The latest algorithm change at Google has had a big impact on local search results. The Pigeon update breaks down cities into a selection of smaller neighbourhoods, so businesses need to target local areas rather than the city as a whole if they want to be successful.
This can offer some great benefits, but there are also some potential problems. The biggest issue is deciding which neighbourhoods each business belongs too. In some cases, boundaries have shrunk and new areas have been created, so a number of businesses may need to re-evaluate which area they are targeting. They may also have lost ground in search rankings due to reclassification.
The change means that businesses need to refine their local SEO to aim for their specific neighbourhood and target area rather than the whole city. This brings more focus and will improve the experience for site visitors, too. Instead of being presented with options from a very wide area the results will be narrower, more focused and businesses will be closer at hand, all of which benefits the user.
One stumbling block with the neighbourhood system is the fact that people may have different names for certain areas. For example local people may call it by a slang name and search for this, whereas visitors from outside the area may be looking for something completely different. It is important to be aware of these and optimise with all of the potential names in mind.
The change is forcing many businesses to take a new look at their SEO strategies. This could signal a return to traditional factors such as quality content, optimised titles, local links and sites free from technical issues. With mobile browsing, continuing to grow a responsive site is also crucial.
Effective search engine optimisation is especially important because in the majority of cases the number of organic positions on the front page of Google will have fallen. With the local focus, many of the top positions are being taken by directory listings for businesses with a large number of positive reviews. This means it is important that you have your site well positioned to take up one of the few remaining places. You should also ensure you have a presence on relevant directories if you want to compete.
Local SEO is constantly in a state of flux. The Pigeon update has increased this a little but it is not a sign you need to rush out and change everything about your website overnight. In fact this is a good opportunity to readdress your target market and strategy. If you have moved away from traditional SEO practices it’s time to revisit them.