Google’s Newest Local Algorithm Update: What You Need To Know


Whether you’ve noticed it or not, a huge change recently occurred in the ranking of local search results.  In what has been referred to as the biggest Google local search algorithm update in the past few years, Google has shaken up its local pack and finder snippets.  Many businesses have noticed their rankings drop and are often missing the local pack and map finder spots as a result.

The latest update from Google has earned the nickname “Possum” because when businesses have noticed they are not in search results, they believe their listings have been removed, when really they have only been filtered (or have been “playing possum”).  Although the new update will change the way your business appears in local search, it IS possible for your business to appear.  Here’s what you need to know about the update.

Proximity To Your Searchers Is Key

Perhaps the most important ranking factor in the “Possum” local algorithm update is proximity to your searchers, as well as your users’ locations.  During an analysis of listing rankings by zip code, it has been reported that listing rankings dropped significantly only in zip codes that the business wasn’t actually in.  Additionally, many SEOs have reported that the average distance between a search location and the results in the local pack has been drastically reduced, often cut in half.

However, there is a silver lining.  Since the update is focused primarily on proximity, local businesses that are just outside a city’s limits can show up for searches more often than in the past.

The Update Will Not Affect Service Area Businesses

In a move that has certainly sparked curiosity, Google also announced limits to service areas that can be added by businesses.  This limit was announced to be 20 cities, districts, and/or postal codes per listing.  There have been concerns that the Google Possum update was related to service area businesses, but research, testing, and analysis have proven this to be false.  Additionally, changing your service area geographies in Google My Business will not change your rankings in the areas you select.

Make Sure Your Local Citation Information Is Accurate

Another important ranking factor in the Google Possum update is listing relevance.  How do you prove your listing’s relevance?  Make sure the information on all your listing pages are 100% correct and relevant.  Remove duplicate listings and incorrect information and build new local citations at every opportunity.  What else can make your listing more relevant?  Reviews!

Ask for Customer Reviews

Your customers are your biggest advocates. This is the case in any business, and it is no different for local search.  If you have more reviews (especially more favorable ones) with keywords related to your business, you are more likely to show up for relevant searches.  Any content on your listing is content that can be crawled by Google which will influence your rankings.  That includes reviews!  How do you get more reviews?  Ask your users for them!

For your business to thrive in the new local search landscape that the new Google local search algorithm update shaped, your local search strategy needs to emphasize relevance, accuracy, and credibility.  Build citations at every opportunity, get reviews from your customers, and give search engines all the accurate information about your business that you can.  Do those things, and you’ll maximize your chances of showing up for the relevant local searches your business wants.

Do you want to bring your local search strategy to the next level?  Drop us a line!