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What Does Google's Latest Pigeon Update Mean for Businesses?

On July 24, news spread that Google had just implemented another stealthy algorithm update. Search Engine Land decided on the unofficial and very classy name “Pigeon” to describe the latest change.

So what's it all about?  

Let’s back up and start with a little history on past algorithm updates first. It's important to know that Google is constantly making changes to its search algorithm, and, most of the time, these changes go unannounced. Every now and then Matt Cutts will mention one on his vlog, but that's not the norm. Google first began making algorithm updates all the back in the year 2002, according to Moz. Ever since, we've seen many smaller updates and a few major updates. The two most notable in recent history have been Panda and Penguin. Panda (or Farmer) dealing with thin content sites and Penguin dealing with keyword stuffing and a number of other spam factors. Enter Pigeon. 

The goal of the Pigeon update is to make local search appear more like traditional organic ranks in the SERP. But, is it all good?

Jessica Lee, a contributor to Search Engine Watch, says:

“…with Pigeon, the local 7-pack seems to have flown away for many queries.  And some are debating whether this change is good or bad for local businesses.  On one hand, it seems local directories like Yelp are winning so far, surfacing more in the results for local searches.”

In case you aren’t familiar, the 7-pack looks like this:

The 7-pack is a group of local listings that shows up when you're searching for a business near you. For some businesses like restaurants, this has been replaced by the carousel listings at the top of the SERP.

With Pigeon now in place, some businesses are reporting they are no longer listed in the 7-pack—not a good thing for those lower-ranking companies that rely on the local 7-pack to be seen on the first page. In fact, it appears that the 7-pack has dropped drastically for many search queries.  

The benefits of Pigeon seem to be geared toward large directories such as Yelp.  More restaurants and hotels will see carousel style results when they weren’t before. Unfortunately for other businesses, this means getting pushed down to the bottom of the page or even to the second and third pages of the search results.

If you're a local business and are worried that this might negatively impact you, keep in mind that, as long as you have a strong SEO foundation and your site is sending good signals to Google, you might actually see improvements in your results.  For businesses that want to appear in local results, but are not actively doing SEO, now is a great time to start.