quality control

Quality control, SEO and Google Pigeon

Today, let’s talk about the Google Pigeon. If you are reading this, you probably can tell that it’s a Google update we are referring to. The Google pigeon update isn’t new. In fact, its succeeded by the Panda 4.0 update. However, there’s a distinct difference between the two, a reason we are talking about both the updates.

However, the focus of the Pigeon update was on different parameters than what say, the Panda 4.0 focuses on. While Google’s love for content that’s fresh, new and unique isn’t new, the Pigeon update didn’t focus on it. Instead, it focused on something different – distance and location ranking parameters.


What is the Pigeon update all about?


The aim of Google was pretty focused upon with the Pigeon update. No, Google wasn’t trying to jumble up the ranks of websites as it normally does with any major update. Instead, this time it was trying to display search results that are more relevant to a user. So, if you reside in Portland, you are going to find a search result with your favorite Gustav restaurant coming up when you Google for eateries in the area.  While that’s just a basic example, in the sense that Google has had location rankings even before, the Pigeon update has made search results more relevant.


So, what has Google done?


Local listings get a preference now when you search for results, more than ever. Tying location rankings to traditional web traffic results is something that Google has been trying to do for long. Now, it seems that Google has finally caught up. It’s not an improvement in the search engine rankings that Google was after with this update. Rather, it was looking to enhance the user experience.


Effects of the Update

The Pigeon update has its share of controversies. Some of them have stated that the update hasn’t really helped much in the business while others complained that the change in update wasn’t really helping them boost sales.


Quality traffic but less traffic, or so Google feels

Several studies have shown that websites have been receiving less traffic than before after the update. While Google does want to send in quality and targeted traffic, some of the websites have suffered. Google wanted users to go to search results and sites that offer them what they need. However, that’s not always the case now, yet.


It’s about domains

We have talked about domain names being less of a factor these days. However, there’s a slight suspicion that’s tilting towards Google these days. The question is – do brands really benefit from attaching their brand names to strong domains? In other words, do big brands have an added advantage with established directory sites and domain names? After the Google Pigeon update was released, it sure did seem so.


Google’s love for brands aren’t new. In 2008, the then CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, had himself quoted

“Brands are the solution, not the problem. Brands are how you sort out the cesspool.”


Let’s take a look at one of the reports Search Engine Land came up with in respect to how much Google loves a brand.


There’s a distinct increase in performance for scores above 55, after the update. Page Authority takes into account the internal link metrics, and so you can see that they have more power than external links.

It seems that Google is rewarding brands with a good Page Authority and having mobile friendly versions.

How close does the location need to be?

If you are selling something in your city, it is important to have the web pages structured in a similar manner. It’s important to have your business listed nearer to the city center. Proximity is more prominent a factor today for Google with the Pigeon update. Let’s suppose you are a user in Oregon. You will have more results displayed nearer to the Oregon city than locate businesses that are in the suburbs. Urban cities and shops in urban parts, are more likely to be featured prominently. So, if you are searching for a grocery shop nearby, you will probably have the shop nearby to the city center displayed to you first. Some of the studies suggest that Google mostly displays shops that are within 20 miles from the city center. In fact, Google was coming out with 3-pack locations for a search results instead of the 7-pack locations it used to do before right after the Pigeon update. However, Google has now rolled back to the previous 7-pack search results like before.

Keeping mobile searches in mind

Mobile searches are though bound to different, where Google is increasingly using context. You can turn on the location tracking option in your cell and get results of grocery shops displayed according to how far they are from you. But then, web searches still differ a bit in that respect and that’s the area we are talking about.

How optimized should you keep your website?

It’s a nice idea to optimize your website, but stuffing in location specific keywords will not help you rank higher. While adding in location keywords, like ‘in and around London’ can help you. But then you do not want to stuff in different locations all at once. So, have a primary focus on every page of which neighborhood you are targeting. Let’s say you have a dental clinic in Maryland. You would do good to focus primarily on the keyword ‘Maryland’ and its synonyms instead of adding in places nearby as well.

So, how relevant is the Pigeon Update today?

Google seems to be making a number of changes to its Pigeon update. The major effect that Pigeon had had was to make bogger brands feature more prominently in places of smaller businesses.

Now, it seems Google is slowly changing its algorithms and going back to the pre-Pigeon era in many ways. We have the Panda 4.0 update following up as well and with lesser importance to domain names, there’s not much of a difference now. Here’s one study done by Brightedge that might help you understand the effect a bit more.




From the result, it seems that the hospitality and education sectors were the overall winners after the update. However, there’s not that much of a difference. Remember, this was the scenario before the Google Panda update actually rolled in.

While over optimization of a website is always a reason for Google taking it out on you, the Pigeon update is again restricted to those sites that are offering location based services. So, if you are offering web design services, it would not affect you a lot, unless and until your web design services are being offered in only one particular place. A location that’s nearer to the city center will help you feature more prominently in Google search results but then, it’s not always feasible. The different studies do suggest that Google is still tinkering with the Google Pigeon update and some even state that Google’s been rolling back the update slowly, in the light of criticisms and the launch of the Panda 4.0.


While we still aren’t sure about that, we would be able to understand what Google has been doing in the coming few weeks. How has your website rankings changed down the last few months? Have you witnessed a significant rise in traffic or a significant fall? Do let us know.