Google’s “Pigeon” Release : What You Need to Know

Local SEO - Pigeon ReleaseGoogle SEO Changes: Local Search – Silent but Important Changes

In the past few days, Google has silently rolled out changes to their search algorithm that have a direct impact on local search. Many search experts have dubbed this the “Pigeon” release. Unlike previous Google releases, this update was fairly silent. However, this update may have a significant effect on your business. To find out more, as well as what you can do about it, read on.

What is Local Search?

To clarify, “Local Search” is an industry term used to refer to the component of Google searches that takes into consideration your specific location. For example, if you type “pizza” into Google search, Google will prioritize “pizza” establishments that are closest to you. This prioritization applies to your website, social media pages and review sites (as well as those of your competition). Exactly what shows up first, second or third on Google’s search result depends on Google’s search algorithm. Google updates its algorithm a few times a year and this time, the update had a noticeable effect on the Local Search results.

Summary of Changes

  1. Google “Listing Packs” disappear
  2. Search results depend more on website authority
  3. Ranking boost seen for (non-Google) review sites

Google “Listing Packs” disappear

The most noticeable difference in the recent update is the disappearing act of the “Google Listing Pack”. This was a frequent component of search results. These listing “packs” could be seen in a grouping of related listings. The group previously would include anywhere from 2 to 7 related listings. Of course, clicking on the local icon would take you to the related Google+ page for that business. While listing packs still appear on some searches, it appears far less frequently.

At the same time, it also appears that the Google Carousel is slowly gaining more visibility. In the examples provided here for the search term “coffee reviews, Los Angeles”, you can see how the Google Listing Packs that appeared in previous searches, no long appear. Most noticeable is the prominence of the Google Carousel in the results of this particular term.

coffee reviews los angeles


Website Authority

Traditional search results (i.e. non-Local search) use the “website authority” in their calculation. Website authority has many factors, including quality content, diverse quality backlinks, social activity, and website age. Relevant textual information on your site that includes the category of your business, description of services provided and, in the case of local search, the address and city of your business. Now your website, for your local business, will be more subject to the “Website Authority” rules for traditional Search Engine Optimization.

Review Site Rankings Increase

Google refers to Review Sites as “Local Directories.” Examples of these “Local Directories” include Yelp, TripAdvisor, RateMDs, HealthGrades, and many more. It appears that Google Local Search now prioritizes these “Local Directories” higher in their search results. You may find that search results for your business may show more of these local directories.

What Should You Do?

The results for every business will vary based on dozens of factors. However, there are several good practices that you should maintain to stay ahead of the competition and get better local search results. These include maintaining consistent listings on prominent review sites in your category, getting more reviews, maintaining positive reviews and harvest a steady stream of new reviews from your customers/patients/clients. ReviewInc’s services help monitor all of these factors which you can read more about in this recent article: There is New Life in SEO.

Final Note

Inevitably, expect more changes from Google. However, if you maintain good practices, you will not only be unaffected, but you may benefit when Google makes their next change.



How the Yelp Deals with Yahoo! and Yellow Pages May Affect Your SEO

Yahoo Yelp Yellow Pages

As we mentioned in our most recent blog post, the deals Yelp recently made with both Yahoo! and Yellow Pages to merge their review site listings may have an impact on your SEO.

The fact that both Yahoo! and Yellow Pages seem to be placing less emphasis on being regarded as reputable review sites (and instead relying on Yelp’s expertise), means that your presence on a variety of different review sites becomes even more important. We find that being listed on the review sites that are more tailored to the industry you are in may be one of the keys to boosting your SEO. For example, making sure you’re listed on if you’re a car dealership or if you’re a lawyer.

See our previous blog post There is New Life in SEO to see how SEO is important to your business!

There is New Life in SEO – It’s called REVIEWS


Just do a web search for “Is SEO Dead” and you will find pages upon pages of articles about the supposed “death” of SEO. So is SEO really dead? Of course not. The rules have just changed. Whether you are new or experienced with SEO (if you’re new to it, see the explanation below, then come back and see what the big fuss is about), you’ll see that it can be hard to keep up with all the trends concerning SEO.

Google Search

Over the last 10 years, search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo have consistently tuned and re-tuned their “algorithm” so that you can easily find what you are looking for. Google, the king of all search engines, sets the standard by which SEO experts “dial-in” their websites so that the Google search engine may find them.

In the days of old, there were many tricks that could be used to increase the effectiveness of SEO. But Google has been playing a cat-and-mouse game with many of these “experts” to the point that the search engine is actually ignoring some websites. So how is SEO still alive? Google search has given great preference to quality content.

