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Thread: Google Pigeon Collateral Damage & What You Can Do About it

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    Linda Buquet's Avatar
    Linda Buquet is offline Community Leader - Google Local Specialist
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    Exclamation Google Pigeon Collateral Damage & What You Can Do About it

    Collateral damage: Damage to things that are incidental to the intended target

    pigeonstrikeFinal


    The 7/24 Google Local update was code named "Pigeon" by Search Engine Land. It could not have been more appropriately named in my opinion. The collateral damage that has followed has hurt many local businesses and has been referred to as pigeon droppings and every other nasty synonym you can think of.

    The local search industry is pretty much in agreement that this is a bad update, delivering way too many bogus, dead and/or spammy listings. See 130+ posts discussing the update here.

    However the update is still in major flux. So I'm really hoping it will sort itself out and things will get better before they get any worse.


    WHAT CAN YOU DO? Suggestions at the bottom of this post.


    Google reads this forum, so in hopes they will take notice and hopefully roll back or correct this algo, I'm going to share a few bad Pigeon results.

    1st up, a Google search that has caused lots of heated posts by attorneys and consultants alike.

    dividermulti2

    Google Search: Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney. (Set location to LA.)


    LAinjuryAttorney6.24

    POST-PIGEON - Major shake-up!

    LAinjuryAttorney8.2


    Check the C and D listing. Both are using directory pages. Same business - Same phone.

    Both are fake KW stuffed names for the same Attorney - Robert Brenner - not "Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney". Here are both listings: http://goo.gl/maps/M5uH3. This guy has a 3rd fake name KW stuffed listing as well - so violations galore.

    In the past the local algo would not have awarded even a legit, in compliance business, with 2 listings in the 7 pack for a market this competitive. (It also would not be showing attys outside of LA when the query was for Los Angeles, with so many Attys right in LA.)

    To add insult to injury (pun intended), Brian DeBelle shared the following reply he got from Google after he reported one of the spammy listings.

    Name:  Screen-Shot-2014-08-01-at-10.26.07-AM.png
Views: 2500
Size:  23.1 KB


    So a Google moderator either didn't check it, or didn't really care!

    See Brian's post: Ranking in Local Search: Directory Pigeonbacking

    Gyi also posted about this one: How Google's Pigeon Update Might Impact Your Law Firm

    AFTER tons of attorneys and SEOs complained...
    After Mike and I reported to Google management...
    Then the spammy listings were rewarded with an even higher ranking!



    LAinjuryAttorney8.4


    dividermulti

    Google Search: Los Angeles Plumber
    (An extra stinky Pigeon SERP)

    LAPlumber2


    So in all of LA, only 3 deserving plumbers show up?

    OH WAIT! It gets much worse, not a single one of those listings is valid!
    Too bad for the consumer (AKA Google user) that has a flooding toilet.

    A Online Directory - not a plumber and not allowed in G+ Local.
    Plus fake name and fake reviews. So at least 3 major violations - yet scored the A spot!

    B Fake name, fake location at a storage unit. So multiple violations. (According to MM may even be hijacked. In past it had the category "couples counseling" and the edit was approved by Google.)

    C That one is a Plumber's Union - not a plumber, so is not even relevant to the search.


    dividermulti2

    Google Search: Seattle Chiropractor. (Set to LA.)

    PRE-PIGEON 6/22


    POST-PIGEON 7/24



    Here is the listing that was awarded the A spot! Pretty spammy description for a Dr. listing.

    Category violations too!


    Wellness Program, Massage Therapist, Chiropractor, Sports Medicine Clinic, Sports Massage Therapist, Pain Control Clinic, Physical Therapy Clinic, Holistic Medicine Practitioner, Wellness Center, Chiropractor, Wellness Program, Wellness Center, Massage Therapist, Seattle Chiropractor, Pain Management Physician, Seattle Nutritionist, Seattle Wellness Program, Pain Management Clinic, Nutritional Counseling, Chiropractors Dc

    OH BUT... Google made another recent change and now hides custom cats, so checking this listing today you can no longer see category violations - but they are still there - and they still rank!

    Awarded the A spot? Nice one Google!

    THE ALGO IS STILL IN MAJOR FLUX. I've been tracking Seattle Chiropractor rank shifts several times a week. Click the link if you want to see all the changes since this thing hit.


    dividermulti2

    Google Search: Cleveland auto insurance
    (Not going to screenshot this one.)

    The A spot goes to: "Cleveland auto insurance"

    The name is fake.

    The site dead - it's a PARKED DOMAIN. cheapautoinsurance2010.com

    The phone is disconnected.


    And this is the listing Google awards with the A spot???

    Hey Mike, this is starting to remind me of some of those crusty old listings that were getting dug up back when we fought that one-box algo problem a few months ago - like the listings you called Hummingbird Guano. Come to think of it there are other similarities, so maybe something is slightly related with this update?

    h/t to Brian Barwig for his story which lead me to the auto insurance result above.


    dividermulti2

    WHAT CAN YOU DO??? - Some thoughts and suggestions below...

