All You Need To Know About Google’s ‘Possum’ Algorithm Update

Move over ‘Panda’, ‘Penguin’, ‘Pigeon’, ‘Hummingbird’, and other similar Google algorithm changes. It’s ‘Possum’ time!

Google has moved a step forward with its search engine algorithm and you must update yourself to uncover the recent local search ranking mystery. We have all the scoops on Google’s latest revision to its local algorithm update. Stay tuned.

So, What Is ‘Possum’?

Well, ‘Possum’ is the nickname of the massive local search engine algorithm update released by Google on September 1, 2016.

On that day, a huge change in local and map search results caught the sight of SEO pros, which was analyzed by them over a couple of subsequent weeks. It was revealed that lots of local business listings were filtered within the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) and they were not gone in reality. Phil Rozek from the local SEO community named it so as it seemed like the local search rankings are playing ‘possum’.

However, the most interesting part is, unlike all other massive search engine algorithm updates that were announced beforehand, it was a silent release by Google.

Significance Of ‘Possum’ Update

According to experts, Possum is the biggest Google algorithm update, which has shaken the things up in local search results since Pigeon in 2014. In fact, it has been said that no other Google update has rocked local SEO rankings like this one in a long time.

But what’s so significant about Possum?

It diversifies local search results, filters spam out and makes local listings more transparent as well as pertinent.

Possum was particularly intended to impact the local search results including the listings in 3-pack and Local Finder. If you have a location-specific business or you simply want to rank top for a keyword for a discrete region, you have to be aware of the update. Conversely, if the location is not your concern, it will not affect you at all.

Major Changes Induced By Possum Update

Even though a lot of fluctuations have happened in last few months, local SEO specialists have come up with the behavioral changes they have noticed in local search results based on the analysis of dozens of ranking reports.

Here are the changes the search engine giant has incurred through its Possum update:

  1. Ranking Advantage For Businesses Beyond The City Limits

Previously, it was a major pain for businesses located outside the city limits to appear in the Local Pack Search Results. A lot of local establishments with their services within major cities and the brick and mortar locations outside the perimeters found it enormously tough to get listings in local searches. In spite of putting all their efforts in getting highly optimized accounts, they were stuck in ‘ranking purgatory’.

Possum has fixed the issue by making the geographical proximity of a business a less important factor to get top ranking. Now, a business that is not within the physical limit of a city but close to it can experience a huge spike in ranking as the algorithm has been running a proximity test prior to preparing the listing.

  1. Filter Enhancement Based On Address And Affiliation

In local search, there are tons of businesses with multiple listings, which lead to the appearance of the same listing repeatedly in search results. Till the Possum update, Google used to detect such duplicate listings based on the phone numbers provided by the businesses or their domain names.

Now, Google has enhanced its local filters by adding two new dimensions – ‘address’ and ‘affiliation’ to them. It essentially means, if the physical addresses of multiple listings in the same category are similar, only the ‘best’ and the ‘most relevant’ one will be shown in search results whereas others will be filtered out.

However, Possum is not penalizing the other listings. Rather, it is simply working as an organic search algorithm to push other listings down lower in the SERPs and ensure a better user experience.

  1. Listings Made Sensitive To The Locations Of Searchers

The geographical locations of the searchers were never so crucial for ranking in local search results before the launch of Possum. Earlier, it was only the keywords or the search terms which influenced search results heavily, but now, as the latest algorithm has changed, the physical location of the searcher matters the most.

Google has decided to offer an outstanding search experience to the mobile community with the help of this location-sensitivity. It is now using IP addresses of the searchers to provide tailored search results and hence, it has become of utmost importance to set the right location in order to trigger the most accurate listings.

  1. Search Results Affected By Slight Keyword Variations

In the past, two different searches with almost similar terms used to yield same results in local searches. The scenario has changed these days as Google has turned finicky about even the slightest variations in search terms with Possum.

As the local listings have become extremely sensitive to keyword changes, the results are also varying widely for two slightly different search terms. So, make sure that you test and evaluate your Local SEO efforts by using multiple iterations of a particular key phrase and pick the one with the maximum search volume.

  1. Local Search Filter Precedence Over Organic Search Filter

Before the arrival of Possum, Google’s local search filter was dependent on its organic search filter. As a result, a lot of businesses, linked to certain websites which are filtered out from the organic results, were listed out from local search results.

The change in algorithm has separated local search filter from the organic search filter in order to facilitate its independent functionalities. Hence, businesses with poor listings in SERPs can now achieve good rankings in local search results.

Bottom Line

Possum has the power to alter the outcomes of your local marketing efforts completely, but the update is yet to be finished. So, keep an eye on the changes coming in future and review your local listings accordingly.

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