zoogle pigeon
12 October 2016 | Team Tamar

Zoogle: Google’s Algorithm Menagerie #3 Pigeon

Welcome to Zoogle, your five part guide designed to help you navigate Google’s algorithm. We’re going to be taking you through the details of a few of Google’s major algorithm updates; from their purpose and use to their impact on SEO practices.

Third in the zoo of Google’s algorithm updates is Pigeon. We’ll be telling you everything you need to know about the use and objective of the update.

What is Pigeon?


As with all Google Algorithm updates, Pigeon was put into place to ensure accurate search results were displayed.

Pigeon, however, is a purely local search-based algorithm, and it was rolled out by Google in July 2014. Local search was becoming very important (and still is) during this time period. Local results will always matter to a consumer and the launch of Pigeon took local search to a new level of specificity and accuracy.

What does Pigeon do exactly?

big data

The main purpose of Pigeon is to provide users with more useful, relevant and accurate local search results. Unlike Penguin and Panda updates, Pigeon was not a penalty-based update, but a core change to the local search algorithm.

The aim of the pigeon algorithm was to ensure that all local searches mimicked the traditional organic search rankings.

The update provides users with results based on their location and the listings available in their local directory to ensure search results were as accurate as possible. Pigeon also affects search results shown in Google Maps.

How does Pigeon affect search results?


Location and distance are a key part of the Pigeon search strategy and local directory listings get preferences in web results.The algorithm also uses features such as Knowledge Graphs, spelling correction, synonyms and more that affect results.

The Pigeon update provides users with more accurate search results for ‘Yelp-Specific queries’. In mid-2014 Yelp took issue with Google for disregarding the local review site in search results. Search results were only publishing Google’s own reviews, even when the searcher added “Yelp” in the query. Pigeon has corrected this problem, and some Yelp queries are now ahead of their own.

Yelp isn’t the only local directory that saw a boost with the Pigeon update, sites such as OpenTable, TripAdvisor and Kayak all saw higher visibility within search results.

Pigeon was crucial because it introduced ‘informal space’ and the neighbourhood algorithm. Prior to Pigeon it was very hard to distinguish between built-up areas in cities. Because of the way the English language is structured, there may be several different words for a single place or neighbourhood in a city.

For example, Central London has several different areas, such as Soho, Fitzrovia etc, but they are all also Central London. Therefore, if we’re looking for a coffee shop in Central London, we will be looking inside Soho and Fitzrovia too, but these coffee shops may not necessarily be optimised for these keywords, despite falling in that location.

Humans may also see different neighbourhood boundaries differently than to a machine, as the machine will use the official boundaries, whereas we might not. The Neighbourhood Algorithm helped to determine if a particular location may be classed under two different area boundaries.

For example, Mayfair and Kensington are two districts of London that are close together. If a coffee shop – to use the same example – is on the border of the two, it may be relevant to searches for both ‘Kensington coffee shop’ and ‘Mayfair coffee shop’. Therefore, it is in Google’s best interest to show it for both queries.

Conversely, Pigeon also focuses on hyperlocal searches. For example, if a consumer enters a query based around an incredibly specific location, such as a singular street or neighbourhood, local businesses with fully optimised profiles based around this will start to rank well.

How can I ensure my site is optimised for Pigeon?

Ensuring your website is fully optimised for Pigeon is very important, especially if local search is key to your business. You can help your rankings in a few different ways…

Google Maps and Google Local


You should have a Google Map listing and a Google Local listing for your business, and make sure they are as up to date as possible with all the correct information.

Claim all listings that are associated with your business and ensure the map pin is placed in the correct location.

Local directories

Research the major local directories that might be suitable for your business, once you’ve found them claim any existing listings or create new listings and optimise them for your business.

Local backlink profile


Having a good backline profile is important for ranking, this can help strengthen your websites’ authority with Google.

For the Pigeon algorithm, it is important to gain backlinks from local business directories that point to location specific pages within your website.

Optimise your website

As for all Google algorithms, ensure your website is fully optimised. If you want to appear in local search results it is important to optimise for a variety of local search terms too.

Update your contact information

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Pigeon is all about local search, and ensuring your contact information is up to date is very important.

Constantly check all your information – telephone number, address, website address and email – is updated across your website and any directory listings. Consistency is key.

If you want your website to perform well in local search it is important to constantly update your site and optimise it.


Team Tamar