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by Ali Moghadam on 7th August 2014
The urban pigeon is a relatively wily creature. Not cunning like a fox – more of a fearless perennial weed with wings, waddling amongst the human populace, waiting, waiting… The pigeon’s famous appetite for discarded chips and salty snacks is satisfied when these treats are dropped by passers-by. So; is Pigeon then an apt name for Google’s local search algorithm refresh, clearing the streets of Google one peck at a time? Can this post harbour the most bird references ever?
Google’s latest local search algorithm refresh flew the coup in late July to gobble up the (apparently) festering detritus that was local search. In its wake, many are reporting a huge shake up in local search listings, where review sites and local directories dominate, and the local map pack (once usually 7 or 8 listings strong) is significantly reduced in most cases, showing an average of 3 sparsely arranged local listings on the map snippet.
While the UK is reportedly not yet experiencing these changes at the time of writing, I do believe we’re starting to see the beginnings of some flapping about among the local pack – terms that had a full suite of local pack listings are being shrunk. Let’s try it out using the greatest food on the planet (pigeon kryptonite):
How it was (and still is in many cases as the new algorithm settles in) – more in the local pack.
How it is now. Let’s see if it sticks.
What’s more, it looks like the ducks across the pond have noticed that tagging a place name on the beginning or end of your query will more strongly affect your results, giving more focused location targeted results even if you’re not in that place. Maybe the Google eggheads are still playing around with the algorithm before a full, worldwide roll-out. Regardless, this is a flavour of our impending future – whenever the USA starts feeling the changes, old England is never too far behind.
So it looks like we’re next – what should we do to prepare for the coming flock? Fun fact – a group of flying pigeons is called a kit!
Well, let’s look at what’s being experienced:
With these factors on the rise, we can do a fair bit before the pigeon lands. First up, it’s time to take control of local listings – Yelp, Yell and all the common denominators that get page one attention.
When I say take control, I don’t mean claim them and let them collect digital dust. I mean take control – brand them up, describe your business clearly and uniquely, attract customers – hell, talk to them even! Don’t just sit on the platform, use it. If a stronger local listing is the one that appears top, be that listing. Think about all the listing sites that offer pictures, videos, comments, full contact information, product details, staff member or owner profiles – and keep them ship shape!
The smaller average local pack is much harder to address, as we don’t have control over it. There isn’t much we can do, but if you’re in the top three right now, you’ll stand a good chance of retaining in control of your visibility for the time being. Hyper-relevance coupled with name, address and phone number citations should help you out a least a little bit – and don’t forget to keep your Google My Business profile in top order. The Data Highlighter in Google Webmaster Tools is an often overlooked weapon in the local SEO arsenal, as are microformats like schema mark-up. Get on it now, don’t wait until the guano hits the fan!
Personally, I don’t like the practice of sticking things like “SEO Southampton” or similar into title tags. I like to include locations in my title tags and Meta, but I’m not fond of exact match location keyword stuffing. Because it looks rubbish. So go natural. Are you a “Family Bakery in Glasgow”? Then tag your brand name on and let that be the end of it. If you’re a “Bakery Glasgow, Glasgow Bakeries” well, then… okay, more power to you. But you’re not really are you?! Cut the stuffed, spammed out titles – we’re no longer in the dark ages of SEO (although some would argue we’re in some sort of neo-dark age) and the name of the game is relevance. The tighter and more granular, the better. Stop putting all your eggs in one basket – the title tag can only take so much!
Does that sound like a lot of work? Well, that’s local SEO for you. A constant, never ending process of tightening up your presence in the local pack and Google Maps. But it’s worth it – all that awesome visibility is going to pay off big time. But it’s a long road to the top if you wanna rock and roll. You’ve got to be on top of it before everyone else is on top of you – pigeon or no pigeon. But if you master your surroundings, you’ll find it much easier to survive. The landscape shifts all the time, you just need to adapt, just as the pigeon has adapted to life in the metropolis.
If you’d like to know more about Local Search and the Pigeon update, waddle over to our Contact page and let us take you under our Koozai wing.