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Google’s Pigeon Update Solves Yelp Problem, Boosts Local Directories

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As the analysis continues on yesterday’s Google local search algorithm changes — that we’re calling the Pigeon update — one thing appears to be clear: Local directory sites are getting better visibility in Google’s search results.

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More specifically, it looks like Google has fixed its “Yelp problem” and is now showing Yelp pages at the top of search results when queries specifically include the word “Yelp.”

You might recall Yelp’s recent accusations that Google was manipulating its search results to show Google’s own local listings and content ahead of Yelp pages even when users specifically included “Yelp” in their searches. Yelp’s report specifically looked at the search term “gary danko yelp” (Gary Danko is a San Francisco restaurant) and showed how Google listed the restaurant’s official website first, along with several links to Google+ content such as reviews and its Google+ page.

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Today, that “problem” is fixed.

The Yelp page for this restaurant shows up first when the query includes “Yelp.” Two other Yelp URLs also show up ahead of the official website.

The same thing is visible on searches for other restaurants, although sometimes it’s one Yelp URL showing up ahead of the official site. Consider these searches for three Seattle-area restaurants with “yelp” included in the query:

Not Just Yelp: Other Local Directories Boosted

It’s not just Yelp that seems to be benefitting from Google’s local algorithm update. A search this morning for “seattle restaurants” shows individual eateries up in the carousel, but the organic listings below are nothing but well-known directory-style sites like Urbanspoon, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and OpenTable. There are even lesser known directory pages from Seattle newspapers and magazines on page one. (You can click to see a larger version.)

 

On page two, an article from The Guardian (based in the UK) about the top 10 Seattle restaurants is showing up, as is a restaurant guide from the small (but excellent) West Seattle Blog. In fact, on that search, outside of the carousel results, an individual restaurant doesn’t appear until page three.

Similar things are happening on other search queries — but not all:

  • A search for “miami hotels” shows individual hotels in the carousel, followed by nothing but directory-style pages in the organic results below — URLs from Hotels.com, TripAdvisor, Expedia, Kayak and even a list of hotels from Marriott’s website. Individual hotels don’t show until page two.
  • A search for “chicago pizza” shows individual restaurants in both the carousel and almost completely through the first page of organic results.
  • Searches for “dallas dentists” show several individual practices in the organic results, but “dallas restaurants” shows nothing but directory-style pages outside of the carousel.

Overall, though, it looks like Yelp and other local directory-style sites are benefitting with higher visibility after the Pigeon update, at least in some verticals. And that seems logical since, as Google said, this update ties local results more closely to standard web ranking signals. That should benefit big directory sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor — sites that have stronger SEO signals than small, individual restaurants and hotels are likely to have. For those businesses and websites, local search has just gotten a lot more difficult.

On-Page SEO Checklist

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Content

1 Content is original – copyscape checked?
2 Content is first published on your website?
3 Content has enough descriptive text?
4 Content is well researched with references?
5 Do you have a clear publishing strategy?

Pages Titles, description and formatting

6 Page titles are unique for each page?
7 Descriptions are unique and up to 150 characters?
8 Text is properly formatted using H1, H2, Bold, Italics?
9 Text is split into small paragraphs?
10 Font size is easy to read on small screens (tablets) as well?
11 Image size is optimized using smushit?
12 All images have alt tags defined?
13 Image filename is descriptive?

URL Structure

14 Permanent links use ‘-’ as separator ?
15 Website pages/posts are grouped into categories?
16 There is breadcrumb on all posts/pages?
17 There is an HTML User Sitemap?

Internal Links

18 Pages have internal links?
19 There is a ‘Related posts’ section at the end of each page?
20 Internal links use both keyword and non-keyword anchor text?

Speed and Authorship

21 Website scores more than 90% when checked by Google page speed insights?
22 Google Authorship is implemented for each and every post/page available on the website?
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5 on page SEO Techniques for Better Rankings

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1. Content comes first

A website with brilliant content can do great with or without SEO, a website with bad content will not survive with or without SEO, a website with good content can become even better with SEO!

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So, what is considered good content?

Original Content (articles, text, images, videos, presentations, infographics, comments etc.) – No copies or re-writes of existing articles

Content published on your website first – Even if it’s your own content, if you have already published it on another website then it’s not good for your site.

Content that includes text as well – Try to have text to accompany your non-text content. For example if you post videos on your website try to add a text description as well. If you add images try to describe in words what the image is all about.

Content that is useful – Don’t publish content for the sake of publishing. Before hitting the publish button make sure that what goes live adds value to your website.

Content that is well researched – Users don’t want to read quickly prepared posts and neither does search engines. If you are writing about a certain topic or answering a question make sure that what you write is justified and covers both sites of a story. Long articles are proven to rank better than short articles.

Posting frequency – 2 things are important when it comes to posting frequency. First is to have fresh content on your website and second to establish a publishing strategy and stick to it.