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The metaphorical zoo at Google HQ has welcomed a new member in the past month, with Pigeon joining Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird as one of the search engine’s algorithms.

To ensure you know exactly what this update is about and how it affects your website, we’ve delved into a bit of bird watching and pinpointed the algorithm’s standout features. Here’s what we found.

What is Google Pigeon?

First things first, the algorithm doesn’t have an official title. However, to avoid any confusion, Search Engine Land opted for the name Google Pigeon.

The algorithm primarily aims to provide Google users with local search results that are more useful, accurate and relevant to both the user and their location.

Pigeon is currently only affecting US English search results, but local businesses with customers who search using this language may well see changes to referrals and leads on their websites — either for better or worse.

Main changes

Even if you aren’t in a territory that primarily uses US English search queries, it’s best to be prepared in case Google takes Pigeon into new countries and languages.

Here are two of the main changes we have spotted since the algorithm went live.

Making local even more local

Search expert Mike Blumenthal has published results of his own Google Pigeon research on his Understanding Google Places & Local Search blog. One of the main insights from the post is that the diameter of local search range has been reduced from 12 to six miles by Google.

To put this into a UK context, imagine carrying out a search for ‘football stadiums London’ while standing in King’s Cross. At present, Wembley Stadium — which is 8.7 miles away from the station — is captured in local search results. However, if Pigeon comes to UK, the home of the England’s national football team will no longer be within the radius.

The Yelp problem has been solved

You may or may not have heard about the Yelp problem. In a nutshell, the company accused Google of favouring some of its own local listings over pages created by Yelp.

TechCrunch obtained documents that detailed some of these allegations and demonstrated how this was occurring even when the word ‘Yelp’ was included in a search. Google Pigeon seems to have rectified this problem, with Yelp results now appearing first for this type of query.

Websites like TripAdvisor, OpenTable and Urbanspoon, as well as the directory pages of local newspapers and magazines, also appear to have benefitted from higher visibility in the past couple of weeks.

Google hasn’t relayed whether Pigeon will expand internationally as of writing, though we will be sure to update you on our Facebook and Twitter pages should there be any announcement.

If you’ve seen changes on your website from Google Pigeon, let us know about your experiences in the comments below.

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