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Google Algorithm Update – “Pigeon” and the inevitable fallout and change.

Many of you have probably heard or read about Google letting loost a new update to their search algorithm. The update dubbed “pigeon” is being closely watched and the debates are fast and furious as to what the changes are and mean. Glacial Multimedia’s Darryl Quinlan takes a moment to help cut through a lot of the chatter and give you what is known and highlight what all the experts agree are established facts at this point. We are of course talking Google here so all information is subject to change, and by the time you finish reading this, it might already have.

Higher preference to consistency of name, address and phone number

What this means is the more citations (third party listings like Yelp and Facebook as well as directory listings) that reflect the exact same information the better chances you will have for accuracy of your “real” information. Translated – if your information on the web is inconsistent (you recently changed your address or phone number due to a change at the practice and have older profiles floating around the web with the old info.) Your chances of being displayed in search becomes lessoned because Google essentially gets confused as to what the “real” information is and gives a preference to your competition because they took the time to clean everything up.

Shift from city center focus to business circle center

Google calculates the “centroid” now as the center of the businesses themselves, or a business cluster. So a search for auto dealerships in Houston for example is no longer based on what Google determined to be the center of Houston proper, now google factors in all of the identified (key phrase) dealerships within the city of Houston and then determines the center based on their proximity to each other.

Change in Service Radius

Directly related to the shift of centroid is the change in service radius is getting smaller. Service radius is the physical geographic area that Google uses to display results. It used to be that Google recognized large areas, now with the latest refinement they are narrowing down results to be a closer more defined area to where the searcher is physically located. Mobile search has always been relatively tight, now Google has gotten a lot better at identifying where the desktop/laptop user is physically located and using that to determine displayed search results. The end result is that closest business (all other things being equal) is the most relevant.

“Pack” Results change

More on this later but it used to be you could have up to seven local results (name, address and phone number taken from Google+ profiles) now this is being reduced to three or even one result. This is part of Google’s Visual Clean up, more on this later as well.

Reduction of duplicated results (businesses showing up in organic and pack results)

Google appears to be reducing the number of times a business is listed in results. The trend appears to be that you get one shot at having your business be displayed in the page one positions and the strongest one gets listed. Not all businesses are currently being affected by this however the medical field is now starting to.

Reviews While reviews are still hugely important for any business, the impact on search results has lessened. After the magic number (currently five) it takes a huge amount (over 50 appears to be a commonly discussed number) to have a new impact. I want to step aside for a minute and stress that reviews are still hugely important for MANY MANY reasons, but the impact of reviews on search results has lessened. And lastly…

Reduction of Visual Distractions

This category is probably the most discussed and debated but really gets to the heart of Google’s updates, Pigeon and beyond. Google is trying to provide clean, relevant search results. They have determined that items like pictures and snippets are distracting, but more telling is that Google is streamlining results to be consistent for mobile devices. Traditionally authorship and snippets have been at odds in mobile searches and Google has decided to drop them all together. Authorship is still a valid tool, but the picture and circle count have disappeared. Along those lines of a visual clean up, google has also removed video snippets (unless they are YouTube) review snippets (from organic results) and many of the social snippets (like circles and plus 1’s) to help clean up their visual display. So for all of us that pushed authorship as a fantastic tool, highlighting the visual display, bye bye pictures. Essentially Google is trying to streamline their search displays. Personally I think a cleanup is a fantastic idea, but in the process they are stripping away all of the fun and moving towards what I believe will be a sterile SERP (search engine results page).
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