It’s been around three months since Google rolled out the Pigeon Update, and we’re still seeing changes and upheaval in search results and the factors that influence them. But it’s been long enough that some people are beginning to piece together, if not a clear idea, then at least a translucent idea of what is going on. Moz and SIM Partners are among the groups who have been surveying webpages and their search engine placement across several different industries. Here’s some of the actionable conclusions they’ve come to.
Build a Strong Domain
When asked which factors made the biggest difference to search results in competitive markets, Moz’s respondents listed elements that build a strong domain— the domain authority of the website, the quality, authority, and consistency of structured citations, and the quality and authority of inbound links to the domain and landing page URL. SIM Partners found similar results in their study, noting that businesses with a higher external equity score and page authority score performed better than those with lower scores.
The takeaway is this: businesses with a strong domain and national brand are served well by Pigeon, and can best capitalize on the update by having well-optimized, mobile-friendly location pages that are clearly architected and which live off of their website. Smaller businesses, meanwhile, can look into barnacalizing their local optimization efforts, attaching their brand to larger, trusted sites, while they work to establish a strong, authoritative domain.
A common SEO practice for location pages is to include high amounts of location-specific data. For instance, an apartment building in Cary, NC might list Raleigh, Morrisville, Apex, Chapel Hill, and Durham as nearby accessible cities in an attempt to draw in clients looking for an apartment in any of those locations. More cities mentioned means more potential clients being referred to the site, right?
Not anymore, it turns out. Both Moz and SIM found that sites with more than three listed zip codes or “areas served” on a location page dropped significantly on the SERPs, while sites with three or less received a boost in performance.
That’s not to say that you should stop optimizing content— just be sure to dial that optimization back a bit. If you have a location page with more than three listed zip codes or areas served, try removing a few to see if it improves performance.
If you’d like some more information, check out the Moz survey results here and the SIM Partner conclusions here. And remember that by all appearances, Pigeon is still in flux—keep an eye out for more changes in the coming weeks!