    1) Google is in control, so not whole lot we can directly do to change things.

    BUT they do everything for users! So there is something with this algo that they believe would offer a better search result. (Which is why I'm calling this collateral damage. I don't think the innocent businesses that are getting hurt are the target.)

    2) I don't think Google really cares much about what SEOs think, so our complaints may fall on deaf ears.

    They do however care very much about what users think!

    So on the examples above and any other bad results you find where spam or bad results (dead listings or bogus listings) are ranking, use the "SEND FEEDBACK" link at the bottom of the SERPs.
    It will let you explain and select part of the screen.

    Do it from the office. Then do it again from home. Get friends to report bad results too! Someone does read these reports, in order to get an aggregate view of how accurate results are.


    3) If you see really spammy listings or bogus listings with parked pages and disconnected numbers, try reporting them and try to get them taken down.

    Even if mods won't deal with the problem (like the Atty spam report above) maybe if they see a big uptick in spam reports, they'll realize that this algo is surfacing too many bad listings.

    4) If you have a client that suffers due to spam in the SERPs, explain it's a bad update and reassure them it won't last forever and will likely be corrected. Repeat #3 if there are bad listings knocking them out of the SERPs. You could also point them to this thread so they realize it's not just them or not something you did.

    5) Continue to work on all the best practice stuff, just like you always have. When this algo shifts to something more logical and fair - you will benefit.

    *For those of you taking my Advanced Google My Business Training, pay special attention to training module #5. "Red Hat Local Search Optimization". All those tips and techniques are ones that will help make your client stand out, boost conversions and rankings, once this thing dies down.

    6) There is really no way to "optimize" for this algo because the results are random and make no sense and again it's changing almost daily.

    So turn off your ranking reports and stop looking at SERPs til this thing blows over.
    Or as Mike would say "Take 2 beers and call me in the morning!"

    I'd now like to focus this thread on bad results you've seen and any other recommendations for how we can get through this and/or help clients deal with it. (Adwords is always an option...)


    Any other bad SERPs to report???
    (Again, Google will be reading this thread, so add them here!)

    Do you have any other solutions or suggestions?

    UPDATE 11 AM - Sorry, I meant to add this somewhere, but the post was so long I forgot to mention...

    UPDATE 8/13 - Moved Seattle Chiro tracking to new thread a few days ago:
    Tracking Google Local Pigeon Flux Over Time

    This algo is not all bad. I still have clients sitting right on top and some consultants have reported an increase in rankings. With any algo update there will be winners and losers. This one just needs to be tweaked so more honest businesses get placement and the spam get culled out.

    Last edited by Linda Buquet; 08-05-2014 at 11:17 AM. Reason: Added link to Gyi's blog post.
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    SocialTycoons is offline Member
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    Re: Google Pigeon Collateral Damage & What You Can Do About it

    Linda,

    Great post and in depth insight. We have been informing local business owners to hang on because Google will most likely adjust the algo. (again) soon.

    Just food for thought, but what about ranking a local video Hangouts On Air video with the correct info about that business(s) utilizing correct local directories links ..etc? Plus the things that you and Mike suggest?

    Awesome info, keep it coming.
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    Re: Google Pigeon Collateral Damage & What You Can Do About it

    I've been an in-house SEO in Youngstown OH for the last 3 years, but a few months ago I decided to branch out and offer organic services to local businesses in my area. I feel like this update couldn't have happened at a worse time, as I'm trying to get my business off the ground and I feel like I can't assure potential clients of any results while this algo is in place. I think I'm stuck until this new algo becomes consistent.

    One odd thing I've been noticing is that a lot of job listings pop up in place of where local business websites used to rank (organically). For example, if I search "water treatment Youngstown Ohio," I get Monster.com listings for jobs in water treatment. I've seen this happen in other industries in my area as well. I don't know how Google assumes you are looking for a job in water treatment (or carpet cleaning, etc) if you don't include the term "job" in the search query.

    Another weird thing I saw today: if you google "bakery youngstown ohio", the Images results are clear on the bottom of page 2.

    I really hope Google cleans this up. It's all over the place. Thanks for your posts. I've been lurking and appreciate your insight.

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    Linda Buquet's Avatar
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    Re: Google Pigeon Collateral Damage & What You Can Do About it

    Thanks for the ideas SocialTycoons.

    Welcome Manda!

    I'm sorry about the unfortunate timing, just as you are getting started.

    However, I should have mentioned this up top, to shed a positive light. It's not all bad. I still have clients sitting right on top and some consultants have reported an increase in rankings.

    I don't think this will last long. And I think Google's goals are probably lined up right, they don't want dead spammy listings in the SERPs any more than we do.

