Following the launch of Google Pigeon, Pizza places in the east side of Manchester would rank better to residents in the east side – at the cost of ranking lower in the west. Pizza places in the west side of Manchester would rank better in the west side, at the cost of ranking lower in the east. I guess the level of happiness from either pizza place depended on which side is the best (for pizza consumption).
As I was saying, many people will have benefitted from the update. Whether they were a blogger, journalist, or business owner that relied heavily on the local map-pack.
However, certain individuals will have faced a disadvantage following the Google Pigeon algorithm update. Particularly those who didn’t optimise for Local SEO.
Good or bad, for those who heavily relied on Search Engine Optimisation, Google Pigeon was a game-changer that had to be adapted to maintain and/or improve local rankings.
Google Pigeon first found its wings in late August 2013. The release of Pigeon was arguably the greatest shake-up of Google’s local organic results to date.
For weeks following the launch of the algorithm, there were reported daily fluctuations to local rankings. As we’ve explained, this caused mixed reactions in the world of SEO – and many people were looking at Google Pigeon like it was just another vermin street bird.
Google created the Pigeon algorithm in aim to increase the rankings of local listings within search results.
Essentially… Pigeon ensures that the most useful, accurate and relevant local search results are displayed to users. This helps Google users find exactly what they are looking for with results in their local area.
Here’s a real-life scenario to help you better understand. Let’s say, for example, your name is Fred, you’re craving the thickest and tastiest strawberry milkshake known to man. (I’m not sure why everything has to be about food – but it is).
You pick up your phone, head straight to Google and type away ‘Best strawberry milkshakes near me’. That oughtta do it.
You click the first result that pops up, go through the online process, order the milkshake to be delivered to your house. You sit at home for two hours desperately awaiting your milkshake to find that you ordered it from a city four and a half hours away.
Who needs that? Nobody! You want exactly what you are searching, a strawberry milkshake that is indeed… near you.
This is where Google Pigeon can help you find the milkshake you’re looking for. Who would have thought it? A pigeon that can provide milkshakes for the people. If only all pigeons were heroic.
Apart from ensuring local companies stood the best chance of ranking, there were a few other minor amendments that Google users may recognise. Remember the traditional 7 pack of local results that appeared when you provided Google with a search query? That’s now gone.
The image above simply radiates Google related nostalgia. You’ll have noticed that this display format is a thing of the past. Looks old fashioned now, right? The 7 pack has been replaced with the modern-day 3 pack.
Different example with the results – but you get the point we’re trying to make here.
When you refer to the map above, it’s quite easy to realise just how important location variables are to organic search. In certain user scenarios, location is everything, and if it’s not a local result, then what’s the point?
In essence, the Google Pigeon algorithm was years ahead of its time. The mighty collection of brains at Google saw the increased importance of location parameters and released an algorithm specifically for it. Did they shape demand for us mere sheep? Or have we just benefitted from Google’s wealth of search engine wisdom? I’ll let you decide.
So, how do you optimise for Google Pigeon? To sum it up, you need to ensure your site performs well in terms of Local SEO.
Precise Local SEO signals across your site can help Google better understand your areas of operation. If Google understands where your business operates, in a nutshell, you have a much higher chance of ranking at the summit for your target keywords.
There are a number of ways that you can achieve this.
For the best results, a combined approach that takes into consideration all of the listed elements is the best way to optimise for Google Pigeon. Let’s dig a little deeper.
Ever heard of Google My Business? You can optimise for Local SEO without maintaining your website.
Google My Business (GMB) is a free online tool for businesses and organisations to manage their online presence across Google and Google Maps. No recollection? Just think of when you’ve looked for a local pub or restaurant on Google to find the perfect option. Something I’m 99% sure most of you will have done at some point.
Listing your business accurately on Google allows users to find you when they are looking for something you offer in their local area. This has grown into a necessity for modern-day businesses; particularly with the surge in mobile users over recent years.
There are a number of ways that you can optimise your Google My Business account. However, when referring to a location, you must ensure that both your business location and service areas are correct. This will give you the best chance of ranking for target keywords when Google Pigeon is involved. The more offices/workspaces you have – the more Google My Business accounts you can make – and be sure to do so!
When optimising for Google Pigeon, there are also a number of enhancements you can make to your website for improved local visibility. Such as:
Localised keywords are a key Local SEO signal that helps Google understand where you operate. When referring back to our pizza analogy; a localised keyword would be ‘Pizza takeaway in Brighton’ rather than just ‘Pizza takeaway’.
When implementing localised keywords into your site, always look to directly match user queries. Doing so gives you the best shot at the high ranking positions, particularly if they are included in heading tags such as H1s, H2s and H3s.
If you operate in a number of areas, you should consider making designated location landing pages that you can use to successfully target localised keywords. Doing so can help you re-target the keyword across page titles, metadata and all areas of on-site SEO.
If you localise your keyword strategy successfully, you will have a much higher chance of gaining conversions online.
Include specific locations in your URL structures – you wouldn’t believe the difference it can make. Any URL on your website should be designed to accurately sum up the page so Google’s crawling bots know exactly where you are. Here’s an example. Again, if you operate in more than one area, make some custom landing pages to help you out.
Instead of: www.pizzaplace.com/pizza-takeaway/
It should be: www.pizzaplace.com/pizza-takeaway-brighton/
Building links from authoritative websites and sources in your local area can help Google’s bots better understand your location. When it comes to getting links to your site, you need to be creative for the best possible results.
This could be through kick-ass content that will gain local popularity, outreach to businesses asking for a backlink, or developing strong partnerships and relationships with other businesses in your local area. Whatever your method, authoritative links make a big difference.
I hope you found this piece helpful. If you are looking to learn more about the other Google algorithms; you can do so here.
If you’re a local business that relies heavily on local customers, Google Pigeon is arguably the most important algorithm you need to optimise for. Luckily, our team know exactly how to do it.
If you’re serious about growing your brand online, you should trust the experts to get the job done for you. Experts like ourselves.
Contact a friendly member of our team today for any help and guidance surrounding your online marketing. We’re here to take your business to the next level.