Initial Findings On Googles Possum Algorithm Update
Stephen McCance September 24, 2016
The last few days has seen a number of changes in the SEO world….would we expect anything less from the enigma that is Google? After the algorithm updates over the past few years that shook up the SEO industry, September 2016 has brought the rollout of Penguin 4.0, AND a new update that has seen a huge impact on local search results and listings.
This new update, named ‘Possum’ in keeping with Google’s tendency towards animals starting with ‘P’, has seen a number of significant changes in a website’s ability to rank in their local area. In Manchester, for example, there are many businesses who have benefitted from the update who are not actually in the city, which has been raising the question amongst SEO professionals of whether the update has actually been useful to local searchers or not. Whichever way you look at it, though, the Possum update looks as though it’s going to continue to shake local search up for the next few weeks at least until experts can ascertain what the new rules are to get Google to look favourably on websites locally. Here are a few of the main changes that we’ve noticed so far.
Websites outside a direct area rank better
Prior to the Possum update being rolled out, websites that fell outside of the defined boundaries of specific areas found it difficult to rank for city related terms. For example, local businesses in Salford who were on the boundary with Manchester Blackfriars Street for example, which falls in both Manchester and Salford depending upon where you are) found it difficult to rank for terms that included ‘Manchester’ within the search query. After Possum, though, Google appears to have relaxed the strictness of their local rules and these businesses have seen an improvement in rankings for city terms in which they’re technically on the periphery.
The location of the searcher is more important
Whilst there has been an emphasis on where a user is searching from for quite some time, the new update has made it so that the physical location of a user is even more important than it was before. There has even been some evidence to show that results now appear in order of their distance from where the searcher is stood, although this is an initial finding that is yet to be verified by enough testing.
Keyword differentiators showing independently
Whereas previously there would be extremely similar results for slight variations on a search term, for example ‘SEO Manchester’ or ‘SEO agency Manchester’, there has now been initial support for the theory that these are now treated as completely separate keyword terms, in which case it might eventually mean that a single website may only rank for an exact term rather than variations of a key term.
Google filtering based on address & affiliation
Possibly one of the most important changes in the Possum update, it seems that Google are now choosing NOT to list businesses in certain situations. There used to be multiple listings able to show in local SEO results for the same business. The search engine giant has now decided to ‘clean’ this up by collating listings from the same business into one. The local results are now filtered so that companies with the same address who are also in the same Google category will only see one listing show up at any one time. This is, so far, quite damning for companies who are completely unrelated but happen to share an address with another company in the same category.
Whilst, as with all algorithm changes, the full ramifications of the new Possum algorithm remain to be seen, these initial changes are able to be seen already, which is why this is being seen by industry experts as the biggest change to local SEO since 2014’s Pigeon.