Last week Google released a new update called Pigeon (named by Search Engine Land). We saw a lot of big shakeups in the Google SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages), especially in Local. We think that some of our Southern friends, especially in Asheville and Williamsburg, were seeing the new algorithm before we saw out here in the West. We finally saw the update on Friday and it was good news for some of our customers and bad news for others. This is what we know, based on what Google told Search Engine Land:
"Google told us that the new local search algorithm ties deeper into their web search capabilities, including the hundreds of ranking signals they use in web search along with search features such as Knowledge Graph, spelling correction, synonyms and more.
In addition, Google said that this new algorithm improves their distance and location ranking parameters."
What we have seen live in the Google SERPs is very interesting. For the terms "Seattle bed and breakfast", "Asheville bed and breakfast" and "New Orleans bed and breakfast" on Friday (07/25/2014), we were seeing local directories coming into the Local results. Today (07/28/2014), I still see that for Seattle and Asheville, but not for New Orleans:
This corroborates the "local search algorithm ties deeper into their web search capabilities" idea, in that large directory and review sites, such as Yelp and Tripadvisor, or your state or local association, would have stronger ranking signals based on traditional ranking than individual businesses. They did say, though, that "this new algorithm improves their distance and location ranking parameters.". That could mean that a business' proximity to city center will now have a higher impact on where it ranks locally for the city category search query, such as "Asheville bed and breakfast". Just a reminder, that city center location is determined by Google.
I expect that the results will continue to jump around a bit and then quiet down, in the usual way that they do when Google releases an update. For example, earlier today, the Asheville results did not show the association, and had The Lion and the Rose as #1 above 1889 Whitegate.
So what can you do to protect yourself from the potential poopstorm that Pigeon may cause to your ranking? It would seem from the preponderance of directories and review sites in the results, it would behoove you to be part of those directories/review sites. I did a quick review of the New Orleans 7-pack and see that all of the top 7 have at least 6 and as many as 29 reviews on Yelp. All of them have at least a 4 star rating on Google Plus, which means they have at least 5 Google reviews. Interestingly, all but one fall within a very small area within the city. The one that falls outside that area has 29 Yelp reviews and is #4 on Tripadvisor for New Orleans. Of course, you can't do anything about your location within the city, but you can encourage your guests to leave you reviews. NAP is still important, so check your listings to make sure your information is correct out there.
We will be checking the results for the next several days to see if the upheaval settles down, and to provide more information about what steps you may need to take to remain on or get to the 7-pack.
Local, Social Media and Education Support