As Google continues to spit out algorithm updates multiple times every year, it’s getting harder for search engine optimization services to keep up. Considering the fact that not all updates are being announced these days, some SEOs are only finding out about changes after noticing the difference in their marketing results. The “possum” update is one perfect example of this. Not an officially named algorithm update, many in the search engine optimization community have dubbed it “possum” because the update was came out quietly in September, resulting in some significant changes that have some SEOs scurrying!
What Is the So-Called Possum Update?
Released on September 1, this algorithm update is thought to be affecting only the Local Finder or Google Maps box, not organic search. Experts that have studied the before and after effect of the release suggest that the intent is to reduce spam in Local Finder SERPs and also increase the diversity of the companies listed in the 3-Pack box. Although it is too early to detect any real pattern to the changes caused by the update, experts have determined that it has generated both positive and negative changes for over 60% of all businesses trying to rank with local queries.
How Has the Possum Update Affected Local Search?
According to the search engine optimization gurus studying it, these are some of the significant ways that Possum has affected local business rankings:
- Increased Ranking Outside of City Limits - A positive change that Possum has brought about is a great increase in the number of businesses outside of city limits that are now ranking. This has always been more difficult in the past, so for many search engine optimization services, this is a welcome change. Overall, 35% of businesses saw an improvement in their local rankings and 36% saw no change at all since the release of the Possum update.
- Filtering Based on Street Address and Affiliation - On the other hand, many businesses have now been filtered under a link for “more results” due to similar locations and street addresses, such as multiple physicians practicing from the same building. 29% of businesses experienced a reduction in local ranking due to this filtering, where they are now only visible when a user clicks to have what Google perceives as duplicate results displayed.
- Search Variations Matter More - Based on this more restrictive filtering of ‘duplicate content,’ queries using street addresses and other unique identifiers has become important for more individualized results that get past the filter.
- Location of Searcher Affects Results - Another interesting affect noticed by search engine optimization experts is that the location of the searcher now affects results. Those looking from outside of a specific city area are receiving results optimized to a wider area, while queries performed within that city receive more fine-tuned results. It seems searcher location needs to be set to the same local city to generate the most valid results.
- Local Search Functioning Independently from Organic - In addition to the above findings, search engine optimization services are also discovering that local ranking is now performing independently from organic ranking. This suggests that it is more important than ever to be well optimized for local queries, as well as trying to rank in the general SERPs.
Whether the changes due to the unspoken Possum update will end up being a help or a hindrance to many local businesses is too soon to tell. Many search engine optimization specialists are seeing positive changes since its release; however, others are definitely facing some serious challenges. The main conclusion for search engine optimization services should be obvious. Local search, and ranking within the 3-Pack, is becoming more valuable for many businesses!