They didn't interrupt this quiet summer with an official announcement but last week Google rolled out the most significant changes to their local algorithms of the past two years. Without an official title, Search Engine Land claimed naming rights and went with Pigeon, in respect to the bird's famed navigation skills. Google's initial explanation is that local search will now integrate their traditional set of web ranking signals along with improvements to distance and location rankings. Early evidence supported an interpretation by local search blogger Mike Blumenthal indicating that Google now feels that they can provide better results within smaller geographic boundaries.
After the update rolled out Google briefly listed Expedia as a hotel, and iProspect hypothesized that Google was trying to solve its 'Yelp problem' and attempting to properly integrate listings from directories and rating services in local results. Search Engine Land took an in depth look and reported a noticeable decrease in the number of 'packs', the prized grouping of top local results along with their mapped locations. Google has an improved ability to know exactly where their users are and the context to make precise recommendations, all the while preserving opportunities for advertisers to be right there on the spot.