Google’s recent Pigeon update is one of the largest shakeups in local SEO in a long time. It almost completely removes your chance to rank on the first page for your keywords, if Yelp and a few local directories are also targeting them. Essentially, it makes you look for alternate routes to front page success, without allowing you the luxury of ignoring local keywords. What’s dead after Pigeon, and how can you succeed moving forward?
Wide Area Localization No Longer Works
One part of Pigeon focused on the radius around a business that would trigger local results. In some cases, a mobile user searching for a particular type of business might find your business even if you were halfway across the city. This made localization somewhat easy; you could target the city as a whole rather than specific streets or districts. You still can, and should, but the radius in which it kicks in is typically much smaller.
Essentially, when you’re talking local traffic now, you’re talking very, very local. You may want to include local search indicators like street corners and local landmarks, rather than just counties and suburbs. Hyperlocal targeting will best take advantage of the new trends in smaller local triggering.
Ranking for Local Keywords is Much Less Likely
One thing Pigeon did was return local results to a more general focus on traditional SEO factors, while de-emphasizing local keywords. This means a larger site with more time and experience racking up a larger amount of content and links will have an easier time ranking, while a smaller site with less of those indicators will have a harder time.
What this means in practical terms is that large site directories like Yelp and the Yellow Pages will have an easier time ranking, not that they had a hard time before. Conversely, small businesses will find it harder to compete with these local results. It’s not impossible, particularly in some areas where there’s little competition, but it’s grown a little more difficult for most queries.
Oddly, some query types, particularly food and education, actually got a little easier. They have a higher chance of displaying local results rather than global results, at least, which gives small businesses in those areas an opportunity to appear in the carousel and in local packs.
Ignoring Google+ is Now Impossible
Google+ had a bit of a meteoric rise, but much of its success has been forced, due to integration with YouTube, Gmail and Authorship. Consequently, many businesses decided to focus on Facebook and leave Google+ to the side.
With the new post-pigeon local results, the best way to get on the carousel or in the local pack results is to have a robust, fleshed-out Google+ account. You don’t need to actively use it for blogging, but you do need to use it to hold your standard information and an about section. While you’re using it, however, you may as well actually leverage the site.
Local Real Estate SEO is Extremely Difficult
Above, where I mentioned that food and education local queries have had a bit of a rise after Pigeon, it may have been a bit uplifting. For some industries, however, there have been drastic cuts. The real estate industry took one of the biggest hits, with the jobs queries coming in ahead by a small amount. Both of these industries are much, much harder to find local results, particularly because of their nature.
Local results are most useful for users on mobile devices who are out and about. Neither job seekers nor real estate shoppers are very likely to be making spur of the moment decisions based on the area they’re in. This means that these queries have taken a large hit.
Tips for Post Pigeon Success
Pigeon is not all bad, and is actually beneficial for a few niches. That said, it does necessitate a change in strategy for many businesses. What do you need to do to excel in this post-Pigeon world?
• Claim and use your directory pages. The main directories you need to pay attention to are Google+ and Yelp. In addition to those directories, run a search for your keywords, your business name and your niche. These searches should reveal if you show up in any other directories. If you do, visit those pages and locate the “claim this profile” option for any instance of your business. Claim and fill out your profile, directing traffic to your website and making sure your address information is up to date.
• Don’t stop using local keywords. It may seem like a lost cause if the majority of your traffic disappeared, but local keywords remain important. In addition to your usual state and city local keywords, you can also begin to include the occasional hyperlocal keyword, such as a city block, a suburb or a local landmark. These options will give Google a little incentive when it comes to placing your business and determining the radius in which to inform users of your presence.
• Build local editorial backlinks. If you’ve run a few searches for your keywords post-Pigeon, you may have noticed that some of the top results come from local publications. If a local newspaper has a website, encourage writers for that website to create industry or niche specific lists. A top 10 list on a local editorial page listing your business is one of the most potent, valuable backlinks you can get in the post-Pigeon world. You may not be able to rank highly, but the people who link to you can.
• Focus on ranking in the carousel. The carousel packs a lot of information into a small space, and it’s a lot to consider. Optimize your page for the carousel, both so you appear in it and so you appear close to the front. As an added bonus, any actions you take to optimize your place in the carousel are likely to help you appear in local pack results as well. Combined, these two take up a lot of space on local results, and can be highly beneficial to your business.
• Make sure your local address information is accurate. Google is putting more emphasis than ever on accurate location information for local businesses. Your address, phone number and map markers are all very important. Make sure that if you want to target a local area, you’re using that local area’s address. Don’t use a corporate headquarters if you’re a chain; that just makes your local results show up in that area instead. If possible, make sure you have a local area code for your phone number, rather than an 800 number.
• Encourage reviews on Yelp, Google+ and other directories. Google+ reviews are important because they show up in both the carousel and the local pack results. Yelp reviews are important because Yelp is almost always going to rank highly in search for your keywords and business information. Identify any other high traffic referrals and encourage reviews on those sites as well.
With all of this in mind, you should have no trouble restoring your former traffic levels post-Pigeon. The only change will be in where that traffic is coming from in the first place.