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Has Google Given Everyone the Bird with its Pigeon Update?

By Carl Weiss
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Many website owners were startled in late July when their page rankings on Google suddenly flew the coop.  When the dust and feathers had cleared, it was apparent that the world's most popular search engine was once more tinkering with its algorithm.  However, it wasn't until quite recently that Google not only admitted that they had once again thrown a monkey wrench into the works, but they had also given it a name: Pigeon.  In this article, we'll discuss what "the flock" this means to businesses hoping to achieve Page One ranking on Google.  We'll also let you know how this algorithm change now affects local businesses, who previously ranked organically, may now be forced to pony up money for pay-per-click campaigns.  And that's not chicken feed.

First of all, Google is making it seem like SEO is for the birds, this is especially true if you take into account the last three updates from Google. The first of which was called Penguin, then Humming Bird and the latest that has been deemed Pigeon.  While birds of a feather, there are big differences when it comes to the intent of the three most recent algorithm tweaks.

Black Hat Operators Feel the Chill from Penguin
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First released back in May of 2012, Penguin was designed to penalize websites that were deemed to be using deceptive online marketing techniques to achieve ranking on the world’s most popular website.  What this meant was that anyone using such tactics as keyword stuffing, link farming, hidden text or any of a number of other back door techniques employed specifically to generate a search engine ranking was punished by having their sites relegated to the backwaters of Google.  In some cases, if the infractions were serious enough, Google delisted these sites, meaning that they would never again appear in search. In a previous article and radio show, we talked about Penguin update extensively.

The reason that Google was able to accomplish this was due to the fact that their spiders were now sophisticated enough to not only read what was on a site, but they were able to comprehend the meaning of what they read.  This made the job of sifting through hundreds of millions of websites possible.  Prior to that it was necessary to flag a site and then have a human being physically check it out so that it could be determined whether black hat tactics were being used.  When you consider that more than 130,000 new websites are published every day, this was a superhuman task prior to 2012.

Humming Bird was Nothing to Hum About
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Penguin affected about 1 to 2 percent of websites. If people thought Penguin was a big deal, they were shocked when Humming bird hit the Search engine streets. Humming Bird shuffled the deck emphasizing fresh content, social post, blogging videos and more. If your site was not connected and engaging in the production of fresh content you more than likely fell off the proverbial search engine map. Unlike Penguin, Humming Bird was a major update, the biggest since 2010 when Google released the Caffeine algorithm. This update caught many webmaster off guard and websites disappeared off of page one as if they were Atlantis being swallowed by an earthquake. I recommend that you read our article, “Humming Bird is Nothing to Hum About” and also listen to that Radio show. I believe it will help you understand how radical of a change this was.

You May Feel Like with Pigeon, That Your Website Flew the Coop

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Where Penguin concerned itself with identifying and penalizing cheaters, and Humming Bird emphasized fresh multimedia content, Pigeon is more interested in improving localized search parameters.  In fact the most pressing reason that Google commissioned its latest update was due to local directory Yelp complaining that its listings were being unfairly weighted in Google search.  What this means is that local directories will benefit most by the latest update.  If your site is not listed, or if your directory listings are incomplete or inaccurate now is the time to add your sites or update your listings.

Another vital task is for website owners to police their online reputation and to embellish it by actively pursuing a policy that encourages satisfied customers to rate your website.  Face it, sooner or later you are going to rub a customer the wrong way.  While in the past, this could have produced a snub, what it is more likely to produce today is a ding.  By ding, I mean a negative review on any number of local directories such as Google Local, Yahoo, Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Angie’s List, etc.  Since many companies have no policy that encourages
Courtesy of Google+

satisfied customers to post positive reviews, all that leaves for the public to find online are negative ones.  Let’s face it, happy customers don’t go out of their way to say nice things about you unless you really encourage them. On the other hand, unhappy customers will tell 50 people how much they disliked your service. And now with social networking, that 50 can turn into 5000! We recommend that you actively encourage customers to post positive reviews. Even if you have to offer a reward to customers in order to get them to post positive reviews, the reward to your business far outweighs the cost. Plus, by actively growing your positive reviews, you’re actively reducing the impact of negative reviews when they come.

