On July 24th, Google released a new algorithm for local search results. Barry Schwartz broke the news at Search Engine Land.
The goal of the algorithm is to provide a more useful, relevant and accurate local search results that are tied more closely to traditional web search ranking signals. The changes will be visible within the Google Maps search results and Google Web search results.
Note: They have named this update the Pigeon update.
The changes are behind the scenes, but it does impact local search results rankings and some local businesses may notice an increase or decrease in web site traffic from the change.
Google told Barry Schwartz that the new local algo goes deeper into their web search capabilities, including the hundreds of ranking signals they use in “regular” web search along with search features like Knowledge Graph, spelling correction, synonyms and more.
In addition, Google said that this new algorithm improves their distance and location ranking parameters.
The new algorithm is currently rolling out for US English results. Google didn’t share any details about if and when the update would roll out more widely in other countries and languages.
Google has not told us the percent of queries impacted by the update, and didn’t confirm or deny if spam algorithms were deployed in this update.
There has been less buzz about this update than previous ones but it definitely appears to be a large scale update.
So, what do we know about the “Pigeon”?
Unlike the Penguin and Panda updates, this is not a penalty-based update (which means it is not aimed at cleaning the SERPs from low-quality sites), rather this is a core change to the local search ranking algorithm.
Here is a breakdown of some of the changes reported either from site owners or Google directly.
1. Local listing packs disappear for a huge number of keywords: A significantly lower number of queries now include a local listing pack on their SERPs. According to SERP feature graph by MOZ Cast, this number falls from 12.1% of queries on July 23rd to only 3.3% on July 27th.
2. Local rankings are expected to depend more on website authority: The new local search algorithm is said to be more tied with the traditional Web search ranking signals. This likely means that local rankings will now be more determined by domain authority, Social juice and all the other SEO rankings factors.
3. Ranking boost is seen for Yelp and other local directories: Yelp and other local directory sites appear to have a considerable boost in rankings. This makes it crucial to build a solid business presence on leading local directories in your industry.
4. Local carousel remains a way to gain extra exposure: Unlike the usual local listing packs, local carousel results remain unaffected by the update and show up with almost the same frequency as before. Tip: Carousel results put a heavy emphasis on your listing’s image and rating, while showing all options side-by-side. So make sure to put a nice, high-quality and attractive photo in your Google+ business profile and encourage your customers to review your business.
Stay tuned as we learn more and see more results.