Google Pigeon Collateral Damage & What You Can Do About it


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

<img src="http://marketing-blog.catalystemarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/pigeonstrikeFinal.jpg" alt="pigeonstrikeFinal" width="65%" /></a>​


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.

<img src="http://marketing-blog.catalystemarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/dividermulti.jpg" alt="dividermulti2" width="550" height="4" />

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


<img src="http://marketing-blog.catalystemarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/LAinjuryAttorney6.24.jpg" alt="LAinjuryAttorney6.24" width="65%" />​

POST-PIGEON - Major shake-up!

<img src="http://marketing-blog.catalystemarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/LAinjuryAttorney8.2.jpg" alt="LAinjuryAttorney8.2" width="65%" />​


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.



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

See Brian's post: <a href="http://www.highrankwebsites.com/directory-pigeonbacking/">Ranking in Local Search: Directory Pigeonbacking</a>

Gyi also posted about this one: <a href="http://www.attorneysync.com/blog/googles-pigeon-update-might-impact-law-firm/">How Google's Pigeon Update Might Impact Your Law Firm</a>

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!
:mad:


<img src="http://marketing-blog.catalystemarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/LAinjuryAttorney8.4.jpg" alt="LAinjuryAttorney8.4" width="65%" />


<img src="http://marketing-blog.catalystemarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/dividermulti.jpg" alt="dividermulti" width="550" height="4" />​

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

<img src="http://marketing-blog.catalystemarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/LAPlumber2.jpg" alt="LAPlumber2" width="65%" />​


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.


<img src="http://marketing-blog.catalystemarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/dividermulti.jpg" alt="dividermulti2" width="550" height="4" />

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

PRE-PIGEON 6/22

<img src="http://localsearchforum.catalystemarketing.com/attachments/google-local-important/1824d1406258461-major-google-local-algo-update-google-pigeon-seattlechiro6.22.jpg" alt="" width="60%" />​

POST-PIGEON 7/24

<img src="http://localsearchforum.catalystemarketing.com/attachments/google-local-important/1825d1406258477t-major-google-local-algo-update-google-pigeon-seattlechiro7.24.jpg" alt="" width="60%" />​


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.


<img src="http://marketing-blog.catalystemarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/dividermulti.jpg" alt="dividermulti2" width="550" height="4" />

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. <a href="http://cheapautoinsurance2010.com/?nr=0">cheapautoinsurance2010.com</a>

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.


<img src="http://marketing-blog.catalystemarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/dividermulti.jpg" alt="dividermulti2" width="550" height="4" />

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!" :p

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:
<a href="http://localsearchforum.catalystemarketing.com/google-local-important/21189-tracking-google-local-pigeon-flux-over-time.html">Tracking Google Local Pigeon Flux Over Time</a>

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.
<meta property="og:type" content="article"><meta property="og:title" content=""><meta property="og:description" content="Collateral damage: Damage to things that are incidental to the intended target. Here's how to fight back...">
<meta property="og:image" content="">

 
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SocialTycoons

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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. :eek:

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.
 

MandaLynch

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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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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!
 

rosshouser

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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 it?s very informative to potential customers who visit your page.
The system actually uses this section when it?s looking for potential search terms to trigger your page. It?s 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.
 

dani

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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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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..

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 it?s very informative to potential customers who visit your page.
The system actually uses this section when it?s looking for potential search terms to trigger your page. It?s 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:

<a href="http://localsearchforum.catalystemarketing.com/google-local/20824-google-support-says-gmb-description-helps-rankings.html">Google Support Says GMB Description Helps Rankings? Pigeon Ranking Signal Change?</a>

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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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.
 

rosshouser

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@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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Amber just asked a related question in another thread and I wanted to share my reply here because it goes more in detail about why this algo makes no sense.

So my question is what are the traditional web search ranking signals that Google says Local search results are tied to now?

Are the traditional web ranking signals "before my time"? Or am I overthinking this.
MY REPLY:

Amber traditional SEO is much of what I taught you in the on-site Local SEO Training.

But I really focus on the ADDITIONAL things specific to local.

As far as traditional ranking factors, there are rumored to be over 300.

Some of them besides all the on-site stuff we covered in training are things like domain age, domain authority, page speed, freshness, click through rates from the SERPs, stick rate on the site and backlinks.

HOWEVER the pigeon update is NOT from I can see yet, that much about traditional SEO signals. The results now don't even match up with the pure organic ranking order as much as they used to before.

Additionally if it's about traditional SEO factors then why are unclaimed G+ L listings with NO WEB SITE AT ALL ranking? No reviews either. Or expired domains that are just a parking page?

As I've said a few times in the 2 main pigeon threads - this algo does not even make sense. No matter how you analyze it, the results are just crazy and unpredictable. But this algo is also still in major flux and has not settled down yet.

So just keep working on all the best practice stuff you can, til Google sorts this one out.
 

westcpw

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Havn't noticed any negative effects in Australia (but not sure yet if it has been rolled out this far, can someone confirm?)

After news of the update I noted several upwards swings in general rankings but again dont know if this is from work or an algo update.

