google pigeon

What Is Google Pigeon? – Google Pigeon Explained

In our latest instalment looking at the Google algorithms, we take a look at Google Pigeon and how this has impacted search results. This algorithm was originally introduced as a way to improve the local results for users. However, it eventually led to an complete overhaul of how we see local listings today.

What is Google Pigeon?

Initially released back in 2013, the Pigeon update was the first time Google completely re-hauled their algorithm to increase their focus on local results. It was designed to merge the results on the web with local results to provide improved rankings and allow for distance among other parameters. Once this was rolled out local search results began to change dramatically. This was also when the simplified 3-pack locations view that we see today was introduced, replacing the old 7-pack view. As a result, only three sites were listed in local search results compared to seven previously.

Key Features of the Google Pigeon Algorithm

The key reason for this algorithm update was to bring local searches and web results together. Consequently, this saw the radius of results from local searches shrink to only show those physically near to the searcher. This merge of web and local results was a message to all local business owners from Google to get themselves listed online in order to compete for these local results. As we have seen a rise in the number of mobile searches this algorithm update was, in a way, ahead of the curve for changing how local results appeared.

The biggest change that the average user will have noticed when Pigeon launched was the switch from seven local results to the three we see today. If you’re not familiar with the previous layout take a look at the example below.

screenshot of google my business


This is the current layout we see on SERPs:

google my business screenshot


Over the years Google has gradually reduced the number of local results produced. Initially there were ten, but this has been dwindled down to three by 2015 which are integrated into their map feature. Pigeon was rolled out just over a year before the official switch to just three local results was made permanent for most searches with a local intent, but this change in the way Google looked at local results has been seen as the stepping stone to the switch.

Prepping Your Site for Google Pigeon

With its large focus on local search results, optimising your site to compete for local terms is the best way to ensure you continue to rank and get listed in the smaller location packs. The radius that Google draws around the searcher is not something you can control. Typical SEO tactics will help to get your business visible to Google, but there are aspects that you can control to influence search results, such as:

  • Quality link profile: ensuring you have good-quality sites linking to yours improves Google’s trust in the site and improves domain authority.
  • Local content: including a range of different content like text, images and videos that all relate to a certain location will improve your chance of ranking for related terms in these areas.
  • Get the local basics spot on: with only three spots up for grabs in local results everything needs to be perfect in order to compete. Moz’s local SEO checklist is a must read for getting your site optimised for local search.
  • Report spam: Google has a lot to keep an eye on, so should you see a result that is spam, untrustworthy or just plain false report it to Google. If they judge it to be a low-quality site they will usually drop it from the rankings – freeing up space for you to rise.

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