Google is one of the most advanced search engines available on the world wide web. As developed as it is, Google has many algorithms to filter out search results to provide the best user experience on the search engine results page (SERP). Apart from crawling, indexing, and ranking the web pages, Google algorithms use signs such as web traffic, updated content, backlinks, and many more to determine if the results are useful to the user. Also, Google always updates its algorithms and announces different ones with unique purposes. As a result, search engine optimization (SEO), which is a proficiency that allows your business to appear on the SERP, constantly evolves around those updates. In this article, we will discover the Google Possum update.
As an SEO specialist, webmaster, or a business owner, understanding how Google Possum works and its effects on the search results will allow you to optimize your business pages reasonably and improve your ranking. Let us dive into the details!
What Is the Possum Update?
What makes the Possum update different than other Google algorithms is that the update only affects local search results and decides when a business page will appear on SERP. Launched in September of 2016, it also filters some businesses out of the search results and determines what will appear on the 3-pack listing. So we can say that the update’s primary purpose is to vary the local results and prevent spam pages from getting ranked and appearing on search results by filtering them out.
What would be the reason for Google to name
this new algorithm update “Possum”? If you have noticed, Google
usually names its updates after animal names starting with the letter
“P.” For example, there is Google Panda (2011), Google Penguin
(2012), and Google Pigeon (2014).
The word Possum was chosen because the
algorithm would filter out the business listings sharing the same address to
block duplication. For example, if different lawyers working at the same law
firm had different business pages from each other, they would wonder where
their business pages went after the update, while the pages would be
“playing possum.” The pages would be there, only filtered to provide
the best results.
What Are the Impacts of the Possum Update?
As an inevitable result, there are both positive and negative impacts of the Google Possum update on many businesses. Let us examine what SEO specialists around the world discovered as the new changes after the Possum update.
The user’s location is more important than ever.
It has been discovered that a user’s physical
location will trigger different search results to appear. The best example of
this feature would be the “Near me” search option. Even a small
locational change, like a few meters, will provide slightly varied search
results for the exact search query. For mobile searches, the results will be
based on the GPS location. On the other hand, the results will be based on the
IP address’s location for desktop searches.
For example, the results will be different for
a person in Los Angeles searching for “supermarkets in Los Angeles”
and another person in New York searching for “supermarkets in Los
Slightly different keywords will provide slightly different results.
There is more ranking variation provided by the
Possum update based on the order of the keywords. Take the search for a
pediatrician as an example. The search queries “Los Angeles
pediatrician,” “pediatrician Los Angeles,” and
“pediatrician in Los Angeles” can and will provide different results.
So, it is safe to say that the update is sensitive to keyword changes.
The business address will be a major determining factor to appear on SERP.
As we have stated before, businesses that share
the same physical address and affiliation will be filtered out of the search
results to prevent duplication.
In the past, every lawyer in a law firm used to have their own Google My Business (GBM) pages, with the same address. Besides, Google would only filter out the same phone number or domain. However, with the Google Possum update, different businesses with the same addresses will be filtered out.
It should also be noted that the GBM pages are
not being deleted from the search results entirely. Instead, they appear lower
in the rankings.
Businesses that are outside the city limits now get a chance.
Before the Possum update, local SEO specialists
used to have trouble getting their clients ranked if their business location
was outside the city. For example, if a supermarket was located very close to
Ohio but still outside the border, it would not appear on the SERP given the
search query “supermarket in Ohio.” They were only visible on the
However, the Possum algorithm now determines
the qualifications of the business to rank it or not. It makes it easier for
businesses that are slightly away from the city center to be visible on the
The local filter is now more independent of the organic filter.
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Two different local search algorithms are operating: one is for local searches (Google Maps), and the other is organic listings (Google.com). In the past, a domain linked to a GMB listing would be excluded from the organic search results, affecting the website’s SEO, visibility, and ranking on the Google Maps for local searches.
With the Possum update, local searches (such as
“supermarkets near me”) and organic searches (only searching
“supermarkets”) provide different results.
How to Recover From Possum?
If you had a high-ranking Google My Business
listing that disappeared after the Possum update on September 1, 2016, there
are some improvements and adjustments you can take into consideration to
recover your visibility on SERP.
There is no easy way out of the Possum update
strikes to recover your former Google ranking if the algorithm filters your
business out due to share address or affiliation. Moreover, adding a made-up
number in the address will not ake any difference either. However, you can try
the following adjustments:
- Google always shows up the most relevant result based on the search query after crawling and indexing millions of web pages. Thus, improving the local SEO of your business (including domain authority, backlinks, updating content, accurate citations, and such) will help Google understand that your business should be the one to rank among other businesses on the same address.
- You can also consider changing your business category in Google My Business. This will help your business differentiate from other similar businesses in the same location. It would help if you still were careful while changing your business category because it still needs to be relevant to what you are actually offering.
Google Possum In Short
The Google Possum update has considerably changed how business rankings differ from each search query, from local to organic. However, Google is always testing algorithms. So, it would be wise for SEO specialists to follow the latest news to better in SEO activities. In short, it has always been a critical goal for businesses to have online visibility and reputation since the development of the internet; and Google Possum update is one of the many vital points to consider this goal.