Just when we were being told that directories are becoming less relevant to SEO, Google unveiled its Pigeon Algorithm update. The update aims to facilitate local searches, thus bringing directories back into the spotlight. While users can appreciate the (theoretically) more focused search results, many businesses are finding themselves thrown into SERP limbo for no apparent reason.
One of the most noticeable changes from the Pigeon update is the reduced search radius - many businesses that once ranked for specific terms no longer rank if they are outside of the new search radius. In addition, Google also changed the Maps Pack results for certain industries - some industries may have been reduced from 7-pack maps results to 3, or none at all. Lastly, Google's new algorithm seems to rely heavily on information from local directories. In some cases, directory or local review sites like Yelp actually outrank websites, and we are seeing more Google+ pages in the maps results.
I've been negatively affected by Pigeon, what now?
If your SEO campaign has suffered from the effects of Google Pigeon, don't panic. There are a lot of moving parts involved, and things are still settling in to place. That being said, there are some steps you can take to help optimize your site for Google Pigeon. Use these tips to help regain lost ground, or take advantage of new opportunities.
1. Know your search radius
As mentioned above, the new algorithm features a smaller search radius. Do some research to figure out where and for which terms you rank.
2. Don't neglect the smaller keywords
Since there's not a whole lot you can do short of changing your address to appear outside of your radius, it's important to pick up the smaller keywords (long-tail keywords or words with less search volume) for your industry. This will help you increase your presence overall, and help your business become more relevant for the bigger terms as well.
3. Find the right directories
The relevance of directory listings may be on the rise, but that (hopefully!) doesn't mean the return of spammy directories on a mass scale. Instead of trying to get listed in as many directories as possible, do some research on which directories are the most relevant to your industry. To do this, simply search for variants of your location-specific keywords, and take note of which directories come up.
4. Take the time to optimize your directory listings!
With directories being more important than ever, it's absolutely necessary to optimize your listing - don't just plug in your address and leave! Depending on the type of directory, you may be able to add photos, social media links, product lists, or business descriptions. Treat directories like mini search engines - the more complete your profile is, the better. It would also be wise to use a local phone number for these listings if you have one.
5. Encourage customer reviews
If you don't have very many reviews on Yelp, Google, or other major review platforms, now's the time to start encouraging your existing customers to write them. In addition to helping your overall image and conversion rate, location specific reviews can help boost your local web presence.
6. Continue to create quality content
As with most things relating to SEO, the discussion comes back to quality content. The importance of well written, original material hasn't gone away, but the recent changes may place more emphasis on location specific content.
If you've been running a quality organic SEO campaign from the start, you should survive the Pigeon update once the dust settles. To learn more about maps listings, Google Pigeon, or