RobotWhen Google released the Pigeon updates last year, they put a gloss on the release by announcing the algorithm will produce more accurate results for local search queries.

Given the importance of local search to many small business owners, this raised the hopes of many marketers expecting better visibility in search results. In reality, things haven’t turned out like that.

There has of course been movers and shakers, but rather than giving small businesses more visibility, Pigeon has dumped all over them and pushed them down the standings.

You may have found your page one rank has been replaced with a digital version of Yellow Pages or a review site like Trip Advisor or Urban Spoon. The sites of small businesses have fallen off the search radar and subsequently receive less traffic.

Is there a Pigeon fix?

The only thing small businesses can do to increase visibility is to register their business in the directories that have replaced them in the search standings. This has advantages and disadvantages.

The major disadvantage is that you are now competing with all other businesses offering the same service – and businesses are not ranked in directories like they are in search engines.

The advantage is that many of these directories enable customers to leave comments and reviews which will help businesses that offer a great service. Consumers are turning to review sites before making a decision to buy.

The problem with customers is that they are quick to complain and will leave a negative review, whereas do not always give praise when it is due.

The encouraging thing to see however is that attitudes are changing and customers are leaving encouraging remarks on the major directory sites. However, this means small businesses get mixed reviews and researchers are none the wiser.

Encouraging reviews

Although Google has whipped your page rank from under your feet, directories still give you a platform to be visible – if only slightly. Directories also give you an opportunity to build the voice and character of your business.

Small businesses need to encourage happy customers to leave positive reviews of their product or service. Furthermore, you should respond to all comments that are posted, whether good or bad.

The most important thing to remember however is that when you receive a negative response, do not be negative back. The customer is always right.

So show to other potential customers that if something to go awry with one customer you are prepared to fix it. This will earn you kudos and consumers are more likely to deal with you.

Despite Matt Cutts once saying Google is trying to level the playing field, they are doing a great job in de-ranking small businesses who have worked hard to make their website visible. It would we are back to battling with the corporate giants online as well as the high street. That is not a level playing field!