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Google's Possum Update - What it Means for Your Business

Posted by Rick Lambert on Wed, Oct 12, 2016


It goes without saying that where your business ranks when potential customers search for the products and services you sell is paramount to driving site traffic and sales revenue.

Traditional thinking suggested that having your website rank on page one of Google search results was enough to channel prospects to your website. Now, studies show that you need to rank as one of the top three organic links (not paid for ads that most people don’t look at) to be truly considered. In fact, some experts argue that the top three organic search results at the top of page one of a Google search gets no less than 75% of the click through results when the users search results are presented.

Stat:  The top three organic search results at the top of page one of a Google search gets no less than 75% of the click through results.

This is why the optimization of your website can make or break your flow of inbound traffic. And to keep you on your toes, Google regularly updates its search engine algorithm to improve its user experience and deliver more relevant search results. In layman terms, each update includes new levels of intelligence that businesses need to be aware of to ensure their website is optimized properly for Google's new set of rules.

The latest installment of these updates has become known as Possum, and SEO experts are saying that this is the biggest update that we've seen on local search results since Pigeon in 2014. 

Since this algorithm update on September 1, 2016, many business owners have become concerned that their Google My Business listings have vanished. However, in reality, it appears that these listings are just being filtered by Google--playing Possum if you will. 

So what does Google's Possum update mean for your business? Here are three key ways that this algorithm update may be affecting your website's ranking:

1. Businesses falling outside of the physical city limits will get a boost in search rankings.

Historically, if you searched for "coffee shops in Boston," only coffee shops that were physically located in Boston would appear at the top of search results. Therefore, if you operate a business that is technically located in a census-designated place just outside of Boston, your local search strategy was probably suffering based on the old parameters that Google used. 

However, given the new algorithm update, businesses that fall just outside of the physical borders of a city are now experiencing huge spikes in their search rankings. This is because the new algorithm is able to intelligently recognize additional geographical terms that represent the same area and consider those locations within the search results.

2. Google now filters for address and affiliation.

In the past, Google has filtered out profiles that shared the same phone number or domain from search results in an effort to avoid serving duplications to users. This is anticipated to clean up multiple results showing from the same company clogging up the Google search results.

With the latest algorithm update, Google is now taking this one step further by filtering out businesses in a similar category that share the same address. For instance, you may have a law firm located at one address with five different listings. However, with the Possum update, only one of these listings will appear in search results. Again, the intelligence of the new algorithm is able to collect connected search results from the same organization and streamline them into one search result. Further to this, a website's mobile readiness is also becoming increasingly more important as the physical location of the search changes according to where the mobile user performs the search.

Stat:  Approximately 12 – 17% of B2B searches are now performed on mobile devices vs. desktop computers.

3. Businesses owned by the same parent company are being impacted in search results.

Given the new algorithm update, two medical practices owned by the same parent company but with different physical addresses could be impacted in search results. In this scenario, Google now takes into account the parent company and may only include one of these medical practices in search results. 

In our opinion, this is yet another attempt by Google to purify the search results and improve the user experience.


There’s no need to panic. The good news for your business is that Google continues to make changes that will level the playing field allowing smaller businesses the opportunity to rank with improved search intelligence. The other news is that businesses, large and small, need to be reminded that SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and the “mobile readiness” of their website are becoming increasingly critical components of their web strategy. These are two key areas that may require adjustments to maximize their visibility with prospects searching for what they sell. 

If you believe the people you sell to are performing searches before buying your products and services, Google’s new Possum update is just another reminder of why your website is no longer a “set it and forget it” part of your business.

Are you concerned about how the Google Possum update is impacting your website? Contact us at IN2communications to learn more about properly optimizing your website.

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Topics: SEO

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