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Google Possum 101: Everything You Need to Know About Google’s Latest Algorithm

“Possum” is Google’s latest algorithm update, having gone into effect on September 1st, 2016. Unlike previous algorithm updates such as 2011’s “Panda” and 2012’s “Penguin”, the “Possum” update isn’t focused on general keyword rankings — your site’s ranking based on backlink juice and on-page SEO should be unaffected. Instead, “Possum” is primarily focused on optimizing Google’s local search results, including user searches on Google Maps.

 

The Basics of “Possum”

“Possum” is the biggest algorithm update to Google’s local results since the release of “Pigeon” in 2014. Essentially, “Possum” accomplishes two things: it optimizes local results to include a greater number of relevant businesses, and it helps weed out spammy websites that were manipulating Google’s previous algorithm with tactics such as fake user reviews and duplicate or irrelevant on-page content stuffed with keywords.

The Specifics of “Possum”

While Google never releases the actual coding of their algorithms to the public, analyzing the rankings of hundreds of websites makes it easy to determine the three major things “Possum” accomplishes.

1: It’s optimized for businesses that fall outside of city limits.

Previously, Google’s results were much more specific when a user searched for a city name. For example, if a user searched for “car dealers in Detroit”, dealerships that were located just outside of the city limits would likely be excluded from the user’s results.

With the “Possum” update, Google is much more concerned with the user’s actual location rather than arbitrary city limits. Therefore, nearby businesses that are technically outside of the city the user types in are featured in the user’s results, and many of those businesses have experienced a huge spike in traffic since “Possum” went into effect.

2: The address and affiliation of businesses is now taken into consideration.

Previously, Google’s local results were mostly concerned with the name and website of featured businesses. As such, a lot of businesses employed questionable tactics to reach more users. For example, they would create multiple websites for their business using different names so that several of the results a user received from a search all linked to their business.

With the “Possum” update, Google has begun filtering out duplicate pages. A business has to have a physical address associated with it to feature prominently in local results. If a business has multiple sites associated with the same physical address, the duplicate websites will most likely be filtered out of a user’s search results. That’s bad news for spammers, but good news for businesses that were being buried beneath a multitude of duplicate pages all linking back to the same competitor.

3: The user’s physical location is paramount.

A user’s ISP address allows Google to get a pretty good idea of where they’re located. Furthermore, users who are logged into their Google accounts while performing searches often have a specific address associated with their account.

The “Possum” update has made a user’s current location extremely important when it comes to the search results they see. Relevant businesses that are closest to the user when they perform a search are now featured near the top of the user’s local results. No matter what kind of other SEO tactics you are using, your business will almost always be outranked by whichever businesses are located nearest to the user.

Understanding Google’s Local Results

When a user searches for keywords related to local businesses (e.g. “dentist offices in Manhattan”), Google prioritizes the sites of businesses located near the user. Google Maps appears prominently at the top of the user’s search results. Relevant businesses are pinpointed on the map, and a list of those businesses appears directly below the map with links to the businesses’ websites.

If you own a business that isn’t featured on Google’s local results, you’re missing out on a ton of potential customers. Therefore, optimizing your web presence on Google’s local results is equally as important as optimizing other SEO factors.

Use geotags on all of your content to ensure that your business is properly localized by Google. Additionally, incentivize your customers to leave positive Google reviews of your business by offering them coupons and other deals. That way, when future customers search for keywords related to your business, your website will be featured near the top of Google’s local results. You’ll also have a high star-rating from a multitude of previous customers which will give your business authority and drastically increase your chances of acquiring new customers.

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