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On July 25th 2014 Google released an update aptly named the Pigeon update. It caused a major shake-up in local search rankings results for many small businesses. The general observations have been that many small businesses have suffered in their local search engine rankings, while larger directory sites have benefitted with ranking jumps. It is an interesting move by Google. Page one search engine results for small businesses are vital to local markets. Who wants to go to Google, which is functionally a business directory, only to find more business directories? I don’t see Google users being happy about having extra steps involved in their search for local businesses. Despite all the confusion over just what Google is doing with this update, there are some benefits.
According to one aggregators data their research suggested a 23.4% drop in the number of local map results that were showing up for local searches. Changes in local search engine results have been reported by a very diverse cross-section of industries from local restaurants to DUI lawyers. So theories abound on exactly what Google is trying to accomplish with this update.
Initially what we saw in search results with the Pigeon update was a drop in the number of maps listings for several local business verticals. Instead of a seven pack of search results on the local map, there were suddenly only three or in some cases, none. In essence, local businesses were being taken off the map.
No one knows for sure what Google’s search algorithm changes are but we can take a look at the results and draw conclusions based on what we are seeing. Commercial services appear to have seen one of the most significant changes in search results. Many keywords related to (plumbers, painting, remodeling, etc) are no longer returning map results. This change seems to make more sense, as the business location of commercial services is not typically a major concern in the decision making process for hiring a contractor. However this does not apply to all commercial services.
I did a local search for “Fort Collins Mold Remediation” and no local map results appeared.
However, when I did a search for “Fort Collins Roofers” a full set of local map results appeared. Why would my local roofer’s business location display and not my local mold remediation company?
The keyword “Fort Collins Plumbers” returned a three pack of local search results. Four major directory sites, BBB, Yelp, Yellow Pages and Dex also listed on page one.
“Fort Collins Emergency Plumbers” returned no map results and two directory sites, Dex and BBB.
“Fort Collins Painters” brings up a seven pack of map search results and Angie’s List is the only major directory that appears on page one.
Google’s goal is to provide intuitive local search results, keeping that in mind we can draw some probable conclusions.
No local map results appear for the keyword “Fort Collins Mold Remediation” but a full set of map results do appear for “Fort Collins Roofers.” A possible explanation may be that in the roofing industry there are national companies that set up shop in major local markets and sell roofing services. They sell new roofs as if they were the contractor. In reality these companies take a premium off the top, then they hire subpar local roofing companies to do the actual work. In mold remediation, no such companies exist. Is Google actually interested in protecting their end users?
Plumbing is a competitive industry, plumbing businesses abound in every local market. In fairness to both the business owners and those looking for a local plumber, Google gives page one space to not only local businesses but national chains and also major directories to provide maximum visibility for businesses. This also offers plenty of choices for Googles users.
For the keyword “Emergency Plumbers” no map results appear. But let’s face it, if your home is flooding at three in the morning, do you care where the plumber’s office is located?
Local painting company keywords do pull up a full seven pack of map results on Google and Angie’s List on page one. Painting is not as competitive as plumbing. The search results on these keywords provide local business options and they include Angie’s List for Google users that like to be reassured about the quality of their choice of contractor.
Google wants to give its users intuitive, timely and relevant results. Post Pigeon update local search results appear to have helped Google take another step in that direction. Search engine marketers that have a continual eye on the future of search don’t panic when they see a new update like Pigeon, they analyze, adjust and advance.
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