Google’s New Possum Update and What It Means for the World of SEO
September 1, 2016 marked yet another paradigm shift in the SEO world due to a massive update to Google’s local algorithm, termed “Possum update” by the search community. It has been the buzz of the entire community for nearly a month because most website owners were led to believe that all their listings on Google My Business had magically disappeared, while the truth was that they were simply playing Possum.
Salient Features of the Possum Update
The update was silently introduced by Google this month, presumably to prevent spam in rankings and also to add a healthy degree of diversity to local results.
It is believed that this update had a two-pronged approach; the first update impacted Local Finder rankings like Google Maps or local results as well as 3-pack rankings, while the next, introduced shortly after, affected the organic results.
This filter introduced by Google is what makes the Possum update stand out from most previous updates and possibly makes it the most important and revolutionary development in local search ranking algorithms since 2014’s Pigeon.
Exploring in Detail
Perks for Businesses outside Metropolitan Limits: One of the most pertinent SEO issues around was the fact that businesses which were located a little beyond the limits of a large city had a pretty hard time climbing the ranks for the keywords related to that city, as Google Maps didn’t consider it to be a part of the city.
All that is set to change, though, as the introduction of the Possum update saw these businesses experience a significant rise in local rankings, which is fantastic.
Keywords Matter, As Always: Keywords have always been known to have a significant impact on the generated SERPs. Possum has revealed a lot more diversity for minimal changes in the keywords used than ever before, for example “Lawyer Chicago” and “Lawyer Chicago IL” return different results now.
This means you will have to adopt a more holistic SEO strategy than before, and the best way to go about this would be to hire a Top SEO company.
Searcher Location Now Plays a Role: You’ll be surprised to hear that Google now factors in the physical location of the person searching for a particular set of data and prioritizes the results on that basis.
For the same set of information, someone in Texas will be seeing a completely different page from someone in Chicago. Hence, when you are tracking your ranking, you will need to set the searcher location to the correct city.
Location and Address-based Filtering: Google is no stranger to local filters, considering these filters would screen out profiles which shared domains or phone numbers. This was initially around to organically filter out duplicate content.
One of the more interesting points of the Possum update is that a number of businesses are being filtered out because they share their address with other listings in the same category. It was also noticed that a zoom-in on the Local Finder map revealed the rest of the filtered results.
That said this is certainly disconcerting for businesses which share the same office space or address.
Local Filter Separate from Organic Filter: We know that organic filtering has a highly negative impact on your ranking if you are screened out. The new update, however, seems to be generating fairly high ranks for several businesses, even though they lead to pages which have been filtered organically.
The local filter is less connected to the organic filter now, which makes room for more opportunities than before.
The results generated right now, despite being wildly different from what they used to be, are still fluctuating, which leads us to believe that Possum update is not a finished product and is still undergoing A/B testing. There is no doubt, however, that this is the future of search, and that it is only a matter of time before it is fully ready.