The Possum update in September 2016 flew largely under the radar…but it impacted around 2/3 of local searches. Why? SEOs tend to spend their time focussing on organic search listings rather than local SEO. In fact, for some they represent two different disciplines a bit like singles tennis and doubles tennis. The problem with ignoring this update is that local search offers a huge opportunity for businesses to not only gain traffic from users visiting their site (or contacting them) directly from Google Maps but also the opportunity to increase your authority by appearing in both the top 3 organic search results as well as the ‘3 pack’ in search results.

Let’s get one thing straight. Google doesn’t always give random animal names to their updates. This one appears to have been born out of a portion of the SEO community that want to keep the animal name tradition alive. Good going guys, way to pick a rubbish nickname.

Anyhow, back to the update:

The Possum update had a major impact on searches by filtering out what could be duplicate or fake listings and apparently giving less emphasis to having a physical location in a city, i.e being able to rank for location specific searches if you happen to be just outside that location.

Location of the Searcher matters

This one is a little strange. There is increased focus on the location of the searcher in the Possum update. But wait, wasn’t that something that was started/carried on by the Venice Update? Haven’t Google been serving up more and more local results over the years? The answer is yes they have so no real change here, safe to say that local map listings will be served to the searcher using location as one of the ranking factors. Possum has merely provided a boost to this local style searching.

Just another piece of evidence that Google is not joking when it comes to mobile search.

Forget City Limits

Okay so don’t forget them but traditionally if your business fell outside the city limits defined on Google Maps you would be very hard pushed to rank in the map listings for that city or area. Google appear to have relaxed this rule and through what we can only imagine are some very complex criteria will make a judgement call as to whether you qualify to rank for a given search term. It is unlikely that this means that you can now go and rank for far afield locations, it just means that those that have been perhaps somewhat unfairly discounted are now given a chance. Remember that there are a number of factors being taken into account for every search.

More Filters are in Place

Google likes to give searchers some variety. That is why it is often difficult to get multiple pages to rank for the same search term in organic search. Possum makes this the same for local search. If a business has multiple Google My Business pages for a single address or multiple sites it is now more likely that Google will only show one listing. The standard commentary on this update uses dentists and law firms as an example – multiple businesses operating under one name. Think of this as a method of not only providing variety but also ensuring that duplicate content and fake accounts do not provide a bad user experience for the searcher.

When we were first getting our heads around this it threw up a potential problem. We are about to move into a co-working space in South East London – does this mean that we might be demoted due to the fact that we shared a building with multiple businesses? This would be an issue for a lot of businesses working in larger buildings but this update appears to only affect those listings that are linked, i.e part of the same business, duplicates or fakes.

Separation from the Organic Filter

The filters applied to the 3 pack and map listings do not appear to be correlated with the filters applied to the organic search results. Another confusing message for SEOs – how is organic search correlated (if at all) to local search and vice versa..