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By now, you’ve probably heard about Pigeon, Google’s most recent update that has rocked local search results. While many law firms are still worrying about the loss of authorship images, others are wondering how Pigeon will affect their practices. However, while other business may have noticed a decline in rankings, we have found that Pigeon has not necessarily affected law firms in a negative way.

How is Pigeon Affecting Search Results?

The Pigeon update was designed as a correction to fix problems alleged by Yelp, a popular local directory website. According to Yelp, when people used Google to search for a specific phrase plus the word “Yelp,” Google would place its own results over those of Yelp.

It seems that the favoritism towards SERPs, or search engine results pages, for “highly paid” and “high quality” directories has now translated into a Local Maps search, thus producing a gateway to directory websites instead of real local businesses. However, while other business have been left with having their old spots replaced with expensive, paid directory websites that may or not also be listed as a “service area business,” we have seen almost all of our clients’ organic search rankings remain steady. Here is a side-by-side comparison of pre-Pigeon and post-Pigeon for the search query [Los Angeles personal injury lawyer]:


At this very moment, the infant Pigeon chick is still trying to discover the intent of its users. If you find any non-lawyer directories in Maps, for example, and you report these listings, the Pigeon will log this information and may not serve up this data at some point. In other words, it is likely that it may already be learning what is and is not a physical lawyer, but for right now, it must think that any website that is listing hundreds of attorneys is of significant value and assumes that they are real law firms.

Shake-up of Local Results

In many cases, mapped results have almost completely changed. We’ve also seen the reduction of the size and frequency of mapped results. For instance, some seven packs have been replaced by three packs, and some formerly-mapped results don’t deliver at all. Now, Avvo, a well-known lawyer director, is showing up as a local personal injury law firm in Los Angeles, potentially piggybacking a local company to the strength of a relevant, large domain in order to rank in local results.

This example is more widespread – Expedia, the travel site, is now a small hotel on Madison Avenue in New York, at least according to Google maps. Looking into this deeper, we found that both and Avvo are listed as a mapped business for the “Los Angeles personal injury attorney” query. Also note that both of them have an identical phone number, and neither of them has a physical address. While you’d think that Google local results might be able to algorithmically detect that two different businesses with the same result have the exact same phone number, but this is apparently not the case.

What Does This Mean for You?

Now for the million dollar question: How does a law firm survive in the ever-changing wake of these significant ranking shifts? As of this moment, while we have not yet seen any cause for alarm among our clients, lawyers who have noticed a sharp impact in their local rankings need to consider building higher quality backlinks rather than having someone “carpet bomb” message boards with spam-filled links.

Another way to focus on improving your law firm’s site is to remove any ineffective links in order to strengthen your link juice and make sure that your content is unique and relevant on your main site. Also, consider double-checking to make sure that other sites point to your main site. If you’ve tanked locally, it probably means that you are tanking organically, and you need to run a backlinks analysis.

While it is too early to draw too many conclusions about what the true impact of Pigeon will look like in the long run, for now, it would be a good idea to see which directories benefitted the most in your “neck-of-the-legal-SERPs” and do what you can to improve the visibility of your law firm from there.

Are You Ready to Rank Your Website?

While Google’s Pigeon update has left many lawyers wondering what is going to happen next, we have not yet seen any significant impact to our clients’ organic search rankings, and we understand that the algorithm may actually help law firms in the long run. To learn more about Google’s most recent change and to set up a free evaluation of your firm’s website, please fill out our contact form or call us today at (888) 317-3688.

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