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Google Possum Update:  3 Things You Need to Know for Local SEO

Sep 23, 2016
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On September 1, 2016, Google launched a massive local algorithm update, known as “Possum” in the SEO community. While we are still learning the full implications of this update, there are a few things we do know.  Based on evidence from a number of tests, this update only impacted ranking in the 3-pack and Local Finder (Local results or Google Maps results).  The main purpose of this update was to diversify the local results and also prevent spam from ranking as well. Some in the industry are calling this the biggest update to Local since Pigeon in 2014.

In this video, we will talk about 3 of the most important impacts this update has had on the local search results.

  1. Businesses outside the physical city boundaries are getting better visibility.
  2. Google has turned up the heat on address filtering.
  3. The results are being more tailored to specific users.

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Video Transcript

Hey, what's up everybody? I'm Ryan Shelley and this is the SMA Marketing Minute. Google recently made a shift in their local search algorithm. This new update has been called "Possum." Now, any time Google makes a shift in the way they rank, in the way they deliver search results, there's usually a lot of confusion, a lot of uncertainty in the SEO community.

It's easy to get wrapped up in the change, but I think the best thing for all of us to do is just kind of sit back and wait and see what actually happens. Possum is targeted at local search results. If you're a local business I think this is one you really want to pay attention to. In this video, we're going to talk about three of the major changes in this algorithm update, how they can impact your local business, and what you need to be doing as a result.

This happens a lot here in Melbourne, Florida: You may have a contracting business or a plumbing business, and your house is kind of your office, and you fall outside of the physical city, but your address is still the city. Let's say you live in a county area but your address is still Melbourne, Florida, but you serve the Melbourne, Florida area. You're starting to see a boost in your (search) results. This is a really good update in my opinion, because there are a lot of people who kind of lost out on some of that local ranking just because of where their physical location was.

Now, it's important that when you're claiming your location that you show Google that you don't provide services at your location and that you provide services in a specific area. That's going to help you target that city that you're actually serving and make sure that you're actually serving that area. This is going to help those small businesses that kind of fall outside of the city barriers, but still want to compete in the local search.

The second major change we're seeing is that Google is filtering more and more by address. For those businesses that have multiple listings, so maybe you have the main listing and then you've got a listing for four other people who actually work at your office and you share the same address, Google's going to suppress those small listings and give more authority to the main business listing. For years we've seen that Google hates duplicate listings. They want to get rid of duplicate listings.

One, because they're confusing. They don't really help the user out, and it kind of looks like there are more options than there really are.

Two, it just messes up the results. It just makes it all jumbled. Maybe you've seen that and you're like, "Man, this is the same address over and over and over again."

They're starting to filter out those multiple address results even more now. If you're a small business that has multiple listings for your location, get rid of the ones that don't matter. Place focus on your primary listing. If you want to add the attorneys or the other practitioners that are actually part of the practice at that location, do so in your listings, in your descriptions and tell people about it there. Don't create separate listings for them.

The third change we're seeing is that local SEO is being driven more and more by the user. The keywords and how they're being typed in play a big difference. Knowing those long-tail keywords and understanding what you're doing with long-tail keyword research is really going to play a big role in the local SEO. Make sure that your pages are optimized, make sure that your listings are optimized for your local keyword results.

The physical location of the searcher has more of an importance than ever before. We live in an increasingly mobile society where people are searching on their mobile phones, and Google is going to change and shift results based on where that user is actually at at that time. There's not much we can do about that other than optimize our pages for the locations we serve and where we're at. I think that's a great thing for the users. When you're out looking for products and services or businesses in your local area, you're going to see things that are closer to you first. It's all about addressing the user.

Possum's really not that scary of an update. I think there's a lot more that we're going to see as this continues to play out. For right now these are the top three things you need to know: one, businesses outside the location they're seeing boosts; two, that Google wants you to get rid of those duplicates, and that they're going to filter a lot more by address; and three, that they're really focusing more on the user. Keep an eye on your local search results and see what's going on. We'd love to hear how they've been impacted as a result of this update. Hope you guys have an awesome week, awesome day, and we'll see you next time on the SMA Marketing Minute.

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Ryan Shelley, CPBI

By Ryan Shelley, CPBI

Ryan is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His works have also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

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