On September 1, 2016, a huge local algorithm update has happened. Possum is the name given by the local search community to this algorithm update. The name suits the best to the update as many business owners think that their Google My Business listings are gone but actually they are not. They only get filtered, i.e. they are playing Possum.
Possum is said to be the biggest update in Local after pigeon 2014. According to the evidences, this major update has only affected in 3-pack and local google map results. It is believed that the main purpose of this update was to variegate the local search results and stop spam results from ranking.
The main thing that is updated, is the Google’s filter that applies to the local results. After this update, a lot of fluctuation has been reported in local search results.
Previously, a local filter filtered out the profiles that have similar numbers and domain. Google filters duplicate content organically to give the best relevant result for users. Showing the thousands of results from the same company is not best for users. After this update, we are seeing a lot of businesses filtered out due to the address of the business listingS same as the other in the same category.
1. Consider you are searching for “Personal Gym Trainer in Delhi” and you get 16 results in local finder. Assume there are 5 listings using the same address “44 Lajpat Nagar, Delhi” that are all personal gym trainer in Delhi. Currently, 1 will be visible and other 4 will get filtered out. To see the filtered results, you can zoom in on the map. Now, you will see more results, including the above 4 filtered results.
2. Let’s take another example in which a business owner has 2 business listings and both have different domains, phone numbers, and addresses. The ranking of both the listings flips back and forth daily, but never appear together. The reason behind this kind of results was that although the addresses were different, but technically both the businesses were in the same building. The addresses were different based on the side of the street you come from. This shows that google is more sophisticated than just looking at the address you put in Google my Business.
3. In another case, there is a cardiologist who owns 2 different practices. Both have different addresses, buildings, NAP, doctors, and sites. The only connection is that he owns both the listings. Both the listings will be shown in 3-pack for different keyword and will not be shown together for any keyword. This shows that google now really knows about who owns multiple companies.
You should understand that Google is not removing the listing or preventing them from ranking. This filtration of search results is NOT a penalty. It’s just that google is now picking the most relevant and best listing and filters the other that are too similar.
There is an e-learning company that has noticed that many of their locations were not ranked in 3-pack. If a keyword was searched from their head office in London, they are showing the results completely different from the one which is in Mohali. The business is in Mohali and farther you go, more the map will be zoomed out and more the ranking will be dropped.
The businesses that technically fall outside the city were having hard times to rank for any particular keyword that has the city name. After Possum, these type of businesses have huge increase in their local rankings.
We can see a lot of fluctuation in local search results. There are various ranking trackers that are the proof of this biggest local update. It may possible that some of the things they changed get revert back.