Volatility in the Local Results: Are Some of The Effects of Pigeon Rolling Back?

October 10, 2014

In the past few weeks we’ve seen a lot of volatility in the types of local search results that Google has been returning since their latest local algorithm update was rolled out back at the close of July.

Recently, we’re seeing the return of a number of the local ‘six-pack’ or ‘7-pack’ results that had suddenly dropped from the search results with the release of Google’s algorithm update nicknamed “Google Pigeon.”

Back in July, there was a drastic decrease in the number of local six pack and maps results that Google was returning for a given query–the number plummeting from 12.1% of search results to roughly 3% in a matter of days according to a study by Moz. Pigeon–which was targeted specifically at local searches–caused drops in ranking along with immediate concern amongst local businesses across almost all industries and all over the country.

At a glance, the effect of Pigeon on Google’s search results entailed two main components–both of which served to make visibility for local businesses more complex to come by and local rankings more competitive then ever.

First, dramatic fall-off in the number of “local pack” results returned. And second, a we started to see a new-found favoritism towards major local directories like Yelp in Google’s first page results. In lieu of ranking the local businesses themselves, mega-directories seemed to take the place of small businesses’ sites in Google’s search results–leading many to question, well, why?

Before the roll out of Pigeon, it had been no secret that sites like Yelp were vocal about their, as they put it, lack of rankings.

Google’s new algorithm clearly addressed that issue–but at what cost? And those following the developments in world of local search began to question–is it right for Google to give such special attention to these local directories? Do these mega-directories deserve the additional traffic at the expense of marginalizing the local businesses themselves–and, more importantly, is that the type of result that customers are really looking for?

What changes should you be expecting from Google’s local search algorithm now?

Now however, it appears that some of these local search results are returning. Or at least it seems so, according to a recent Study featured on SearchEngineLand that analyzed ranking trends seen in the legal industry. What the study showed is that local 3-pack and 7-pack results are beginning to return, at least for law firms, but possibly within other industries as well.

At the moment it’s still unclear which elements of Pigeon will be lasting fixtures in Google’s local algorithm, and which may be rolling back as we speak.

Either way, what’s clear is that Google’s local search algorithm is far from fixed and it’s getting (or at least striving to get) more sophisticated each day. And it will only continue to do so. For local businesses looking to get organic exposure today, it’s going to take more than a decent site an an optimized local listing. If you’re interested in learning exactly which ranking factors matter most to Google Post-Pigeon, you can check out our eBook on The Top Local Ranking Factors in 2014 and Beyond.


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