Thanks Linda
 
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Sorry I mentioned in the original main thread but should have mentioned again.

Still US only, lucky for you! :p
 

Margaret Ornsby

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One thing that I just can't wrap my head around (okay really there are many things) - is why spammy listings keep resurfacing. If it's a crap/spam/violates the terms listing 6 months ago or 12 years ago, it's still one today! I don't understand why they aren't wiped or somehow flagged with a "never to see the light of day again". I've heard that G is has a hoarding disorder and never throws anything away. Yet it would take only one tiny little bit of data to ensure some level of integrity in the public facing data. Of all the mountains of data in existence, something simple to say "this is sh*t" surely wouldn't be hard.

There must be a reason why G keeps the listings.

Anyone able to enlighten me?
 
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Margaret,

I think this update is similar to the one-box update on a couple levels. Remember that? I complained about it for months last year and so did Mike.

<a href="http://localsearchforum.catalystemarketing.com/google-local-important/10000-attack-bad-google-local-one-boxes.html">Attack of the Bad Google Local One-Boxes!</a>

It was digging up all these old crusty spammy listings or bogus or out of business listings that had previously been buried.

But the type of listings is not the only similarity.

I believe (don't know for a fact but am pretty sure) that both of those algos are controlled but the organic search team. They are trying to deliver the best "universal" search results and don't specialize in local.

Maybe the regular search algos are not trained to pick up on local violations. OR trained to check to see if locations are real or phone numbers still work.

Maybe they are just trained to pick up other signals like keyword in domain, age of domain or backlinks or whatever. So they are ranking on whatever those organic signals are and not taking into account all the local stuff like the rules, legit locations, etc.


Now all that is just my gut feeling, but I feel pretty strongly that it's at least something along those lines that's at play here.

Does that make sense?
 

Margaret Ornsby

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Makes total sense Linda, and along the lines of what I was wondering. Didn't have the full perspective you do, so your additional thoughts are good. I do remember the attack of the one-boxes.

I had the same thought about how to prevent it at the time as to what I've voiced here.

I like that it seems they're trying to leverage what they've achieved with organic over the last couple of years and leverage it on local to leap-frog it forward. Really like it. Totally support the approach too.

What 's a mystery is why the leap seems to be a leap back.

So, do you think the local team has lost control of the algo? Is this a case of we get to re-do the last two years in local while the other team re-learn? Is that what you're thinking?

I know it's easier to criticise what's wrong than it is to do things right. So I'm not dis-ing the team. It just seems there's a relatively simple solution to ensure whatever they do to the algo, they don't have to keep recycling rubbish...

Thanks for sharing Linda:)
 
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So, do you think the local team has lost control of the algo? Is this a case of we get to re-do the last two years in local while the other team re-learn? Is that what you're thinking?
No, I actually don't think this has anything to do with the local team and that's the problem. Pretty sure the algo is controlled by a totally different division. The local group really does not have anything to do with developing or controlling the algo, I don't believe. Would not make sense for them to. They are involved with things like features and function of the local product, data quality, guidelines, etc.

But again I don't know the inner workings at Google, so that's just strong assumption.
 

HurricaneK8

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Just a quick note on reporting;

I've been reporting like crazy lately because it's the only thing I have left to do for some clients, as we've tried everything else and Google just isn't responding. Of the 7 listings I reported last week, 5 were denied (with obviously keyword stuffed names as that's all I really report these days). You almost ALWAYS have to hit "I Object" and just copy & paste your original comment. It sucks, but that's the new system: Report + Object = Approval.

Of corse this means you get 5 denials on your account, because Google doesn't remove them after, making it look like you don't know what you're doing to the moderators... the vicious circle continues and they auto-deny your listings without even a look :)

As for the Pigeon crap, as I mentioned previously about 25% of our clients are real estate agents. Those in the US have no chance anymore. There might be 1-2 spots on the first page that show independent real estate agents, but most times they're brokerages or the BIG MLS sites with 500,000 - 1 Million links that we just can't compete with. It's gotten to the point where it would be SO expensive to get on to the first page (without maps, because they're been removed) that we're suggesting they throw their money into paid advertising.... because we're mad a Google we're suggesting Facebook. CPC is lower, and we're getting great results by getting clicks to the website & a like on their Facebook page meaning we have a captive audience for later messages.

One thing I'm hoping this update will do is push more users to Bing.... I know it's far fetched, but how much will users put up with? We know the results are crappy, because we're offering Google WAY better results... But how do we get users to realise the results are crappy? Grrrr.
 

Tammy Wood

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That's funny, Google is like a verbally abusive friend.

" I hate you, I'm going to hang out with Bing."
Three months later "Hey, Google whats up?"

I have faith in Google sorting this out, more than likely it will be later. During this time, the scummy results/ scammers will take over and our legit sites will more than likely suffer. I see a nice quiet reversal roll out of a 'new' pigeon update.

Does anyone else miss Matt Cutts? He would spin this with Google Speak we can decipher and ridicule and at least make it interesting!
 

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