Google’s local search has just had a big shakeup. We recently wrote about the Panda update, but this latest update is focused on local search – and it is being referred to as the ‘Possum’ update.
The update to the algorithm was made on September 1st, 2016. Now that the dust has settled, it’s a good time to look at how it has impacted search for local businesses.
Quick Overview of Possum
The Possum update was targeted specifically at local search, with the main focus on the 3-Pack (the three local listings displayed on the results page).
It looks like the aim of the update was to diversify local results and to further take on spam. It was a big update, and the largest update to local search since Pigeon in 2014. As many as 64% of local SERPs have changed since the update, according to a recent study.
The biggest change occurred for businesses that are located just outside of city limits, which have seen big ranking increases since the update.
Before Possum, if a business was located just outside of a city, when someone searched for that type of business using the city name in the search, it was hard for the business to rank.
But now that seems to have changed for many businesses. SearchEngineLand has highlighted a few cases where it has seen businesses outside cities experience huge jumps in their rankings.
More Focus on Physical Location
Another change that has come into effect is that there is now much more focus on where the searcher is located. If you search for ‘florist in Manchester’, for example, the results differ based on where you are searching from.
For example, if the searcher is located in the centre of Manchester, they will see a different set of results compared to if the searcher is located outside of Manchester.
This makes sense because it is showing more relevant results to the searcher, and that’s good for everyone.
Google is now using more specific filtering for its local results. So if two businesses share the same building, only one of them is now showing up, and the other business is filtered out (but still visible if you zoom in).
Before Possum, it just tended to filter out businesses that used the same website, such as for different practitioners working in the same company. People don’t usually want to see lots of results from the same company, so that made sense.
Now businesses are being filtered due to sharing addresses in different listings but in the same category. So, if you have two dental practices sharing the same building, one of these is being filtered.
Changes Are Still Ongoing
It’s still early days following the Possum update, and these are some of the main observations so far. It’s reasonable to assume that Google will be testing it more over the coming weeks and months.
If you have a physical brick-and-mortar business, keep an eye on your ranking. If you share a building with another similar business, you’ll want to pay special attention to your ranking to see how it has been affected.
And if you are worried about how this update (or any other update) may affect your ranking, get in touch and we’ll be happy to help.
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