You might have heard of Google’s Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird algorithm updates. Now we have the most significant change since Pigeon in 2014. It’s time to fill you in on the latest location-based update called Possum.
What Is The Update?
The adjustment was made without fanfare on 1st September 2016. It resulted in business owners believing that their Google My Business listings had disappeared when in fact they had been filtered or playing possum. Hence the nickname credited to expert Phil Rozek.
Research suggests that the adjustment has impacted rankings that fall into the 3-pack and local finder which is the local results or the Google Maps results.
The Importance of Locations
One of the main issues local businesses had before the update was that if they fell outside the city limits, they would have trouble ranking for keywords that include the city name. This was because according to Google Maps, they didn’t “technically” fall into a city.
Despite businesses having a mailing address which lists that city and their customers classifying them being within the city, they were ignored by Google due to falling outside the census-designated place.
Thanks to this update, local businesses may no longer encounter this problem. Joy Hawkins at Search Engine Land explained how Direct Inspections located outside Sarasota FL, leapt from ranking #31 to #10 for keywords “Home Inspector Sarasota”.
Enhanced Filtering Capabilities
Before the update, businesses that shared a similar phone number or domain were filtered out using a local filter.
For example, you might see a listing for a dentist’s office, then separate listings for individual practitioners which would all link to the same website and use the same number. Now the filtering system is a lot more sophisticated.
We are seeing that businesses are being filtered out for having the same address and phone number of a similar listing in their category. According to Hawkins, there have been some cases where businesses have been filtered out due to ownership affiliation. Hawkins also noted that some tried to get around this by adding a suite number to their address, which proved ineffective.
It’s important to note that Google isn’t removing the listing or preventing it from ranking. Instead, it is working more like an organic filter where it hides listings that are too similar and displays the most relevant ones.
Location of the Searcher
This is much more important now, as searchers in different locations may see different results for identical search terms. It is crucial that the searcher location is set to the right city when tracking ranking.
Search results are more influenced by the variations in keyword phrases. For example “Leeds Chiropractor” and or “Chiropractor Leeds Yorkshire” may show different results.
Independent from Organic Listings
The local filter appears to be running more independently from the organic search listings. If a company is ranked poorly in the organic listings, in the past this would also affect its local search results. Thanks to the update, a company may rank well on local search.