Google released a new major search update that shook up local search results — without really explaining it, naturally. Apparently, naming your search engine algorithm updates after avians is for the birds, too, because everyone’s deciding to call this one “Possum.”
The name comes from the fact that some businesses Google My Business results have been seemingly disappearing in search, even though they really haven’t. This effect — My Business search results only “pretending to be dead” — prompted bored marketing wonks to label the new update “Possum.” Other possum effects include Google being less picky about whether your business resides in the target city and being more picky about similar-looking businesses that share an address or an owner.
All of these changes indicate the split that has emerged as Google aims to provide more value to local search users.
1. Filtering Out Local Results Based on Address or Affiliation
The most alarming result of the update is business local listings that were once ranking now appear to have vanished. Good news: they haven’t! In truth, Google is trying to be more selective about the top local search rankings it shows in order to avoid duplicate listings. Other listings can be seen by digging deeper or zooming in a bit on the local map results.
On paper, the idea to filter out similar businesses will help a search user find more diverse choices from their query. In reality, different businesses with similar fields that share an address have been somewhat dropping off the face of the earth. For instance, Search Engine Land provides the example of multiple law firms sharing the same office building, only to get penalized by Google for it.
Even more bizarrely, some businesses with separate addresses but similar affiliations are also getting filtered out. Which one gets the shaft varies from search to search, seemingly alternating between the possibilities with every instance.
These issues will likely get ironed out as Google improves the algorithm over time, so businesses that previously ranked well should not fret for now.
2. Google Now Includes Businesses That Lie Outside the Local Search Boundary
We get lazy when we talk, so we often refer to places like Roswell, Decatur, Druid Hills and so on as “Atlanta.” Well, Google used to not buy that, so if you had the “Best Atlanta Carwash for Washing Cars in Atlanta” (or, hopefully, something better) but its address was actually in College Park, you would likely get filtered out of the top search results rankings.
Now, Google decides to give credit where it’s due and obey other ranking signals for “peripheral” businesses in local search. As a result, some businesses saw their local search in nearby huge markets skyrocket overnight. This change happens to be great news for businesses that lie on the outskirts of major metro areas.
3. Keyword Ordering Seems to Matter More
Searching for different phrasings of the same term, like “personal injury lawyer in Miami” versus “Miami personal injury attorney” used to yield mostly identical results, but now they show slight variation in local SERPs. No word yet on how this will affect long-tail strategies or targeted keyword use, but we imagine the effects won’t be too dramatic.
4. Google Local and Google Organic Drift Apart
It used to be that Google organic and Google local search algorithms were a tight crew, inseparable. Now, it seems that when the Google local algorithm takes over, it can throw a lot of general search SEO efforts out of whack. In all honesty, the shift is good news for local businesses with a local market. For e-commerce and other broad-reach businesses, time will tell if small-time competitors eat into their SERPs visibility.
Rest assured that EverSpark Interactive is staying on top of these developments as they occur and will update you when any important changes reveal themselves. Get the benefit of our always-up-to-date SEO panache by contacting us to become partners today!
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