Local Search at Google; Enter the... Pigeon?
The Web world (namely those responsible for SEO) is all a flutter over Google's recent algorithm change - which aimed to improve the accuracy and relevancy of local results.
Google's new local search algorithm seems to be more closely connected with their traditional Web search capabilities, leveraging hundreds of ranking signals and coupling them with features including the Knowledge Graph, a greater emphasis on authority, as well as linguistic mapping (synonyms).
In the past, users searching for a type of local business would receive carousel results and then a list of organic/natural site results. Now, users are seeing more directories appearing in the results below the carousel) including OpenTable, Urbanspoon, and TripAdvisor. Also worth a mention is that the local listing pack once featured by Google has been removed. While this doesn't happen for every query, expect it to start being the norm for more results in the very near future.
This means a few thing for local businesses with a Web presence. First, they'll have to work quite a bit harder to appear for generic terms on the search results pages as the introduction of more third-party directories in the natural results will only push those sites down (and out of immediate view). The change will also force websites to take their Google+ page far more seriously (as a result of a greater emphasis on the Knowledge Graph inclusion), as well as consider how a listing on those third-party directories might influence their position and help them drive awareness.
The new algorithm is being introduced solely for U.S. English results. Google has yet to formally address the algorithm update or the percent of queries potentially impacted (but consider that large as a large portion of its traffic is of a local nature).