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October 17, 2014

Google Gives Everybody the Bird with Their Pigeon Update

The last two updates from Google — Penguin and Pigeon — have been for the birds when it comes to SEO. While birds of a feather, there are big differences when it comes to the intent of the two most recent algorithm tweaks.

Penguin Puts a Chill on Black Hat Operators

Penguin, released in May of 2012, 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 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.

Google was able to achieve this through the use of its spiders which are sophisticated enough to not only read what was on a site, but 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.

Pigeon Flies the Coop

Male homing pigeon, (showing of 😉 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While Penguin’s job was to identify and penalize cheaters, Pigeon’s job is to improve 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 directly by the latest update. If your site is not listed, or if your directory listings are incomplete or inaccurate now is the time to address this issue.

Website owners must 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, Angie’s List, etc. Since many companies have no policy that encourages satisfied customers to post positive reviews, all that leaves for the public to find online are negative ones. 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.

Learn a Few Tactics from Homing Pigeons

Homing pigeon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To truly create a local sensation on Google, you learn 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 and so accurate was their homing instinct that Genghis Khan used the birds as a pre-aviation version of air mail.

To truly achieve outstanding local results, like the homing pigeon, it is vital for you to 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. In short, anything and everything that points out your location is going to be vital to getting Pigeon to roost.

Instead of Merely SEO You Need to be Concerned with GEO

To ensure Pigeon notifies the people in your neighborhood of your existence, 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 geotargeting gets more and more prevalent you need to seed your site with geographical breadcrumbs that can be seen by the spiders. Just make sure that you don’t overpopulate any content piece with them or you might wind up being considered a spammer.

If you discover Google Pigeon has done to your site what pigeons the world over do to statues, the best way to keep pigeons from dropping all over you is to leave breadcrumbs in front of someone else’s door.

Eggs of the homing pigeon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Top 5 Ways to Feather Your Nest:

  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 links
  5. Make sure your local profiles are accurate and complete.


Carl Weiss has been working the web to win since 1995 and has helped hundreds of companies increase their online results. He is president of W Squared Media and co-host of the weekly radio show Working the Web to Win which airs Tuesdays at 4pm Eastern on Click here to get his latest book "Working The Web to Win: When it comes to online marketing, you can't win, if you don't know how to play the game!".