A few months back, Google updated its algorithm. The Pigeon update focused on giving searchers more relevant, quality local search results. The issue is that before this update, Google showed searchers the seven to 10 most relevant businesses. With Pigeon, they're looking at only three to four local results.
The update made more room for local directory sites such as Yelp, OpenTable, TripAdvisor, and Urbanspoon to move up in Google’s organic search results pages.
Now that Pigeon has been out for a few months, we came up with a list of ways to make sure your organic traffic doesn't take a hit post-Pigeon.
Citations are the key to being recognized in local, organic searches. Citations are mentions of your name, address, and phone number across the web. These can be basic text or hyperlinked to your website or other online presence, but the key is consistency.
Basically, as amazing as Google services tend to be, organic search is just a series of algorithms to programmatically identify, sort, and distribute online content. This means that, although there may be loopholes and exploits in the execution, the most basic principle is remaining consistent.
By remaining consistent, you reinforce both known and unknown data points, which are then anchored by your brand’s identity. Also, because we're talking about precision algorithms here, it’s almost as equally important to be as comprehensive as a machine in its flow.
In short, if you spell out part of your address in one citation (Road instead of Rd), make sure ALL of your citations display the same.
One variable digital marketers often overlook is call tracking. This is especially important to attribution in lead generation objectives but can be applied to a variety of markets. Unfortunately, improper deployment of call tracking numbers online can result in local search traffic degradation because they aren't consistent with other business listings and citations.
One easy workaround for this it to deploy the call tracking numbers with a technology that's harder for Google to comprehend, such as images, JS, and other technologies.
Consistent, relevant, and new citations are an ongoing initiative. It’s not enough to just “set it and forget it." Instead, work to identify new directories and clean up existing citations on others. Don’t spam them by creating tons of citations across multiple categories either. It’s better to make sure the categories or groupings in which you're listed are in line with your main root keyword opportunities (two to three per site maximum).
In a post-Pigeon world, it's also important to identify some more dynamic assets and communities than traditional directory listings. As the internet evolves and changes, more dynamic content opens new channels of discovery for new and even returning customers.
Google+ may not have the mass adoption rates of Facebook, Twitter, or some of their predecessors, but it's owned and utilized by the same company that has absolutely cornered the organic search market with a seemingly infinite number of users around the world. So it be a good idea to put some content on there, huh, especially considering that the reviews people leave here may show up in those organic search panes for various (and most certainly brand-focused) queries.
YouTube happens to be another Google asset, arguably as recognizable than Google search, if not more so. Not only that, Google search indexes YouTube content with both its general and video search algorithms. And other search engines index YouTube.
Using assets on this platform and including your business’ name, address, and phone number in the video description can be impactful when useful and relevant for users.
Yelp got a huge boost with the Pigeon update. Love it or hate it, it gives consumers a platform to voice their opinions about a business or brand. This really boils down to one critical element: quality. Google has done a lot to evaluate the quality of content online.
In the long run, one can imagine them attempting to rank (or sort) businesses and brands too. That said, the natural market forces at play here are critical to success. Every week a new story hits the presses featuring business attempting to penalize bad reviews or overly encouraging good reviews to the brink of spam. Encourage users to submit ALL reviews honestly. Respond to the negative comments with empathy, resolution, and preventive measures.
This really boils down to basic marketing. Businesses need to build channels (ways) for consumers to discover them. The more relevant channels that are in the mix, the more potential customers will make their way down the pipeline. Remember, optimizing for organic search is just one prong of digital planning and marketing that's becoming increasingly holistic.
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All the best,
Alex Giebel is the Director of Digital Marketing and Web Merchandising at Stream Companies, a full-service Philadelphia-area advertising agency.