The latest word on every SEO and SEM’s mind is “pigeon,” and not the near relation to the dove. We’re talking about the prospective Local Search algorithm update that Google has seemingly been pushing through since late July. Industry experts have had some time to review the impact, and here’s a little bit of what they know, as well as what they suggest SEMs and SEOs do to minimize the impact.
The most consistent advice I’ve been seeing in all industry-authoritative sources (news and blog posts alike) is advice urging SEOs and SEMs to go back to basics with their strategies. There’s a lot of spam getting pushed to the top right now; a number of experts warn against attempting to mimic these spammy listings’ tactics. Instead, “stay the course,” as Andrew Shotland has said. This advice is echoed by everyone — Miriam Ellis, Mike Blumenthals, Linda Buquet, et al.
For YCPs, this means continuing to check for duplicates on partner publishers, updating business information and/or rich media content regularly, and ensuring that the business’s Google My Business (GMB) page is verified and connected. It means ensuring that the listings managed through Yext are complete, in order to ensure they receive as much search relevance as possible.
We know that YCPs manage a broad range of clientele, from hotels and spas to restuarants, bookstores, car dealerships, medical offices, and more. It may be of interest to know which industries / verticals are seeing the most change (positive and negative), and determine if that affects your client roster more or less relative to others.
Jim Yu, at Search Engine Watch, presents a solid overview of winners and losers following the Pigeon rollout. These numbers are far from definitive or even final; there have been algorithm tweaks and updates daily, and impact has shifted considerably week to week.
Still, it seems that Google’s purported purpose with Pigeon — to allow local businesses to complete with big brands more equitably — is in effect. Big losers include Real Estate and Jobs, while major winners include Food (i.e. food service, such as restaurants) and Hospitality (e.g. hotels).
If your client roster is fairly diversified, you will want to wait until the algorithm and its results are better-studied. If your client roster is relatively homogenous, however, you may need to brace yourself for a number of phone calls, if you aren’t receiving them already.
Last, there’s some discussion over on Search Engine Land about whether or not ranking reports are still a worthwhile metric to use to demonstrate efficacy. Greg Gifford makes the case that ranking reports are increasingly obsolete, and that the industry should switch over to more robust metrics and reporting.
Many SEOs have been calling for an end to monthly ranking reports for quite a while now. Unfortunately, clients still see ranking reports as the best indicator of SEO success.
Now that Pigeon has caused havoc with local rankings, we’ve got a huge opportunity to take advantage of the flux and educate our clients that rankings don’t equal success. All of the Local SEOs can band together, rise up, and show our clients better reports with metrics that really matter to the bottom line.
He goes on to suggest organic traffic, organic landing pages, organic conversion sources, GMB impressions (which Webmaster Tools can provide), clicks for driving directions, and bonus: manual phone tracking. The last two are more esoteric-seeming, but make sense in a larger context.
Gifford reiterates at the end that his point is to provide meaningful information, not merely pages of data:
[Y]our reports should deliver metrics that matter to your client’s bottom line – not pages and pages of data that they don’t care about.
In this regard, Gifford is acting like a true SEO — finding a way to provide relevant and contextual information to a client. (Sound a bit familiar? It should, that’s ultimately what every Google algorithm update seeks to do better!)
However, over at the Local Search Forums, there’s some discussion about whether this suggestion is actually feasible.
Linda Buquet’s response is succinct:
I understand what Greg is saying. And I’m sure most Local SEOs ‘wish’ ranking reports would just go away, especially now with Pigeon. BUT I think clients still want them.
Plus I would think the higher you rank, the better those other metrics would be.
Gifford himself takes the time to respond in the thread as well. It’s absolutely worth a full read if you have the time (it’s not very long, either) but ultimately, the takeaway from both posts is simple:
Present your client with the information they need to know.
As the Pigeon update settles and the dust clears, there will undoubtedly be more concrete advice to give. For the time being, however, the advice is the same regardless of source: stay the course, keep doing good work, don’t panic. Good advice in any time of flux!