At the beginning of September, Google rolled out a large-scale local search algorithm update, which search marketers have dubbed “Possum.” The update impacted local 3-pack rankings and positioning in Google’s “local finder.” Possum is likely Google’s largest local update since Pigeon in 2014, and has significantly impacted the search visibility of some local businesses.
“I believe the main purpose of the update,” wrote Search Engine Land’s Joy Hawkins in a September 21 article, “was to diversify the local results and also prevent spam from ranking as well.”
So, how did Google go about this objective?
To begin with, they made it easier for businesses that fall just outside physical city limits to rank for keywords containing the city’s name. Hawkins presents the example of a home inspections company officially located in the ‘census-designated place’ (CDP) adjacent to Sarasota, Florida, despite having a Sarasota address. “On August 6,” Hawkins explains, “they ranked #31 locally for “Home Inspector Sarasota.” … After the update, their ranking jumped to position 10.”
Other changes include placing more importance on the physical location of the searcher by returning increasingly localized results, and delivering more varied results for slightly divergent queries (eg. “Toronto personal injury lawyer” and “personal injury lawyer Toronto” may return different results).
As a Google Partner All-Star Agency with access to valuable insights on Google’s preferred practices, GrowthEngine Media is positioned to react promptly to algorithm updates like Possum, and to make all necessary adjustments to ensure your business remains highly visible.