    I think it's maybe like physical therapy. Sometimes it will make you feel worse before you start to feel better, but in the end it's worth it!
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    JoyHawkins's Avatar
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    Re: Google Pigeon Collateral Damage & What You Can Do About it

    Those screenshots are golden Linda! They illustrate your points very well. So glad you took them!

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    rosshouser is offline Member
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    Re: THIS IS A MESSAGE FROM GOOGLE!!!

    I got this today from Google and I can not be leave they shared so much with me..
    @LindaBuquet

    This is the first time I have ever had Google go as far as telling me ranking factors after a update!



    "Thank you for contacting Google My Business! My name is Tiffanie, I am a part of the Ann Arbor, Michigan support team.
    I received your email and I would be more than happy to assist you!
    Since you took out the time to contact us I would like to provide you with some tips for your Google Plus Page. By editing your introduction field to include more products or services that you offer can make your page more relevant to more types of searches and be a positive influence on your ranking.
    For your page specifically I highly recommend you optimize your introduction section. I see that you have a few sentences about your description. This is a great start and itís very informative to potential customers who visit your page.
    The system actually uses this section when itís looking for potential search terms to trigger your page. Itís always a good idea to add relevant phrases. Including search terms and even location terms gives you a much better chance to show for these specific phrases.
    If you have any other questions or concerns regarding this issue please feel free to respond to this email."

    Clearly, the descriptors or introduction in Google Plus Local business pages is a Huge factor in the pigeon update for ranking for your particular business in Google

    ---------- Post Merged at 02:13 PM ---------- Previous Post was at 02:03 PM ----------

    I made some changes to a clients account and can not be leave it, but yeah Google is now indexing the introduction or descriptors for local businesses.
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    dani's Avatar
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    Re: Google Pigeon Collateral Damage & What You Can Do About it

    Great topic Linda!
    I`ve also noticed that for some keywords my dentist client`s listing appears twice in the pack. One time with the main listing of the dentistry and second the DDS listing where I put link to the internal page of the doctor.

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    Linda Buquet's Avatar
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    Re: THIS IS A MESSAGE FROM GOOGLE!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by rosshouser View Post
    I got this today from Google and I can not be leave they shared so much with me..

    This is the first time I have ever had Google go as far as telling me ranking factors after a update!

    "Thank you for contacting Google My Business! My name is Tiffanie, I am a part of the Ann Arbor, Michigan support team.
    I received your email and I would be more than happy to assist you!
    Since you took out the time to contact us I would like to provide you with some tips for your Google Plus Page. By editing your introduction field to include more products or services that you offer can make your page more relevant to more types of searches and be a positive influence on your ranking.
    For your page specifically I highly recommend you optimize your introduction section. I see that you have a few sentences about your description. This is a great start and itís very informative to potential customers who visit your page.
    The system actually uses this section when itís looking for potential search terms to trigger your page. Itís always a good idea to add relevant phrases. Including search terms and even location terms gives you a much better chance to show for these specific phrases.
    If you have any other questions or concerns regarding this issue please feel free to respond to this email."

    Clearly, the descriptors or introduction in Google Plus Local business pages is a Huge factor in the pigeon update for ranking for your particular business in Google

    ---------- Post Merged at 02:13 PM ---------- Previous Post was at 02:03 PM ----------

    I made some changes to a clients account and can not be leave it, but yeah Google is now indexing the introduction or descriptors for local businesses.
    Hi Ross,

    Google has been indexing descriptions for a long time. But that does not mean it's a ranking signal. Google has told us it is not a ranking signal.

    But that Ann Arbor group has been giving that info out. You'll see the same message word for word given out in this post:

    Google Support Says GMB Description Helps Rankings? Pigeon Ranking Signal Change?

    I reported it to Google because support is not supposed to give out ranking advice and we don't even think it's accurate advice.

    Can you tell me when you got that email?
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    Linda Buquet's Avatar
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    Re: Google Pigeon Collateral Damage & What You Can Do About it

    Quote Originally Posted by dani View Post
    Great topic Linda!
    I`ve also noticed that for some keywords my dentist client`s listing appears twice in the pack. One time with the main listing of the dentistry and second the DDS listing where I put link to the internal page of the doctor.
    Hi Dani,

    Yes, I've seen that too. And in the past Google would not usually give the same business 2 listings in the very limited pack.
    Is Our Content HELPFUL? Please pay the community back by sharing!

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    Note: Due to mulitple RSI injuries, pardon short replies. Typos? Blame it on "Dragon". ;-)

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    Re: Google Pigeon Collateral Damage & What You Can Do About it

    @linda I got that e-mail today and to be honest, I have never once seen or had them send a email with that much information, and you are right Google has been using keywords and such located in the descriptions and or title for a long time but I am now seeing more of of the 7 Pack and 3 Pack showing for trusted citations and such that match the description on the local listing.
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