It seems the minute you’ve gained enough knowledge to work the system, Google decides to throw you for another loop. July 24th marked a big day for SEO companies and local businesses, and just another day for Google. But, rather than just sitting there stagnant cursing Matt Cutts’ name, understand the rules have changed and learn how to adapt.

Google’s new algorithm — affectionately dubbed “Pigeon” by Search Engine Land — focuses on providing better local search results.

What Do I Need to Know?

  • Google Maps and Google’s local search results are seeing the most impact.
  • Only U.S. English queries are currently being affected – the percentage of which is unknown.
  • If you’re a local business owner, your rankings may drastically shift up or down.
  • Ranking parameters for distance and location has improved.
  • According to Moz and other reputable sources, there has been a 23.4 percent decline in 7-packs (the group of results that appear as below). In many local searches, these packs have completely dropped off the page, or there is a lone “pack” of one.

What Do I Need to Do?

  • Update your Google+/Local page – Ensure your local listing is claimed and that all data is accurate and filled out. Make sure the pin on Google Maps is accurate.
  • Submit to local business directories – Create a listing on local directories, such as Yelp and TripAdvisor – specifically any directories run by Google Maps. Yelp users should be especially pleased with “Pigeon” in the aftermath of Yelp’s accusations that Google was cheating the system (which is their own to begin with anyways I’d like to note) to show Google local listings on SERPs above Yelp’s.
  • Ensure accuracy and consistency across all business data – In addition to your Google+ page, double-check your website, directories and anywhere your business’ contact info is listed to ensure it’s correct.

Start with these simple preparations, but note that while we will continue to see changes throughout the coming weeks, the full impact of “Pigeon” won’t become known until three months or so from now, Google’s typical cleanup period. So, fire up that laptop and grab a helmet. Bring it, Google!

What changes have you noticed so far? Have your rankings improved or tanked?