September 22nd, 2016
Noticed a change in the local search rankings lately? Well, that’s all down to the latest algorithm update called ‘Possum’ released by Google on September 1st. Before you panic, here’s a quick rundown of what it is and what it does – basically, everything we know so far about Google’s latest hat trick.
From what we can see so far, the update has only impacted rankings on the local 3-pack listing and local finder (i.e. the local search results or Maps results). Why? From the looks of it, Google is trying to diversify the local results but also prevent spam from ranking as well. This could well be the biggest update to Local listings since Pigeon in 2014.
Ok, so how will this affect my business?
So, undoubtedly the changes will affect your rankings on local search results. Here’s what we’ve spotted so far…
Businesses outside of the physical city limits saw a spike in rankings
If you own a business that’s located on the outskirts of the city limits of where you service, you might have previously found it hard to rank for any keywords that include that city’s name because “technically”, according to Google Maps, you don’t fall into that city or area. Having said that – now, many businesses like this saw a spike in their local ranking after the update.
To illustrate this better, in incognito, we conducted a search for ‘Seafood Peterborough’. Included in the 3-pack local listings is the “Loch Fyne Restaurant” which is located beyond the physical limits of the city, in the Elton area. However, because they service the Peterborough area they are now included in the results, whereas they might not have been once before.
Unfortunately, the range beyond physical city limits that it will include in the local listing, is still unknown at this point.
Businesses are now being filtered by address
Google’s Possum has also completely changed the way in which it filters businesses in the local search results. Whereas before it was much harder for smaller businesses to compete with larger businesses and their huge marketing budgets, the new filtering system now filters out duplicate listings for the same business. So, now if there are multiple business listings in the same category, using the same address and/or phone number only one will be shown – i.e. no more spam.
In fact, Google’s system is so sophisticated that, for example, if you’re a dentist who owns two practises within a city, but in different areas and they’re both registered under you as the owner, Google will know and won’t include both listings at the same time.
However, due to other factors such as the varying addresses and the geo-location of the searcher (our next point) both of these may still get shown – based on what someone types in, you’ll either get one or the other.
Physical location of the search is now more important than before
What you may also have noticed is that, if you’re at home searching for your business across the city, for example, it’s likely that it will no longer appear in the local 3-pack listing. This is because the update now takes into consideration your actual physical location, a lot more than it once did. From a user experience point of view, this is great – you’ll now get personalised results based on your location, making it easy to find what you need at that particular moment.
However, from a business point of view, if you service a large area (or even nationally) but only have one physical base of operations then you may hardly show up on the local listings unless the search is within a certain radius from your physical address.
Above you’ll see that when searching for ‘Further education in Peterborough’, where once you would’ve seen New College Stamford in the local listings, now Google only lists the locations closest to our physical location.
Organic and local rankings are now filtered more independently
If your business is being negatively affected by the last two points; physical location searches and businesses that are filtered by address, one positive aspect to consider is that this will not affect your organic rankings.
Whereas before, if you were filtered out from the local listings it would negatively affect your organic rankings and vice versa, now thankfully the two are filtered more independently. This means that if you’re filtered out of the local listing for any of the reasons above, it will have little to no effect on your organic rankings.
So, there you have it…
That’s what we know from Google’s Possum so far – we’ll update you as soon as more information comes to light. It’s a paramount change to the way results are filtered on the local listings, essentially reducing spam and providing searchers with much more relevant search results.
How do you feel about the latest update? Share your thoughts and leave a comment in the section below! If you are worried about how this update affects you and your business, then get in contact with us and we’d be more than happy to assist.