News broke on July 25th that Google was rolling out a fairly hefty new update to their US-English results. Those that broke the news, Search Engine Land, have unofficially named it Pigeon. It’s quite a fitting name as the update concerns itself with local search and pigeons have homing tendencies. All very fitting.
What does it do?
The update looks to link…
“deeper into [Google’s] 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.” It also has better accuracy over distance and location rankings“.
What that basically means is it is a vast improvement on Google’s previous search capabilities within Google Maps. This was often seen as an area of weakness, bearing in mind the comprehensive machine learning demonstrated by their main web search. This update runs deeper than just Google Maps, though. It looks to improve the distance and location ranking parameters in Google Web Search. Thus adding weight to locality in place of, in some cases, authority.
Why the change?
With the continued growth of mobile search, locality is becoming an ever more important decider in relevance of results. This update acknowledges that fact and looks to address the weighting of location searches. Google looks at the semantics of your search to work out whether a local search is appropriate to your query. The most obvious way of signalling this to the search engine is to include a location name in the search. This can be as specific or as broad as you would like it to be. The more granular you go, the more relevant result you will be served. It gets cleverer than that though. Through machine learning the search engine can make certain assumptions about searches and decide whether it is best serving location-relevant results or broader search results. A hat tip to Search Engine Round Table, who pointed out that the search term “Ice Cream” showed vastly different results from three days before the update when compared to the day of the update. See the image they provided below [Ignore the red arrow, this is a hangover from a previous blog post.]
How will it affect SEOs?
Local businesses may notice an increase or decrease in web referrals, leads and business from the change. As of yet it is unknown quite how drastic that change will be, as Google hasn’t yet mentioned the percentage of queries that are likely to be affected by this update. This update will only be relevant if your business targets local searches for a product or a service in a location. However, most businesses with physical stores would certainly be involved in this localised targeting. As previously mentioned this has yet to roll out in the UK and so it is difficult to accurately gauge exactly what will happen in terms of UK local rankings.
What we will do
We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as and when this rolls out across the UK. As this is a particularly recent update it is still very much in its infancy in terms of testing and research on the subject. As such, check back in next month’s newsletter for a further update as to how this has affected local businesses, both in the US and hopefully UK.