Google’s Pigeon Update- In Layman’s Terms (Including a Keyword Reference Guide)

Google's Pigeon UpdateThough I generally avoid blogging about ‘techie’ topics, the Google ‘Pigeon’ local search algorithm update is a crucial update for small, local businesses.

There is nothing worse than trying to read an over-complicated article about a key factor in your business functionality. If you’re anything like me, this causes more internal frustration than educational productivity.

To make the ‘Pigeon’ update more accessible to the every day, non-techie small business owner or start up entrepreneur, I will keep this review as basic as possible whilst still acknowledging the key features of this Google update.

Also, if you run into a term that makes you feel nauseous and uncomfortable, no need to fret! I have provided you with a detailed ‘Tech Terminology Guide,’ which concludes this article, so feel free to reference this database whenever you feel it is necessary (important keywords will be bolded for easier reference).

The Google ‘Pigeon’ update: Is it important to me?

The Google ‘Pigeon’ update affects you if you are 1 or more of the following:

  • A brick-and-mortar business who focuses largely on local traffic
  • A chain of brick-and-mortar businesses that focus on local traffic
  • Just simply any brick-and-mortar business that would refrain from calling themselves a ‘big brand’

You do not have to worry about the Google ‘Pigeon’ update if:

  • You are solely an eCommerce website, with no associated brick-and-mortar storefront

When did the ‘Pigeon’ update happen?

Google released the ‘Pigeon’ update on July 24th, 2014.

Why on Earth would they name it the ‘Pigeon’ update?

Google initially released this update, unnamed. As with most Google updates, they did not publicize this new release, they simply just released it and left it to us to determine whether it affects our business, or not.

The name originated from the daily search marketing publication Search Engine Land. Since it was unnamed, SEL decided to name it ‘Pigeon. I wish there was a better story, but this is the gist of it.

Why did Google release the ‘Pigeon’ update?

The goal of the Google ‘Pigeon’ update is to optimize local search results by emphasizing the traditional organic SEO methods; they foresee this update creating a more accurate local SERP listing on both general Google searches and Google map searches.

What does that mean in layman’s terms? Well, Google wants their users to see the most relevant and kick-butt listings when they search for local brick-and-mortar stores, so they released the ‘Pigeon’ update.

What are the basic features of the ‘Pigeon’ update?

SEO experts haven’t learned that much about the ‘Pigeon’ update thus far, this will be an ongoing process over the next couple of months. Though Google is one of the biggest brands in the world, they still operate on trial-and-error, as with our small business gang. Both SEO experts and the Google programmers who formulated this local algorithm update are sitting on the edge of their chairs trying to figure out what is actually going to happen as a result of this update.

What we do know, and what I have re-worded and summarized in less ridiculously complicated tech terminology from Search Engine Land is the following:

  • This update has been released strictly in the United States and only affects US Google searches.
  • As opposed to the Panda 4.0 update that was released in May of this year, ‘Pigeon’ does not operate on penalties, it is purely a local search optimization update (You should be breathing a sigh of relief).
  • Since ‘Pigeon’ focuses on making the local Google search experience more pleasant for Google users, they have narrowed down local listing ‘packs’ focusing more on 3-pack listings as opposed to 7-pack listings.
  • Since Google Maps and Google Search work more hand-in-hand with general search inquiries, the ‘Pigeon’ update focuses on eliminating, or rather reducing duplicate listings on Maps and Search. This means that if your business is listed in Google Search, you might not also be featured on Google Maps.
  • Local searches have been more ‘localized’ meaning that the radius of your searches has significantly decreased. If you search for a burger joint in Costa Mesa, it is highly unlikely with the new ‘Pigeon’ update that you will see a listing of a burger joint in Newport Beach.
  • There is heavier emphasis on directory websites such as Yahoo!, Yelp, Merchant Circle, LinkedIn,, etc.
  • When your Google search features a Local Carousel, the sites that are listed are generally a direct link from local directory websites.
  • Good news for small businesses: in these Carousels, local businesses are largely favored over big brand satellite stores.

What do I need to do to cope with the ‘Pigeon’ update?

Though the ‘Pigeon’ update is extremely small in comparison to a general Google algorithm change, you can still make tiny adjustments to ensure that your small business benefits from this update. We don’t want to see your small business fold simply because you are unaware of the action to take to prevent this from happening.

Here are a few tweaks you can make, today, to enhance your organic SEO in local search queries:

  • Observe this list of the big-rig directory websites, and make sure you have a business profile on as many listings as possible
  • Continue to feed the organic SEO monster with great content, steady social media posting, backlinks, link building, and more.
  • Make sure each of your social media profiles, especially Google+, LinkedIn, and Facebook have the “About Us” section filled out to completion.
    • Address
    • Phone Numbers
    • Keyword rich description of your business
    • Website URL
  • Engage with your followers on social media; never let a comment, reply, or mention go unnoticed!
  • Monitor the comments about your business on local directory listings and mediate any negative feedback
  • If you receive a positive review from a customer, ask if they wouldn’t mind leaving a comment on your business local listing

In Summation: The Google ‘Pigeon’ update is looking like it will do more good than harm to small businesses (horray!). ‘Pigeon’ ensures that the local search experience is comprehensive and effective for Google users. All you need to do to address this update is ensure that your business is listed on the local directories, ensure that the ‘About Me’ section on your social media profiles is completed, and that you continue to Tweet and blog your heart out. Good luck! May the force be with you.


Tech Terminology

3-Pack– No, this does not refer to beer. This is any group of 3 local businesses that appear on the first page of your local Google search.

7-Pack– Again, this is not a liquor reference. This is simply a larger group of 7 local businesses that appear on the first page of your local Google search.

Backlinking– This is the process of including a link to one of your web pages, on one of your webpages. Think of this as link-ception; a link within a link. The more links there are to your webpages, the more important it becomes through Google’s specs.

Brick-and-mortar– An actual, physical storefront, which you can walk into and touch things.

Algorithm– A super complicated programming process that tells your computer how it should accomplish particular tasks (unfortunately, computers don’t just do everything on their own)(or fortunately, if you believe in the whole computers could take over the world idea, like me).

Link Building– “You scratch our back, we’ll scratch yours,” is the motto for this tech term. Linkbuilding is the process of exchanging your webpage or website links with other businesses in order to increase the number of backlinks (See Backlinks) to your site.

Local Carousel– The dark grey bar that appears at the top of your local Google search featuring local businesses that fall under your search keywords.

Organic SEO– This is the ‘unpaid’ type of search engine optimization (See SEO), which includes but is not limited to the following techniques: keyword analysis, keyword dumping, backlinking, link building, content marketing, social media marketing, etc.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)– This is the process of making your business or personal website more visible in search engine results. Ever heard that businesses on page 2 of Google don’t actually exist? Enhancing your SEO will help get your business on page 1 of Google search results.

SERP– (Search Engine Results Page) This refers to the Google page that is displayed after you type a term in the search bar.

Web Search Query– When you really want to figure out the name of your favorite burger-joint, but you can’t remember the name so you type “gourmet burgers in Costa Mesa.” The phrase “gourmet burgers in Costa Mesa” is a web search query. Essentially, this is any word or phrase that you use to search for a particular piece of information.

3 Responses to “Google’s Pigeon Update- In Layman’s Terms (Including a Keyword Reference Guide)

  • Thanks for this article. I believe in the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Sweetheart) principle too. Love how you included explanations of terms for the small business owner. As a Social Media trainer I feel there is too much assumption that business owners understand industry speak. Job well done here Parris, thanks

  • Very nice article
    Thanks a lot

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