If you’ve seen your website drop several pages in Google results, we might have an idea why: Google’s Pigeon update.
Every now and then, Google rolls out a new algorithm to make its search bots smarter in delivering relevant web pages to your search query. The latest one is called Pigeon, and it’s supposed to benefit local SEO and mobile search.
Since its debut in late July 2014, there have been a few issues—namely, in the real estate market. Searchenginewatch.com reported that real estate websites fell 63 percent in Google Places results after the pigeon update.
What might be happening
It’s still unclear why some real estate websites are seeing success despite the overall negative outlook following this update. Some speculate that Pigeon’s favoring of directory listings (a local SEO must-have these days) are unfairly inflating sites like Zillow, Trulia, and New Home Source simply because the algorithm values a directory as one of the most helpful/relevant results to deliver to a local search.
This seems to be most obvious when searching for larger metro areas rather than specific towns. Actually, this makes a lot of sense when you consider that the big real estate directories are likely funneling their advertising dollars into those bigger nets in order to capture more search queries.
It may be worth optimizing your website for your communities within the larger metro area to avoid competing with the large directory sites.
The silver lining
Local search is still a big deal, and it isn’t going anywhere. If you’ve seen your rankings drop and you haven’t updated your SEO in several years, the problems you’re seeing are likely due to your website not being optimized for local search at all.
The Builder Designs team has been studying the heck out of local SEO, and it’s something we’re stressing all of our new clients invest in for their site. We can certainly take a look at your website and get it up to speed on local SEO if you’re not happy with where you’re ending up in search results.
If you’re optimized for local, have at least 250 words of content on each site page, and you’re still having issues, you might try retargeting your focus to include long-tail keywords.
Long-tail keywords: the secret sauce
Long-tail keywords are sentences or phrases that have a lower search volume and refer to something very specific, like “luxury new home builders in Olathe KS” or “cheapest place to buy camera equipment in Phoenix.”
This is actually something that’s pretty under-utilized considering that most people search with conversational phrases instead of short “head” keywords, like “Olathe homes” or “realtors.”
Google’s latest algorithms have actually been designed to better serve these conversational searches. It makes sense when paired with the fact that searches are becoming more localized. We no longer get on the Internet just to research global information.
While it might seem attractive to go after keyword phrases with high search volumes, the downside is that you have tons of competition for those searches—namely, those big directory sites.
It’s best, in the current climate, to play to your specifics. The big sites aren’t going to bother optimizing for “new homes in Olathe school district 233,” but this search query may cover several of the communities you build homes in. And while there might not be a thousand people using that phrase every month, you’ll know that when someone does make that search, you’re likely to be the one that captures the lead.
Don’t sweat it.
You should certainly take measures to allow your website to make nice with Google’s new algorithm updates, but don’t worry if things are a little rocky for a few months. Pigeon is still pretty new, and the kinks still need to be worked out.
If you’re looking for some good news, read this article about how one company’s real estate clients have actually seen an improvement in their page rankings since Pigeon was released. If you’d like to continue to do your own research on local SEO and Pigeon, we recommend keeping Moz’s handy Local Search Terms Glossary open in another window to reference when jargon gets confusing.
As always, Builder Designs is here to help when you’re ready to upgrade to local SEO.