Google Maps

Essentially, videos and high quality articles stand out as SEO magnets. When it comes to LOCAL SEO that helps you get your business found, it’s all relative to the extent of your reviews and review site listings that matter. MOZ conducted an outstanding study on local search and concluded that at least 50% of LOCAL search is influenced by LOCAL SEO.

Their study is not for the faint of heart, so we’ll try to boil it down to the following SIX FACTORS:

• Breadth
• Consistency
• Recent
• Sentiment
• Keywords
• Quantity

Let’s explain each one:

Firstly, it’s important to have your business listed on lots of review sites. We call that the BREADTH of your listings. The more places your business is listed, the better. But we suggest that you have listings on at least 10 review sites that matter (such as Google, Yelp, Yahoo, CitySearch, YellowPages, etc.).

Next, it’s important that your listings be CONSISTENT with your business Name, Address and Phone Number (also known as a “NAP”). Since most of the review sites also display your web address, make sure that it’s the correct address as well.

That’s the easy part, the next four are a bit harder but can have a huge impact on your SEO. They are based on getting reviews on those review sites that matter most.

The reviews should be RECENT. The older the reviews, the less weight they will carry with the search engine.

BalanceThe reviews should lean also toward the positive. Negative reviews will rank lower. The reviews don’t have to be perfect, but they should be balanced. In fact, the MOZ study suggests that balanced reviews (rather than perfect “5 stars” or “all negative”) carry more weight from an SEO perspective.

The text of the reviews should mention the name of the business and the services and/or products provided by that business. A restaurant that sells “steak” would benefit if the reviews had the word “steak” in them. (But beware of *keyword stuffing.)

Lastly, each review site should have several reviews on them. One or two reviews on a review site will have little impact on SEO. ReviewInc suggests at least 10 reviews on each review site, with at least one of those in the last 30 days.

Subscribers to ReviewInc’s service can access their SEO Impact analyzer which is updated daily based on a business’s reviews. Here is a sample chart provided by the ReviewInc’s service:


Whether you are an existing ReviewInc subscriber or want to know more, just call us and we’ll be happy to discuss how we can help.

Search Engine Optimization

SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” It is the process of getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” “editorial” or “natural” listings on search engines. Local SEO, is a specialized kind of online marketing that increases visibility for businesses interested in ranking for geographically-related keywords. A large part of Local SEO involves ranking in the Local algorithms, as well as ranking well in the organic results for Local keywords.

Keyword Stuffing

Keyword stuffing is considered to be an unethical search engine optimization (SEO) technique, which leads to banning a website from major search engines either temporarily or permanently. Keyword stuffing occurs when a web page is loaded with keywords in the meta tags or in content of a web page. The repetition of words in meta tags may explain why many search engines no longer use these tags.


Related Video:

Is SEO Dead?

If you do a quick Google search on ‘Is SEO dead?’, you will quickly find dozens of articles claiming that SEO is dead. But is it? We dig further into this phenomenon.

In recent years, many spammers have attempted to game the system by typing in irrelevant keywords and backlinks in an attempt to boost SEO, ruining it for everyone else.

A couple of the true ways to boost your SEO are by creating original content and by a lesser-known method: online reviews.

When you are listed on an array of different review sites related to your business, and you have key positive online reviews on each, this can definitely help to build your SEO. So while yes, it is important to make sure you are listed on the larger review sites such as Yelp and Google+, the little guys can help you more than you even realize. Your success online is really dependent upon a combination of small efforts.

Part of why people may be mistaking SEO for being dead is best explained in this excerpt from a blog post written on by Aaron Wall:

“Google has changed & obfuscated so many things that it is very hard to isolate cause and effect. They have made changes to how much data you get, changes to their analytics interface & how they report unique visitors, changes to how tightly they filter certain link behaviors, they have rolled in frequent Panda updates, and they have nailed a number of the paid link networks.”

It is also further expressed in this excerpt from a interview with Sam McRoberts by Jayson DeMers on

“McRoberts: Well, if you look at the major algorithm updates that Google has released over the last few years, there have been a number that were very clearly aimed at gray hat SEO tactics. Panda and Penguin, in particular, are the most stand out examples, though there have been others.

Panda was targeted at sites with thin or duplicate content, or sites with too many ads on-page. Penguin hit over-optimized anchor text in link profiles. There were also updates that hit keyword rich domain names. All of these represent tactics used heavily by gray hat SEOs.”

So it’s no wonder the future seems bleak for SEO. But as previously stated, Google is constantly changing their algorithms so there is no real sure-fire way to tell what works and what doesn’t work. It is important to just continue creating original content whenever possible (or at least sharing relevant content) and building on your online reputation.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!