On July 24, news hit that Google had quietly made changes to its local ranking algorithm, dubbed “Pigeon” by Search Engine Land (SEL) in absence of an official name by Google.
Google told SEL the update was for U.S. English queries and had deeper ties into its Web search capabilities, "including the hundreds of ranking signals they use in Web search along with search features such as Knowledge Graph, spelling correction, synonyms and more,” the report said. This would make local search more closely mimic traditional organic search rankings.
But with Pigeon, the local 7-pack seems to have flown away for many queries. And some are debating whether this change is good or bad for local businesses. On one hand, it seems local directories like Yelp are winning so far, surfacing more in the results for local searches.
In the past, when you would search for something local, you would get your carousel results and then a list of organic results, typically individual restaurants. Now, you will sometimes see directories showing up in the search results below the carousel including OpenTable, Urbanspoon and even TripAdvisor.
And while the local carousel results are still there for many queries (driven by Google’s Knowledge Graph), some local businesses have reported to have lost their place on Page 1 altogether with the loss of the 7-pack results.
Mike Blumenthal at local search blog Blumenthals.com provided a Google doc from inbound marketing and SEO software provider Moz that showed all the queries that no longer showed the 7-pack results. “San Diego real estate” is one of those queries:
Blumenthal said in a comment on his post that real estate queries in general seemed to be absent of 7-pack results as of July 25:
But it doesn't stop there. Moz data from late July showed a 60 percent decline in 7-pack results for a multitude of queries studied:
Image source: Blumenthals.com
Google also told SEL that the new algorithm improved its distance and location ranking parameters. Over at Blumenthals.com, for one query, it appeared that the "radius of the search has been reduced significantly. The three organic top results were all located in the suburb to the east of the city," the site said.
While reactions are mixed from the community, many still believe the algorithm is ironing its crinkles out and it’s still too soon to tell the long-term impact of Google’s new local ranking algorithm.
This recent article for Search Engine Watch by Jon Schepke, president of local search technology firm SIM Partners, suggests that despite all the changes Google makes and has made in the first half of 2014, listing management continues to be one of the most important aspects of local SEO.
Now that's it's been a few days since Pigeon flew the coop, what are you seeing?