If you've been online in the last few weeks (are you human?), you've seen something to do with the new Google Possum update. The update occurred on September 1st, and has been taking the Internet by storm every since.
If you’re not 100% familiar with how SEO works, and why Google plays such a major role in it, let's just quickly recap. What it really comes down to it this: the amount of inbound traffic your website receives is directly dependent upon how fully optimized it is. An easy way to determine how well you’re playing to SEO game? Find out where you rank on Google... which is, let's face it, all that really matters these days when it comes to the Internet.
Something many people don't know about Google, though, unless you've got an IT wiz on your side like we do, is that they regularly update the search engine’s algorithm. Why do this? To improve the customer experience, of course! (Google is good like that, always looking out for us little guys). But the constant updating can get confusing. To make your life a little easier, we’ve put together a list of the 3 biggest changes coming from Possum, and why they’re important to your business and its reality online.
- Local Results
Look up the words Google and Possum online and Local Results is probably one of the first things that will come up. Search Engine Land did a great job explaining this local results phenomenon when it comes to Possum, and we understand it something like this: if a business falls outside of the "physical" city limits of a place, because of the Possum update, those same businesses will no longer have difficulty ranking for search phrases that contain location modifiers. Before, if your business wasn't directly downtown, say, rather 10 miles outside of the city proper, your ranking was bound to suffer tremendously, as attaining any of those keywords that include said city’s name, for instance, was pretty much impossible. With the update, that’s no longer the case, and there’s a much fairer Google Map-curve, if you will, available to both those being searched on Google, as well as those searching.
Note: There have been some complaints about the local results function since the implementation of Possum. Google is investing significant resources to improve this, though, and further revisions to the algorithm are sure to take place in order to increase its efficacy.
- Local Filters
The new update uses IP addresses in order to serve more tailored results to those searching, and Google's local filter works independently from its organic filters. What does all of this mean? Well, it's really a continuation of the last point, which goes to show that if you're searching from one location, you're going to get different results than if you're searching from another location 5 miles away. With Possum, there's a new 'rule' to go by when using the search engine: the further the distance, the lower the ranking. This makes a lot of sense, and really encourages the 'user friendly' aspect of Google that they're trying to increase.
The new algorithm also serves to get rid of duplicate results now, too. Google notices when the same phone number, website, or address appears under two different listings (this is often done when a business thinks they're being sneaky and garnering multiple click-opportunities). Well, with Possum, that is no more. This explains the name of the new algorithm, too. SEO expert Phil Rozek of Local Visibility System affectionately coined the update under the same name as the tricky animal… even though a business might think their listing is dead, it’s only been filtered out, or ‘playing possum’.
Note: because the geographical location of the searcher is now more important than ever before, it's imperative that the searcher’s location be set to the correct town, city, or region being targeted.
- Keyword Variation
Possum has made for some complicated changes in the keyword realm. Variations in keywords now have much more to do with what comes up in your results than ever before. If you're an inbound marketer like us, you know that a small change in phraseology, or order of words, can have a big impact on whether or not you rank for a certain keyword. Same goes for Google and what appears in Maps when a series of words or phrases are plugged into the search bar. For example, if you put "Hairdresser Hartford," or "Hartford Hairdresser," or "Hairdressers in Hartford, CT" you're likely to get a number of different results. Google is smarter than ever, and with those smarts comes heightened specifications for your phrase usage!
Note: take into consideration that with this change also comes ranking fluctuation between similar keywords.
The greatest changes made through Possum clearly have to do with local and map results, along with keyword rank. Because of these changes, many businesses have seen great jumps in their standing online—not to mention the fact that users are no longer being duped into thinking that they have more options than they really do (thanks, local filters).
Lots of changes came into play with Possum—even more than in 2014 when Pigeon rolled out. As is true of all good things, this one will take some time to get used to, and it’ll be a bit before all the kinks are worked out. But we hope this has helped you to better understand just what’s been going on with your favorite search engine.
Know about any other important changes that came with Possum last month? Let us know! We’re all ears.
Can-Do Ideas is a Digital Marketing agency specializing in Inbound Marketing and Inbound Sales. We are located in New York City and Connecticut.