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Google Possum – The Sneaky Algorithm Update Affecting Local Rankings

There has been a lot of talk about the Penguin update over the last couple of months, but another algorithm update sneakily hit a few weeks prior – Google Possum. The SEO community started noticing changes to local rankings around the 01/09/2016, and named it the Possum update (it has not been confirmed or talked about by Google themselves).
All reports are stating that Possum has caused a major shake-up to local SERPs, and local SEO is extremely important for many businesses in New Zealand.

All evidence seems to indicate that this Possum update largely impacted the rankings in the ‘3 pack’ and ‘Local Finder’ (otherwise known as the Google Maps results or local results). See example below:
local search 3 pack

From what we understand the change was made to diversify the results that appear and eliminate spam.
The 5 specific things that seem to have change are:

  • Businesses that fall outside of the specific area (ie businesses in Birkenhead appearing for ‘Auckland’ searches) seem to be getting more Maps exposure than before.
  • The physical location of the person doing the search is more important than before.
  • Google is filtering results based on address and affiliation. Previously Google was often showing five different listings at the one address, whereas now it seems that four have been filtered out.
  • Local SERPs are more varied based on small variations of phrases searched. For example, slightly different results appear for phrases such as ‘massage Auckland’, ‘Auckland massage’ or ‘massage in Auckland’.
  • The local filter seems to be running more independently from the organic filter. Moz.com have a good article here explaining more about it.

It’s also thought that another algorithm was launched straight after this, and the Penguin update happened a few weeks later which was major. Because of that and that Google have not made any announcements about this, it’s still very unclear as to what the full effects might be.
 
What we can say is – making sure you’re Google + page is within the Guidelines is now more important than ever. Keeping posting updates and asking your clients/ customers to post reviews.
 
We will keep you updated as soon as we know anything new! In the meantime, if you need help with Google My Business or anything else, please get in touch.