Pigeon, Penguin, Panda, Hummingbird and, now, Possum.
Google’s latest algorithm update is a change to local search, with seemingly positive results for local businesses and for users. The update has put a lot more emphasis on the user’s location, which means users are getting more accurate results. Google’s filters for local search and organic search are evolving and part of this change means the two filters are now working more independently from one another.
Let’s break down and analyze Google’s latest update as it stands now:
Location and affiliation
Google is now filtering based on address and affiliation. For businesses that fall outside city limits, ranking for keywords that included that city name was difficult. Since Possum, these businesses have seen a huge spike in rankings.
For example, one of our clients at TechWyse located just outside of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is now able to rank for “Toronto” when Google would have previously filtered them out.
Conversely, this may cause rankings to drop for clients with one main GMB listing and several affiliated GMB listings.
For example, we have a client who owns a clinic with a primary location, but has separate GMB listings for individual doctors. Google isn’t necessarily removing the listing or enforcing a penalty, but is simply picking the most relevant listing and filtering out the others that are too similar – in some cases, Google is suspected to be going as far as to find an affiliation by owner, even if addresses, phone numbers, websites and Google accounts are separate.
These listing haven’t disappeared, and can be viewed by zooming in further on the local finder.
The location of the user
If you’re searching from a different physical location other than that of the business, you’re likely going to encounter a completely different result. As a general rule of Possum: the further the distance, the lower the ranking. This is unsurprising as many local businesses are looking to optimize for “near me” searches, which doubled from 2014 to 2015.
Variations in keywords matter
Slight variations between keywords are having a significant effect on results. Abbreviations and changes in phrase, for example, can alter SERPs, indicating Google is getting smarter and more specific. For example, each of the below phrases would garner a different result:
“Dentist Toronto ON”
Separation between local and organic search
Local and organic search are drifting apart with the latest update. For example, in the past if the URL you were linking to in your GMB listing was filtered organically, it would have had a negative impact. Since the update, this no longer seems to be the case.
Many local businesses will likely see positive results from this, while businesses without a local market might face some competition for rankings.
Google has a history of algorithm updates and refreshes, and nothing is set in stone. However, we’ll definitely be seeing some changes in the 3-pack.
The update, which took place on September 1st, hasn’t fully stabilized yet, which would indicate Google is still running tests. Until the dust completely settles, we won’t know the extent to which Possum will impact rankings and the nature of search. However, for many business owners, the results have been positive.