How Google's Pigeon Update Might Impact Your Law Firm

Gyi Tsakalakis
August 4, 2014

By now, you've probably heard something about Google's recent Pigeon update. In short, Pigeon has rocked local search results. In many instances, it's rocked them for the worse. SEL has a great Pigeon expert round-up. Here are some of the Pigeon-impacts that the legal SEO community has witnessed.

Here's a side-by-side comparison of pre and post-pigeon SERPs for the query: [los angeles personal injury lawyer]


There's also some good discussion of this SERP over on Google Plus.

Pigeon Favors Directories Over Law Firms

As noted by Conrad Saam at Mockingbird Marketing:

Like the most recent Panda algo update, Pigeon seems to have favored directories over the actual businesses in these directories. There is widespread agreement among local search geeks – Mihm, Blumenthal, Shotland and more that directories have indeed benefited. Andrew Shotland noted a 5-10% traffic increase for some of the directories he works with following Pigeon. Counterpoint: I pinged the guys at Avvo who didn’t acknowledge anything dramatic.

We've noticed this pattern too. Here's a SERP (local listings omitted) for the query [personal injury lawyer] (browser set to los angeles, ca and directory listings highlighted in red):

personal injury lawyer   Google Search

As you can see, almost 50% of this organic SERP includes a legal directory. Seems that what Google is trying to say is:

Google Pigeon: some day Google will serve up the best businesses that match your search, until then, try these directories.


First, my guess is that this is only a temporary outcome and not Google's intention. I think Google will be hard pressed to argue that directories satisfy local business look-up queries than the businesses themselves. We've also seen this type of side-effect from earlier updates.

Second, tactically, I don't think this changes much. Lawyers should still focus on the major local search ranking factors. If you are going to tweak your strategy at all, I would suggest the following:

  • Additional focus on highly visible local directories.
  • More attention to traditional ranking factors (especially those related to domain authority).

Again, I don't think it is time for major course correction. As the local search flux dies down, I expect that the "directory bump" will subside a bit too.

Directories in Local Listings

Attorney Michael Ehline points out that:

It seems Google’s favoritism towards SERPS for “high quality” and typically “highly paid” legal directories, has now translated into a Local Maps search for a “lawyer” producing a gateway to a lawyer directory website instead of a real local business.

This is pure pigeon poo (h/t Mike Blumenthal). This is actually an old spam tactic that many small businesses used to employ and that Google had previously smacked-down.

The "hack" involves replacing your business website with a legal directory page. Again, despite its current effectiveness, Google has previously "penalized" this sort of thing. I don't recommend it.


If you see these listings appearing in local search results, don't rush to switch out your law firm website. Instead, you might want to bring these listings to Google's (or other legal SEOs') attention. That's the best way to help Google "solve" the problem.

3-Packs and Adjacent Cities

In his preliminary analysis, Casey Meraz notes that Google's local algorithm appears to be:

Pulling listings from nearby cities as opposed to just listings within the cities of Anaheim. Additionally the local pack has changed from 7 results to 3 results.

We have also noticed an expansion in the locations shown for local searches, as wel as, these 3-pack results.


First, lawyers who might have stronger traditional ranking signals that were "further" away from major metro areas might be able to "creep into" local packs for adjacent cities. However, don't count on this lasting long. Furthermore, you'll probably need some pretty significant domain authority to trigger this behavior.

Second, in SERPs with 3-packs, you might want to supplement organic rankings with some paid search listings.

Again, it's too early to draw too many conclusions about exactly what the impact of the Pigeon update will really look like longer term. However, in the short-term, it would be a good idea to see which directories benefitted the most in your particular "neck-of-the-legal-SERPs" and do what you can to improve your firm's visibility there.

Gyi Tsakalakis
Co-Founder of AttorneySync
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