How to Hone Your Homing Pigeons

If you really want to create a local sensation on Google then you need to take a lesson from homing pigeons.  These birds have been known to find their way back to their nests after being released as far as 1,100 miles away from home.  So long has their ability been known? Thousands of years. So accurate was their homing instinct that Genghis Khan used the birds as a pre-aviation version of air mail.

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Pigeon belongs to Google and guess what, Google like its own sites on the web. Make sure you have a Google+ account and setup a Google Local Profile in it. Studies have shown that Google pays lots of attention to social posts. We have seen clients raise in the search rankings because they have garnered a couple of dozen Google Local positive reviews. These reviews then show up in Google Search show the rating stars by the link. When this happens, people will often skip listing without stars to click on your 4.5 star rating listing. That becomes a coup for you.

Like the homing pigeon, if you want to achieve outstanding local results, then it is vital that you start feathering your nest with local content.  This can include everything from location specific landing pages with keyword sensitive URLs’, to blogs and social posts that are keyed to local events.  Also make sure that you include a Google map on your site and landing pages.  Include (and label) videos and images that pertain to your locale.  Make sure that your websites and landing pages have direct links to all your social nets. We recommend having a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube and Blogger and a minimum. In short, anything and everything that points out your location is going to be vital to getting Pigeon to roost.

Concentrate on GEO Instead of Merely SEO

If you want Pigeon to make sure that people in your neighborhood can find you, then you need to make sure the name of your neighborhood is included on your website, landing pages, your blog, your videos and your social posts.  As Geo-targeting gets more and more prevalent you need to seed your site with geographical breadcrumbs that can be seen by the spiders.  This includes address with zip code, zip codes you service, subdivision names, etc… Just make sure that you don’t overpopulate any content piece with them or you might wind up being considered a spammer.

The Top 8 Ways to Make Your Site Soar with Geo Targeting:
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  1. Use location specific landing pages.
  2. Create more location specific content such as blog posts.
  3. Encourage your customers to review your site on local directories.
  4. Generate more local backlink  partner with other local businesses.
  5. Make sure your local profiles are accurate and complete.
  6. Get entered in the top 100 search directories.
  7. You’re on page SEO should include detailed address, zip codes you service, subdivision names, and maybe even shopping center/mall names.
  8. Make sure your directory sites are media rich with video, podcast, links to your blog and social sites.
  9. Make sure your listed in Google+, Google local and Google maps.

Keep in mind if you find out that Google Pigeon has done to your site what pigeons the world over due to statues, then it's time to make some changes. The best way to keep pigeons from dropping all over you, is to leave breadcrumbs in front of your door so that customers will be able to follow the search engine trail. Follow my top eight ways to make Pigeon happy and your website will soar locally in Google search.

Thanks for reading my article, I can’t wait until you visit again next time.

In this article, I discuss the several of Google Algorithms including; Penguin, Humming Bird and the latest one called Pigeon. I have provided an overview of how they differ from each other and what a company can do to mitigate their effect on their search position. I have also provided details for helping businesses deal with the Google Pigeon update, which affects local directory listing and how a company is viewed in Google search locally.

If you found this article useful, please share it with friends, family, co-workers and associates. To learn more about this subject read, "Google’s Secret Ranking System - Harder for You, More Profits for Themand "Is SEO Still Important in 2013" located on our blog. You can also search this blog by keying in "Google Search or SEO” in the search box to find other articles and podcasts on the same subject. If you have something to add related to this article or have a difference of opinion, place that in the comments section. Thanks for taking the time to read our blog… and by the way, don’t forget to share this with friends.

If you found this article useful, share it with your friends, families and co-works. If you have a comment related to this article, leave it in the comment sections below.  If you would like a free copy of our book, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century", fill out the form below. 

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Carl Weiss is president of Working the Web to Win, a digital marketing agency based in Jacksonville, Florida.   You can listen to Carl live every Tuesday at 4pm Central on BlogTalkRadio

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  1. "What the 'Flock?" Google's goes at it again.

  2. As usual, Carl and Hector have evinces they're "in-the-know" when it comes that fly by the Internet.

  3. Google has been giving the world the bird for years. First there was penguin, then Hummingbird and now Pigeon.

  4. If you ask me, all this SEO stuff is for the birds! I just don't get it. But I'm glad Carl, Hector and the guys at WWW are staying on top of all the, um, "bird droppings" for me!