Hard Research: Pigeon's Impact on Local Search Visibility

Linda Buquet

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There have been lots of reports of reduced or missing local packs since Pigeon. Many have reported 7 packs, shrinking down to 3 packs and packs have totally gone missing for industries like Realtors and Divorce Attorneys in many markets.

I was hoping a company with big data could quantify things for us and they have.
BrightEdge did some analysis and I want to share it with you below.

<a href="http://www.brightedge.com/blog/industry-specific-impact-google-pigeon-update/">New Research on Impact of Google’s ‘Pigeon’ Update | BrightEdge Blog</a>

BrightEdge’s analysis found that Google is displaying local pack results for 11.26 percent fewer queries overall. BrightEdge Cube data also confirms that real estate queries experienced a dramatic decrease of 63.45 percent in their appearance rate in Google Places results.
In a post over at Search Engine Watch today BrightEdge CEO Jim Yu breaks down some of the winners and losers of the Pigeon algo so far.

<a href="http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2363063/How-Google-Pigeon-Impacted-Local-Queries-and-What-You-Can-Do">How Google Pigeon Impacted Local Queries, and What You Can Do - SEW</a>

INCREASE in Local Packs:

Hospitality (28 percent growth in Google Places results)
Food (19 percent growth in the Google Places results)
Education (13 percent growth in the Google Places results)
Spa +4.64 percent
Shop +4.32 percent
Law +3.55 percent
Medical +1.83 percent
Transportation +1.31 percent
Fitness +1.12 percent

DECREASE in Local Packs:

Real estate (63 percent decline in the Google Places results)
Movies (36 percent decline in the Google Places results)
Insurance (11 percent decline in the Google Places results
Finance -6.21 percent
Furniture -3.34 percent

NOTE: Above is only partial data. Click over to BrightEdge to see the graph that lists everything.


What kind of Pigeon impact have you seen in your markets?
What do you think of these numbers? Any surprises???

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Nikki Brown

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This doesn't surprise me at all. I deal with a lot of clients in the insurance industry and the 11% decrease in local pack results is pretty much on par with what I have been dealing with over the past little while.
3 packs seems to be the most common now with no pack results being a close second. It is very rare that I am seeing 7 packs anymore and when I do sometimes I will find that 1 or 2 of the results are from a neighbouring city. See the screenshot below.
t.png

 

billbean

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I'm inclined to believe that those "super categories" are still too super to be particularly helpful.

I'm seeing a considerable reduction of local serps in one attorney client's niche.
 

Linda Buquet

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Thanks Nikki!

I know you guys work with lots of insurance agents, but didn't realize that industry got hit until I read that research. That stinks.

I'm also seeing what you show where many packs have listings from 2 - 3 surrounding cities.

Everyone keeps citing Blumenthal and others saying that one of the Pigeon ramifications is a tighter search radius but I'm seeing just the opposite.

@Bill yesterday when I checked "Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney" the pack was gone with FF. But today it's back.

I think I heard divorce attorney packs were largely gone at one point. Not sure if that's still the case.
 

Nikki Brown

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@Linda - In terms of search radius here is what I have been seeing:

Tighter search radius for branded searches. Sometimes it will zoom right in to less than a 5 mile radius and only a 1-3 pack.

For more generic searches, like auto insurance for example, the search radius will be huge sometimes including neighbouring towns/cities.

Sometimes there will even be a listing in the pack that is very obviously outside of the centroid (and city) and my client who is located right in the centroid is not ranking.
 

Linda Buquet

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Thanks for the insights Nikki!

You reminded me I've also been hearing about branded searches being too tight or not showing the locations right inside the search radius, but showing others farther away.

Methinks this Pigeon is lost and needs some more training before it comes home to roost! :rolleyes:
 

Nikki Brown

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That's interesting. I haven't noticed that but I also haven't been looking for it. I will keep that in mind over the next few days and let you know if that's something I'm seeing.
 

cdawg2610

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@Linda - In terms of search radius here is what I have been seeing:

Tighter search radius for branded searches. Sometimes it will zoom right in to less than a 5 mile radius and only a 1-3 pack.

For more generic searches, like auto insurance for example, the search radius will be huge sometimes including neighbouring towns/cities.

Sometimes there will even be a listing in the pack that is very obviously outside of the centroid (and city) and my client who is located right in the centroid is not ranking.
I'm also seeing a lot of weight to big chains with lots of storefronts in the more generic searches (according to Google now, Enterprise is the only place when you search for used cars) and the branded searches (in the auto search world) seem to follow the tighter radius examples.
 

