Google released a new algorithm update last Thursday and it has since been referred to as the ‘Pigeon Update’. Google said to Search Engine Land that the change had no official name, though as this change to the algorithm is considered a significant one, the guys over at Search Engine Land decided to call it this – they’re a pretty big player in the game so you can bet on this name sticking. Google have also has history with pigeons – take a look at their so-called ‘PigeonRank‘.

After the update, one thing remains to be clear: Google has given local directory sites more authority and they’re getting better search visibility in Google’s search results.

In conjunction with this, Google has appeared to fix what was formerly known as the “Yelp problem”. When people searched for something listed in Yelp, and included the word “Yelp”, Google would have trouble placing these pages at the top of the search results. This has all changed now though.

Google recently had an accusation made against them by Yelp, who claimed that Google was manipulating the search results to display Google’s own local listings ahead of Yelp pages even when users specifically included the word “Yelp”. Their report looked at the term “gary danko yelp” – a San Francisco restaurant – and demonstrated that Google listed the Gary Danko website first, followed by several links to Google + content (such as reviews etc.).

This has completely changed now though; searching for this will return 3 Yelp pages being ranked first, with the official Gary Danko page being ranked 4th. This is also the case with other Yelp listings, though sometimes you’ll only receive one or two Yelp pages for other restaurants and similar outlets.

Other local directories boosted too

Yelp’s not the only website reaping the benefits from this though. If you search for, say, “liverpool restaurants”, the first page will show only well-known directory-style websites like Restaurants Of Liverpool Sugarvine. Keep scrolling down and you’ll just see even more directory pages for Liverpool restaurants from magazines and newspapers.

Overall, it seems as though Yelp and other local directory-style websites are seeing higher visibility after the Pigeon update. This is logical for Google, since this update is in agreement with their efforts to tie local results more closely with standard web ranking signals. This will benefit big directory sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor – sites that have much stronger SEO signals than the smaller, individual restaurants and hotels will likely have.

We can say for sure that local SEO for these sorts of businesses has just gotten a lot more difficult.

Take a look at other blogs we’ve written about previous algorithm changes –

Google Panda 4.0 update

Google Penguin 2.1 update

Google Hummingbird update