Don’t get Pigeonholed Because of Onsite Optimization

Pigeon has been released from its cage for a while now and a lot of people have talked about its effects and how to handle the changes. I want to take a little bit of a different twist on things and talk about one piece of Pigeon that hasn’t been widely discussed.

For a quick refresher, Pigeon is a new algorithm that Google released to try and provide more useful local results to the end user that are tied more closely to traditional web ranking signals.

So what are some of these more traditional web ranking signals? Onsite optimization, high quality content, and high quality links just to name a few.

Lets talk about onsite optimization

Since Google is giving more weight to this area in local rankings now, it is extremely important to have well optimized pages for the locations you are wanting to show up in local packs. With a lot of local packs being trimmed down from seven results to three or even sometimes one, it is kind of a big deal.

big deal

We talked about the importance of landing pages years ago. The information is still just as important today. Maybe even more important.

Optimizing vs. Over Optimizing

If you didn’t already know,there is such a things as over optimizing a page. A lot of people are still using this tactic, which is going to have to change sooner than later.

What does this look like you might ask? If you were a personal injury attorney in Twin Falls, Idaho (go Idaho!) you would do the following at the bottom of the page somewhere.

“Serving Buhl, Kimberly, Hansen, Jerome, Filer, Wendell, Burley, Declo, Oakley, Rupert, Paul, Heyburn, and Gooding.

This somewhat makes sense doesn’t it? You want to let people know what cities you are willing to take cases in don’t you? This isn’t the best tactic, and Pigeon appears to be attacking people for such tactics. Adam Dorfman from SIM Partners posted on Search Engine Land last week about a study they did on more than 5,000 pages that really shows how hurtful this tactic can be.

We learned that over optimizing, like the example above, can negatively affect your site post Pigeon. Adam found that once you get beyond listing 3 locations or zip codes on a page, Pigeon started to negatively affect a sites rankings.

So what is the correct way to target more than just the city you are in? Are you ready for the answer? It might not be as cool as you were hoping for.


Content is king. It really is. It is time to expand your content. Instead of listing out all of those cities saying that you service them, you should build out a page for each of those cities and write high quality content specific to each market. This will have two effects:

  1. Keep you safer from getting pooped on by Pigeon
  2. Allow you to potentially start ranking organically for the submarkets you write content for.

It is a win-win (or as Michael Scott would say, “a win-win-win”).


This is an important topic to understand if you want your site to rank well in the future. So important, in fact, that Rand Fishkin of Moz devoted a Whiteboard Friday to teaching people how to properly handle Geo-Targeted landing pages. Here is the link to his video:

Scaling Geo-Targeted Local Landing Pages That Really Rank and Convert.

Go ahead and watch it. We’ll wait.

The really important part of his video that we want you to understand is that the find and replace content, writing something for Los Angeles and then switching out LA for Burbank, Glendale, Long Beach, etc, will not allow you to rank. Rand does a good job of covering this for large scale companies so we want to break it down to be specific for attorneys.

We’ll get the biggest reason out of the way first: This is duplicate content and will get you hit by Panda. It does you zero good to avoid Pigeon if you put your site in the warpath of Panda. You should avoid this tactic if for no other reason than to keep your site safe from a Panda filter.

The next reason why the find and replace tactic sucks is because it completely ignores the user’s intent. While someone looking for a criminal defense attorney will have similar needs regardless of if they are searching from Los Angeles vs Torrance, their intent is different. They may not want to drive into LA so they are looking for an attorney with an office in Torrance, or at least is willing to meet with them somewhere. When you write the page specific to Torrance (or whatever submarket you are targeting), you will want to think about clients you have had from that market. What do they have in common? What questions do they ask? Are they more concerned with money than your clients from your main market? Thinking about each market in this way will allow you to not only write something unique that addresses their intent, it will also help you convert more of the people who land on that page.

Writing a page for each of your submarkets that is unique and addresses the user’s intent is not the easy path. However, with Google putting more and more focus on User Experience, your efforts will be rewards for months and even years to come. You will rejoice as your site takes over the market and your competitor’s site dwindle into nothingness because they took the easy route.