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Is Pigeon Worth Worrying About? – Nick Garner Breaks it Down

Google’s pantheon of animal-themed updates grew by one a few months back when the search giant rolled out its Pigeon update.

Unlike previous animal updates like Panda and Penguin, Pigeon focused on making local search results a bigger part of the overall search equation. As part of that equation, local back links and Google’s Knowledge Graph have become very important for some online brands.

Pigeon’s emphasis on local search has led to a bit of confusion amongst web-only industries such as igaming. After all, there aren’t very many poker affiliates who also operate a brick-and-mortar location that would appear in local search results.

To help clear up the confusion, we recently sat down and chatted with 90 Digital founder and CEO, Nick Garner to get his take on Pigeon. Garner’s an SEO guru who works closely with the igaming industry and not only is he not all that alarmed about Pigeon, he’s got the data to back up his claim.

Does ‘Local’ Matter to iGaming Affiliates?
The biggest question most casino affiliates have about Pigeon doubles back on local search, so we asked Garner whether this is an issue for our industry:

Having trawled through thousands and thousands of a gaming key phrases I can tell you that very very few of them are geo-location specific.

The reason for this comes down to tracking. In an offline casino there is no way for the operator to easily track the earnings from a referral through an online affiliate. Therefore the vast majority of affiliates concentrate on online transactional sites where the tracking is very very good.

Garner pointed a recent study that tracked Pigeon’s impact on site traffic and ranking amongst businesses that actually do rely on local search. Not only was the impact limited, but in some cases it had had some positive potential; even if the amount of traffic was reduced.

Pigeon was not giving you better traffic if you had less of it. The underlying idea being that if search engine results have improved in accuracy then the traffic you get even if it’s less, will be better converting because it’s more relevant to you.

But even so, the igaming’s reliance on relatively specific, long-tail key words may shield it from Pigeon’s reign.

Casino Keywords & Pigeon

If you’ve been following SEO news, you know that Pigeon has taken a major toll on big name brands who compete for very general keywords and rely on local search. That’s because local search and broad, sweeping don’t always go hand in hand. That’s a big problem for retailers like Wal-Mart, but not so big a deal for web-based businesses that will never have a physical location, as Garner explains:

If you do analysis of the most popular thousand iGaming key phrases, location phrases hardly ever come up. The only time location seems to have an impact is around the location of the searcher when looking at a generic phrase.

So for instance if you are doing a search in Canada for an online casino bonus or an online casino bonus then you will get more websites that are centered around the Canadian market then if you did if you were in the UK.

Garner backed up his words with some real-life examples.

Pigeon’s Impact on Casino Keywords
To illustrate his points about Pigeon’s impact on casino searches, Garner ran three search result sets:

  • Online casino bonus in English for Canada

  • Online casino bonus in French for Canada
  • Online casino bonus in English for England

As you can see from the following results graphic, these three searches yield vastly different results as Garner explains:

This just demonstrates how Google is dealing with localisation on a national level. So the question is really whether as an affiliate you are optimising your website correctly for the national localisation?

In short, casino affiliates need to be looking a bigger national picture and, as Garner concludes:

It’s not worth parking the pigeon update in your list of things to care about and instead think more about country and language localisation and of course Google penguin 3 which is currently smashing more and more links that keep affiliate sites ranking.

So as far as Google’s food chain goes, Penguins are a much bigger threat to casino affiliates than Pigeons ever will be.