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What you need to know about the Google Pigeon update

On the 24th July, Google quietly released a new significant algorithm change which has since been unofficially titled the Google Pigeon Update. Within this blog post we are going to cover what this change is, how this impacts your business website and most importantly, what you need to do about it. 

Google Pigeon

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What is the Google Pigeon Update

You may have heard about the Google Panda and Google Penguin algorithm changes on Google over the past few years. Well now we have Google Pigeon. Why such a strange name? Because someone at a popular search engine blog,, decided it would be a good name.

So what exactly is the Google Pigeon update designed to do and who does it impact? In short, this algorithm change is only currently being used within the US for English language queries. So for UK based companies, then don’t panic, but do be prepared.

Algorithm changes always start off in the US for English language queries, which is shortly followed by all English language queries around the world and then finally followed by other languages as they are rolled out. What this means is that if your business is based in the UK and is only trading in the UK, then you have a bit of time to implement the changes and plan for this. Google hasn’t announced any specific dates when the algorithm change will be rolled out wider than the US so it is best to be prepared for this as it is rare that significant changes aren’t rolled out globally.

The Google Pigeon update is designed to tie the local search algorithm deeper into the main web search algorithm which uses hundreds of ranking signals. This includes search capabilities such as spelling corrections, synonyms and the Knowledge Graph. The change means that the new algorithm improves a few other factors for local search including the distance and location ranking factors for local businesses. The whole aim of the new algorithm is to provide a better experience for people searching for local results.


How Google Pigeon impacts your business website

What all of this means in simple terms is that your local business will show within the carousel area straight at the top of the search results on Google which can be seen here;


Google Pigeon New York Hotels Carousel

Image source:


The algorithm is designed to give a boost to real world places, expanding beyond the initial places of interest that were originally being listed within the carousel. Search for “Things to do in Manchester” on Google to see how this looks at present in the UK; 


Things to do in Manchester Google Carousel


As this expands within the UK, we will start to see the carousel appearing more and more for searches such as;

  • Builders Merchants in Manchester
  • Timber Merchants in Manchester
  • Plumbers in Manchester
  • Builders in Manchester
  • Restaurants in Manchester

…and many more similar types of phrases.

The carousel area is being used for local listings instead of what is currently being used which is known as the ‘7-Pack’ which is a group of local listings that are often given prominence when people are searching for phrases with a local intent. For example, here you can see the current ‘7-Pack’ listings when searching for “Restaurants in Manchester”;


Restaurants in Manchester 7-Pack - Google Pigeon


With the Google Pigeon algorithm update moving the local listings into the carousel, this also means that directory type websites are also getting a boost. With all of the local listings moving up into the carousel, this means that the other directory style websites are showing higher up the page. Higher visibility generally leads to higher traffic levels. Below shows a screenshot from the US whereby local businesses are listed within the top carousel and larger directory style websites are being listed within the main results (click for larger image);


Google Pigeon Seattle Restaurants Carousel


It is going to be interesting to see exactly how this plays out over time, but it seems that everyone is a winner here – as long as the correct measures are put in place. Some large directories are already seeing a 5-10% increase in organic traffic from this change.

Large branded web directories such as Yelp and Yell are likely to benefit hugely as they have extremely strong brands which helps greatly with the Search Engine Optimisation work. Which means that smaller businesses have to make sure they have the right pieces in place to be able to earn a listing within the carousel at the top to beat the large directories.  


What you need to do next

Ok, so to put the Google Pigeon algorithm update into perspective and to lay out a clear plan of action there are several things that need to be done. While this update hasn’t been rolled out into England just yet, it is better to be ahead of the game as it is extremely likely that this will be rolled out within the next few months.


Complete your listing on branded business directories

It is important to stress here that this is for branded directories, not cheap, nasty, horrible traditional ‘SEO directories’. Stay away from those, stay well away. Here we are talking about well-known brands. Think Yelp, Yell, Urbanspoon, TripAdvisor, OpenTable and more. 


Branded Directories Logos for Google Pigeon


While there are well known generic directories, there will also be some industry specific directories that will be worth getting listed in. So do your research, or get in touch and we can help you with the process to make sure your business is being listed in the places where it needs to be.

What this will mean is that if a person doesn’t click on your listing within the carousel, then you will have a greater chance that your business will be seen in one of the top business directories. By covering off both angles, this will increase the chances of a potential customer finding your business online.


Make sure Google knows about your business through Google My Business

Make sure your business is listed on Google My Business. Whether you have a single shop / store / outlet / office, or hundreds throughout the UK. Make sure you are listing all of your physical locations on Google My Business. You may have heard about Google My Business recently but if not, Google My Business has replaced the old Google Local and Google Places tools to list your business on Google. 


Google My Business Logo


If you aren’t listed on Google My Business and need some support with this then get in touch and we can work closely with you to get your business listed in preparation for when the change is rolled out within the UK and further afield.