Google released an unannounced update to their local ranking algorithm, affecting the visibility of Google Maps and businesses contained within.
Dubbed Possum by the local SEO community (business owners think their Google My Business listings are gone when in fact they are not. They have just been filtered — they’re ‘playing possum’). Google say that this update has ‘improved’ the listings for local search queries.
What does this mean?
The main purpose of this update appears to be diversification to prevent spam locations from ranking well. Key observations include;
- Businesses that fall outside of the physical city limits saw a spike in ranking
- Google is now filtering based on address and affiliation
- The physical location of the searcher is more important than it was before
- Search results vary more based on slight variations of the keyword searched
- The local filter seems to be running more independently from the organic filter
It appears more important than ever to ensure your local data is aligned, and free of conflicting information.
Final thoughts: what this means for your rankings
Whilst the implications of Possum aren’t as far reaching as the Penguin 4.0 update, we expect it to affect most brick and mortar businesses in some way. Local businesses could experience a decline in real-world interactions. A local taxi firm, for example, may experience an unexplained reduction in calls and bookings as a direct result of decreased organic visibility.
Whether the business is ever able to tie these two together greatly depends upon how local searches and previous visibility impacts the business. We urge all businesses to track their local organic data within Google Analytics, and GMB consoles.