Several weeks ago on September 1, what quickly became known as the Google Possum update was launched by the company. Those with stakes in SEO are always on the prowl for updates to Google’s search algorithms, and this is being viewed as Google’s biggest update since Pigeon in 2014. Whilst the update strengthened the relevance of a search query in terms of preventing spam-heavy sites from ranking well, there were some strange repercussions.

Unlike most of Google’s past algorithm updates, Possum is primarily affecting local search results – or Google Maps results – and has little to no affiliation with organic results.

Such effects included large fluctuations in results between similar keywords. Before the update, searches containing related keywords like “Thai restaurant Castle Hill” and “Castle Hill Thai food” would generally produce the same content, but not after Possum.

Local search results were largely diversified. There was a pattern of businesses operating just outside of an area that was mentioned in a search query having a huge spike in their ranking. This is an intelligent move by Google as these businesses are still relevant to the search query and shouldn’t be left out, even if they don’t operate exactly within the regions limits. It also gives the searcher a broader range of nearby options.

Another outcome of Possum was that Google started filtering its results based on addresses and associations between businesses. A lot of businesses were filtered out if they had the same address as other businesses of the same category who operated in the same building or very close by. For example, if there were several accounting firms located in very close proximity, Google may only show one or two of them when on the default Google Maps zoom. Only by zooming in would the rest of the firms show up, and this affected many businesses.

The Possum update has also made the location of the user an important factor in a search. Depending on where the search engine user is located, Google will display a different set of results. This is quite a good change as a search query will now produce more relevant and accurate information.

As mentioned, Possum is a relatively new update so there isn’t a lot of information on it yet. Adjusting to the Possum updates to ensure you have strong SEO is key so once we know more on how to do so, there’ll be another post – stay tuned.

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