Google My Business Plays Possum

On September 1st Google made a major and unannounced algorithm update. At the time, no one understood the impact. In fact, we even suggested it might be the rolling out of the fabled Penguin 4.0 update. However, the September 1st update has had a major impact on local listings, with many businesses noticing that their listings have “disappeared.” What is the update the SEO community has dubbed “Possum”, and how does it impact your business?

What Did Google Update?

There is still some debate over the extent of the impact caused by the update. Most sources agree that Possum altered rankings in the 3-pack, and the local results/Google Maps in Local Finder. In addition, some speculate that a separate update that came later made changes to organic search results. The goal of the update seems to be to remove spam, and create more diversified local search results.

How Does This Impact My Business?

  • Better Rankings in Surrounding Communities: As a dentist, you serve multiple communities. However, you may have trouble ranking in surrounding communities, as your local SEO is typically based on the city your business resides in. However, with Possum, businesses are ranking higher in surrounding cities.
  • The User’s Location Matters: The update impacts what a user sees based on where he or she is searching from. If the user searches for a dentist in Dallas from Dallas, your location (if you are a Dallas dentist) will be one of the first. If they search for a local dentist in Dallas from say, Plano, your Dallas practice may show up a little lower in the search results.
  • Local Filter More Independent from Organic Filter: Before, a business with multiple listings would have seen some of the listings rank low or be filtered out organically. Now, with local listings acting independently, some rankings for multiple listings are actually climbing.
  • Greater Sensitivity to Keyword Variations: Before, slight variations in keyword searches always gave pretty much the same results (“Dallas TX dentist” and “dentist Dallas” for example). Now, Google picks up on the variations and often gives different search results based on the order of the words, and inclusion of the state.
  • Address Impacts Search Results: Google’s local filter is now showing significantly greater sensitivity. For example, before if a business had numerous listings all with the same address, some of them would be filtered out. Now, Google can actually filter out listings in the same building (but with technically different addresses) or businesses that have different NAP (name, address, phone number) information but are all owned by the same person or company. These filtered results aren’t being removed or penalized, they’re simply not showing up because they aren’t deemed as relevant. In fact, zooming in on the map in Local Finder will usually uncover these filtered results.

Is Possum Here to Stay?

Although Google appears to still be making adjustments to this algorithm update, we can assume that a version of Possum will be sticking around for the foreseeable future. Once again, with quality content and an SEO approach centered on improving user experience for your desired terms and locations, this update should not have a negative impact on your rankings. But, we are always available to answer questions or address any concerns you might have. Remember, we’re here to help!

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