Howell

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Aug 18, 2014
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I work in the legal world, and the amount of flux is crazy. I've seen our map links come and go on a daily basis. Been tracking since it happened.

Pre-Pigeon our map links have stayed constant for almost 3 years, now major flux. Some days we go missing, sometimes we show up again but in a different position.

Many 7 packs are now 3 packs, even a 1 pack has been seen!

maplinks.jpg

Also seen many small local law firms be taken out by the large directories now being favored. for one term 7 out of 10 were big directories, the only sites that were in - are domains that are over 13 years old. So maybe it's domain age being filtered through.
directories.jpg



 

Linda Buquet

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Howell, thanks so much for sharing and WELCOME! :)

Did you see this post? Accounts for the flux.

<a href="http://localsearchforum.catalystemarketing.com/google-local-important/21886-pigeon-analysis-new-insights-about-crazy-google.html">Pigeon Analysis - New Insights about this Crazy Google Local Algo & the Constant Flux</a>

And this one where I do screen shot tracking over time:
<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>
 

billbean

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@Howell

I've got an attorney client. What I'm seeing lines up with what you described. Clearly, it's a good time to be Lawyers.com, Avvo, Thumbtack, etc... Who knows how long this dynamic will last. Definitely has an impact on budgets.
 

Dave

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@Linda:

Interesting article. We have some experience with some of the verticals where the impacts were greatest (up or down). We also run these smb's and strive for organic high rankings besides PAC rankings.

Before commenting I'd like to add something relevant to the thread. I spoke with Mike re: the "decrease" or "increase" of the radius for smbs.

We have found that there is NOT a universal shrinking of the radius of the business. Alternatively we have found that it probably depends on the vertical and/or the level of competition w/in the vertical. In some cases the radius increased.

Now as to the results:

First of all whom am I to dispute them. We certainly don't have the volume of smb's to test as they do. We salute the large scale research.

What we have discovered that the impact of increased PAC or reduction is also a function of how well an SMB shows in Organic results (primarily above the PAC).

For some verticals better PAC is better. Especially if one is at the top and has a lot of reviews with good rankings. Lets say those are the smb types where the searcher is going to take a quick review and then visit the site or call.

For others, losing the top organic above the PAC, even with good reviews and top PAC placement is WORSE.

In those cases the depth of some content under the link and separate prominence above the PAC is favorable to being at the top of the PAC.

All of this depends on the vertical and the SMB. Stats are one thing. In depth work to attract leads is something else. Just focusing on the PAC might not be the best thing for certain industries. Certainly not in some of our cases.
 

Linda Buquet

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I agree on those points Dave and thanks for weighing it.

I'm seeing wider radius for many searches too with outlying cities in the pack that never were before, so it just depends.

I also have seen many companies at the Google Business forum complain when they got IN the pack. They said they got many more calls and clicks being at the top of organic and once they landed in the pack volume went down.

But again depends on the industry and especially how your review profile looks. If you are #3 in pack with no reviews and #1 and 2 have 20, then yes your volume would go down and you'd be better off with a bigger KW rich result above the pack in organic.
 

Dave

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I agree on those points Dave and thanks for weighing it.

I'm seeing wider radius for many searches too with outlying cities in the pack that never were before, so it just depends.

I also have seen many companies at the Google Business forum complain when they got IN the pack. They said they got many more calls and clicks being at the top of organic and once they landed in the pack volume went down.

But again depends on the industry and especially how your review profile looks. If you are #3 in pack with no reviews and #1 and 2 have 20, then yes your volume would go down and you'd be better off with a bigger KW rich result above the pack in organic.
Linda: I haven't spent much time in the forums for quite some time. Dang, way back I was a "regular".

Is the part where businesses are complaining "recent" as in post pigeon or is it something you have seen for some time?

In any case some vertical benefit via strong organic SEO. Its important for the businesses and verticals to know that. Its real important for the LOCAL SEO's to recognize this.

Local SEO is NOT a cookie cutter process. There are way too many types of businesses and differences in what searchers are looking for.
 

billbean

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Local SEO is NOT a cookie cutter process. There are way too many types of businesses and differences in what searchers are looking for.
@Dave , this is so true! It's obvious, almost, but must be said. Glad you did.

The Local SEO thing has become more complicated and nuanced. Monitoring on behalf of clients (e.g. what's happening in a particular query space) is harder. It's more time consuming.

It's important to understand what's going on in any given SERP, and to know what tactics to apply to a given situation. Others like myself, who don't focus on a particular industry niche, may have to reconsider that approach. Staying on top of things across multiple industries is difficult, if not impossible.
 
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