Google’s search algorithm released significant updates last month. Did you happen to see a change in your local or organic rankings?
Before you review your traffic and ranking reports for the last 6-8 weeks, you should have a firm grasp of what algorithm changes were made. Not only will you understand the recent changes at a higher level, but you’ll be in a better position to make any necessary updates to your website, Google My Business page and link profile.
Google Possum & Your Local Listing Rankings
If you have a Google My Business (GMB) listing and provide a local service or are trying to drive customers to a physical brick-and-mortar location, your local search rankings were likely impacted by Google Possum.
The Google Possum algorithm update was released on September 1st, 2016 and affected local listing results and rankings. More specifically, this update affected how local search listings are returned based on the location of the searcher, the location of the business and neighboring businesses in the same industry.
While some of the changes have caused businesses to wonder if their GMB profile disappeared altogether, the fluctuations are simply in line with Google’s efforts to deliver diversified, relevant results for each local search.
5 Ways Google Possum Altered Local Map and Ranking Results
1. Businesses With An Address Further From the City Center Received a Local Listing Boost!
Previously, local pack results rewarded businesses located within city limits or closest to the city center. Most often, this occurred because the physical address of a business included the city name that was often used in local searches, for example digital agency Chicago.
Now, a search for digital agency Chicago is more likely to include results for agencies in the surrounding Chicago suburbs, not just the downtown area. It seems that the local results for city-specific keyword searches will now include businesses in surrounding areas, not only the exact location searched.
2. Enhanced Filtering for GMB Profiles With the Same Address and Industry
Prior to the Google Possum release, local pack results were filtering out (not showing) GMB profiles with the same phone number or website, such as those for colleagues and business partners – only one result per phone number and/or website was shown at a time.
Now, local results are getting filtered to an even greater extent – businesses with the same address and industry, often in completely unrelated companies, are now being filtered. Although this filtering is simply Google’s attempt to deliver the most relevant result from a list of similar services and professionals, it certainly is bad news for similar companies sharing an office space or building!
3. Your Physical Location When Searching is More Important Than Before
Local results and rankings will differ drastically based on just how close or far you are away from the location you are searching for. And, while your IP address will be used to show map results based on your location, the appearance of the map may also differ depending on your proximity to local search you are conducting. Google map results will appear more zoomed in if you are near your local search and more zoomed out the farther you are from that location when searching. Therefore, when you’re looking at your company’s local rankings results, it is especially important to outline the geolocation(s) of your local traffic.
4. Local Filters and Organic Filters Are Less Interwoven
Before Google Possum, your local rankings could suffer if you had a local result link to an organic search result that Google was filtering out. At this time, there seems to be less of a correlation between the local filtered GMB pages and organic filtered results. The organic ranking of a business web page and the corresponding local result now seem to operate independently from each other.
5. Map Results Are More Sensitive to Local Keyword Variations
Variations for local keywords are now making a larger impact on local results. Whereas similar local searches prior to Possum might have returned similar results, now, searches for terms like digital agency Chicago and Chicago’s best digital marketing agency are more likely to return unique results based on Google’s determination of the most relevant local result for the given search.
As a result, Possum has made it more important to use multiple local modifiers when referring to your business type and location. But, before you diversify long-tail localized keywords as part of your local strategy, make sure to conduct thorough research to identify the local terms you should optimize for.
Penguin 4.0 – Finally, Google Offers Real-Time Link Value Rewards
Penguin 4.0 was released on September 23rd, 2016. The key benefit of this release was the real-time impact that it delivered to websites working to improve the quality of their link profile.
In previous iterations of Google’s Penguin algorithm, in order for a website to be recognized for their link building and/or disavowal efforts, a large-scale ‘refresh’ of the Penguin algorithm had to be released. Now, however, Penguin 4.0 helps conduct a regular effort to crawl and assess a website’s links in near real-time. In fact, the Penguin 4.0 algorithm changes now join the core Google algorithm ranking factors returning results in relevant SERPs.
Additionally, Penguin 4.0 has shifted from penalizing websites for poor-quality links to de-valuing those links. Instead of the entire website being dragged down, specific links and pages tied to unnatural, paid or poor-quality links are now demoted in the rankings.
While it’s still important to avoid paid links and ensure inbound links are coming from quality sources, Penguin 4.0 helps make sure your website’s link profile is recognized and reevaluated on a more regular basis. Basically, you can now receive quicker rewards for following link guidelines!
Google Possum & Penguin 4.0 Conclusion
Google’s algorithms continue to evolve in an effort to return better results to users. For business owners interested in local optimizations or SEO it’s important to stay abreast of changes to the local rankings and search space so that you can make the necessary updates over time. Don’t wait until it’s too late!
To make sure you get the most value out of the Google Possum update it is important that you have an optimized GMB listing with correct contact information, photos and reviews if possible.
As far as Penguin 4.0 is concerned, you shouldn’t be too concerned about following any new rules tied to link values. However, if this topic doesn’t ring a bell and you have some questions about your link profile, it never hurts to reach out to your trusted digital marketing team for an evaluation and action plan to align your link building efforts with Google’s algorithmic guidelines and ranking factors.