What Does Pigeon Mean For Your Local Business?

Over two weeks ago, Google released a local algorithm update that industry experts are calling Pigeon. Pigeon aims at improving local search results for users by making the results more relevant and accurate. The new Pigeon update has features including spelling correction capabilities, Google’s knowledge graph, and detecting search synonyms. As a result of the update, Google is placing local directories higher in the search results than small businesses. While this is benefiting the big players of local directories like Yelp and TripAdvisor, it is hurting small businesses rankings that do not carry the same amount of SEO strength. In some cases, the entire first page is filled with local directories, for terms like “Chicago pizza” or “Miami hotels.” In a few search queries, small business sites do not show up in the results until as far as the third page.

Google’s main goal for the algorithm update is to improve the local search experience for users, and to make results appear more organic than they have in the past. To do this, Google has nearly eliminated the presence of local seven packs for many search results. The decrease has hurt many small businesses that only ranked in the local pack and are no longer being featured on the first page of the search results.

So what can you do to continue getting business even when your site isn’t ranking? First, you can consider running a PPC campaign to boost your chances of being seen on the search results page. Since Pigeon seems to favor local directories, make sure your business is listed correctly on the leading local directories, as well as directories specific to your niche. Although Google seems to no longer include local packs on SERPs, they are still using the local carousel that appears at the top of the results page for some search queries. To utilize the carousel, make sure your business has high quality Google+ photos, and encourage customers to review your business.

Google+ pages will also play a large role when ranking in local search results. When creating your Google+ page make sure your business is listed in the most appropriate categories to enhance the chances of appearing in the search results when that category is searched. It has been noted that having the same area code in your business telephone number that is associated with your business location can improve your rankings. Also having several reviews of your business can influence your local search rankings, so encourage customers to leave reviews whenever possible.

Overall, the update is trying to enhance local results for users. Google wants to make sure only the best and most relevant pages are being shown, and that the results appear as organic as possible (hence the drastic decline in the frequency of local packs), so the best way to boost your business is to make it exceptional! White hat SEO tactics are still being rewarded by Google, so make sure your website is optimized for your industry and location. Add geo modifiers to title tags, include keywords in your business title, and implement other SEO best practices.

How is your business adjusting to Google’s newest update? Reach out to our SEO team with your stories and your questions.

Link Earning in 2014

Earning links to help your website rise in the search engine rankings now involves different strategies than it did in previous years. Transparent link building plans have fallen out of fashion as Google’s backlink guidelines have evolved and become more defined. Rather than simply buying or exchanging links as part of an SEO campaign, companies need to create content that organically encourage other sites with good Page Rank to link to their webpage. While brazen SEO link building tactics are no longer helpful, there are still plenty of good ideas to consider for an effective optimization plan.

Here are a few of my favorite ideas to help build links from a recently updated Backlinko post.


Audio Sharing Sites

These sites readily accept audio files, whether it’s music or a spoken word piece. Create a great piece of audio content and the benefit is twofold:
1.      You’ll get a follow link to your webpage on the audio sharing site.
2.      You can get listeners to enjoy and share your piece, which may inspire further people to link to your website.

There are a lot of free audio sharing sites, so you can use this idea even if you have a limited SEO budget.

Scoop It
Scoop It allows users to personally curate web content onto their own Scoop It page.
You can suggest content for someone to post by using the “Suggest” feature. If they like your content, they’ll post it and you’ll be linked in the post.
You may need to sign up for a paid Scoop It account to employ this technique.

Website Feedback Sites
Website feedback sites (like Concept Feedbackor Criticue) are another way to get a link. Submit your website to be critiqued and it yields a follow link. Many of these sites involve a fee as you are given valuable feedback on your website by their staff.

Blog Aggregators
Submit your site to be included on a blog aggregator like Technorati or Alltop and if it’s approved you’ll have a follow link to your site.

.Edu Sites
A lot of universities have resource pages for their students. If your company could be useful to university students or faculty, reach out to the webmaster to see if you can be added to the list of resources.

News Sites
You might be able to get a great link from an authority news site by working with HARO. HARO (Help a Reporter Out) connects reporters with relevant sources, and if you’re able to provide useful information to a reporter, you and your website could be linked in an article.
There are both free and paid options when signing up to be a HARO source.

Sponsorship / Charitable Contribution
If you have a little more money for your SEO campaign, consider earning a link through a sponsorship or charitable contribution. Do you sponsor a local business, team or organization? They probably list their sponsors and contributors online, perhaps with a dedicated page that includes a helpful link.

These methods of earning backlinks from high ranking authority pages are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more ways to earn links if you get creative and try new ideas. Beyond that, you can also consult an SEO agency such as Evolving Interactive for more help strengthening your site’s signals.

You know what will be the biggest SEO trend in 2014?

Integrity.

At this point, it’s unavoidable. If you want your site to rank well, you’ll need integrity.

Recent changes to Google’s algorithm like Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird have put a premium on providing useful content to users in honest ways. You can no longer sneak a useless site to the top of the SERPs with keyword stuffing and link schemes. Gone are the days of black-hat SEO, and it’s about time.

Remember how obnoxious it was to see a site rank higher than yours because someone used black-hat techniques? Ever get annoyed when someone disparaged the SEO industry as a whole because of a few bad apples? Thanks to the recent algorithm changes, there are new restrictions to prevent shady tactics.

Some view the restrictions negatively. The many changes have made some of the easy (black-hat) techniques not only ineffectual but damaging to SERP rankings. But there’s a positive way to look at it. With shady tactics now proving harmful to search rankings, there is no reason to spend your time and energy employing them. And having that extra time and energy is good, because ranking higher in SERPs now requires more work and thoughtfulness than ever before.

As search engines get better at delivering what customers want, websites will have to get better at providing the valuable content that gets delivered. This means you can’t get away with keyword stuffing or link schemes to artificially boost your site’s rankings. Now that cheap tricks won’t help rankings, the true cream will rise to the top. And if you want to be at the top, you need to provide valuable content that customers want. It’s that simple.

There are no more tricks, and for that we should be grateful. With such frivolous distractions eliminated by Google’s updates, we can now focus on the hard work of providing quality content to our customers.

Having reflected on and reacted to the major industry updates of the past years, let’s look forward to 2014: when hard work and integrity will yield superior results.

Another shake-up in the SEO world. Google recently released a new search engine algorithm called Hummingbird. This update has affected 90% of searches and focuses on conversational queries rather than keyword based queries. Hummingbird indexes websites based on how thoroughly they answer the searcher’s intent. Because of technologies like Siri and voice command, conversational search has become much more commonplace. For example, searches like “Mona Lisa location

Voice search is changing the way that people search on the internet, and thus changing the game for SEO. Before technologies like Siri and voice command, people would search by entering specific keywords or keyword phrases into a search engine. Now, because of voice search, there is a shift from queries focused on precise keywords to a more relaxed and conversational language.

For example, if you are searching for a hair salon via voice command you might say “Where can I find a good hair salon?

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