What is Google Pigeon?
Google Pigeon – A Google algorithm update focused on providing locally relevant results to searchers. For example, searching for “SOHO coffee shop” will return results primarily centered around that neighborhood. In addition, Google can determine your location when you enter a search, and show you local businesses nearby your area even without localized keywords. This algorithm greatly influenced the potential for local businesses to appear in search results. (See also: Google Algorithm)
The release of Pigeon resulted in one of the greatest shakeups of Google’s local and local organic results to date. This update was given its moniker by Search Engine Land, an industry publication that received direct intelligence from Google about the intent of Pigeon.
The pigeon was designed to tie Google’s local search algorithm closer to its web algorithm and to improve ranking parameters based on distance and location. The local SEO community reported daily changes to local and local-organic rankings for weeks following the Pigeon rollout, including the widespread replacement of the older 7-pack style of local results with packs featuring just 3 listings.
Let’s take a look at some of the major changes that took place as part of the Pigeon update:
- One of Google’s stated purposes for the Pigeon update was to connect their local algorithm more deeply to their traditional web algorithm to take full advantage of the hundreds of ranking signals that go into the web algorithm. These new ties to the web algorithm further emphasized the need for local businesses to have a strong organic web presence in order to compete for local rankings.
- At the same time, Pigeon was slated as featuring improvements to Google’s ability to calculate a local businesses’ distance and location. In many cases, it appeared that the search radius had been narrowed, favoring businesses that were closest to the physical location of the searcher. For example, when searching for a query like “pizza san Francisco,” a user in the North Beach area of San Francisco would receive local results narrowed to that neighborhood instead of city-wide results. The full extent of Pigeon’s impacts on the local packs were quite challenging to document since ranking fluctuations were rampant for weeks following the update, with some local SEOs theorizing that Google may have been A/B testing different results sets.With map boundaries redrawn to a narrower radius (either as part of the Pigeon update or as a result of a concurrent A/B test) post-Pigeon, many businesses found themselves suddenly outside of the packs in which they were previously ranking. Fast forward several years and Google has become remarkably expert at divining metrics like the distance between a searcher and a business, and Pigeon may be seen most clearly as a step along that path.
- One of the most notable outcomes of Pigeon was the loss of 7-pack local results (Google’s sets of 7 local business listings that were commonly shown when a search engine query had local intent, such as “pizza Chicago” or “attorney in Denver”). Over the course of time, Google has steadily decreased the number of local business listings it displays in its local results packs, initially starting with 10 listings and, in 2015, switching to just 3 listings per pack in nearly all cases. Pigeon rolled out one year before the mass switch to 3-packs and may be seen in hindsight as a step toward full adoption of these downsized packs. This reduction of pack size left many businesses outside of the local results, struggling as never before for local visibility.