Google Local search results have been changing in Australia. The change began towards the end of December 2014 as part of what most call the Google Pigeon update. I expect this change to keep rolling out throughout 2015.
Some people really dislike the Pigeon
The update is rolling out and the algorithm is changing as time goes on. In the US the update began rolling out in July 2014. Several 7 packs (the 7 maps listings which show up in search) have been reduced to a 3 pack, or a 2 pack, or a 1 pack. In some niches spam listings were rewarded. In some areas the listings change depending on where you are located. People have struggled to make heads or tails of certain search results. Some listings have flip flopped and reverted to pre-update condition. Sometimes, businesses not even nearby the city name searched have showed up. Some people say that Pigeon has a bird brain. Below I will show you some searches in Australia which are broken already.
What to do if your business is not displaying in local search like it used to.
Top listings in a post-pigeon world usually do have 1 thing in common; they are tied to websites that rank well in search.
The Pigeon update, to me, is just yet another reminder that nothing pays off like having a website and/or content that ranks in search. Business owners who lean on things like the organic reach of their Facebook page, a Yelp listing, or a good ranking Google maps listing will always be unpleasantly surprised when things change. If you build your website to be an authority which is loaded with content that ranks well that has a great content architecture it is not only going to pay for itself tenfold, it is very difficult to have the rug pulled out from underneath you.
Shameless plug: This is something that we offer here, if you need assistance becoming an authority in your niche and developing content that users and search engines love feel free to visit our content creation page. We have current clients and references available in Australia who enjoy not just 1 good ranking in Google search, but hundreds, and happen to be at the top of their local results now with the latest Pigeon update.
US changes vs changes in Australia
The most notable changes are in maps results (www.google.com.au/maps), however this article is about what the majority of business owners care about, which is local results in natural search results.
In the US the most notable changes have been to specific industries where the local results (7 pack of maps results) have been completely eliminated. A good example of this is real estate agents. Below is a screenshot taken December 30, 2014 of a search “Real estate agent Charlotte”. As you can see, the local maps results have been completely eliminated. Agents who once enjoyed being result A – G are now out of luck.
In Brisbane, Queensland, Melbourne, Victoria, and every city and province that I checked I could still get the entire 7 pack for real estate agents in Australia as seen by the screenshot below taken December 30, 2014. Be aware that this could change at any given moment.
Pigeon Update in Australia – Broken results
Some results are strange and probably not working as intended. If you google “Eye Doctor Brisbane” from google.com.au you will get a 3 pack result, yet “optometrist Brisbane” delivers something completely different (a 7 pack). Below is a screenshot of a search result on December 30, 2014. Be sure to note that, again, the top ranking websites have their listings displayed in local maps results! Also, the B result is in Aspley, 18 Kilometers from the center of Brisbane. Another note, with Pigeon, sometimes businesses with their city name in their business name, or at least in their Google My Business business name, are rewarded, even though this is against Google policy (at least it is now,after it was briefly allowed, after previously not being allowed).
Now, here we have below, a screenshot (taken December 30, 2014) of “optometrist Brisbane”. This is a much more “normal” result, giving us the 7 pack, and listings all IN Brisbane. Optometrists have had it pretty good in the US so far (if you own a restaurant, BEWARE).
Pigeon Update in Australia- Shuffled results
One niche that I personally work with is personal injury, and I am always interested in seeing how these results are displayed. In some parts of the world these results shuffle around more than others. Below are 3 screenshots of personal injury attorney search results in Brisbane. I have several more screenshots here and they’re all different. Have fun wrapping your head around that one. 🙂
December 22, 2014 (PRE-Pigeon):
Is the Pigeon update done?
The Pigeon update is definitely not done. If you are enjoying a new ranking or have had the misfortune of being wiped off of the map, sit tight, things may change. I expect many Australian business owners will notice this change in January 2015 once the new year has begun and they start googling around to check their rankings and trying to figure out what the January 2015 Google algorithm update is.I am very surprised to see the results for restaurants that I am seeing. Many things will be changing in the near future in local search results.