On July 24, Google released a new algorithm, nicknamed Pigeon by Search Engine Land (SEL), which alters the way local search results are generated in Google Maps and Google Web. The Pigeon update is designed to make the local search results more accurate and relevant.
Google told SEL that the new algorithm relies more heavily on their hundreds of traditional web search ranking signals. It also draws on features like spelling correction, synonyms and Knowledge Graph. This change will make local search results align more closely with organic search rankings.
The algorithm is also designed to improve distance and location ranking parameters.
Currently, the algorithm affects only U.S. English results. Google has not confirmed whether or not Pigeon will be introduced in other countries or languages.
The Pigeon algorithm is still new, and it will take some time to get a feel for its full implications, especially since it’s possible that Google is still smoothing out kinks. It is not clear how many searches will be affected by the update, and Google has not commented on that issue.
However, some businesses may see either an increase or decrease in web traffic.
So far, Pigeon’s biggest impact seems to be on the local “7-pack,” the list of local businesses that appear along with organic results for many queries deemed local. For some queries, local 7-packs no longer appear.
Instead, many local searches bring up directories like Yelp, Urbanspoon and TripAdvisor — websites with the resources and visibility to rank high in organic search results. For directories, the Pigeon update is likely to boost search rankings and traffic.
On the other hand, the change could be detrimental to small, individual businesses. For some businesses, the loss of 7-pack results means a loss of first-page status.
The results of the changes to distance and location ranking parameters may also be significant. Blumenthals.com reported that certain queries now have a reduced search radius, confining search results to smaller areas. It remains to be seen whether this change will tend to exclude relevant businesses or to make the results more accurate.
Have you noticed any changes to your traffic or rankings since the Pigeon algorithm’s release? Share in the comments.