Have you heard? Google’s set a possum free, and he’s wreaking havoc on local search. As a local SEO expert, let’s share what you need to know to stay on top.
September 2016 was quite an interesting month for local SEOs.
Many dread Google’s algorithm updates, and like the others, this latest update was a mixed bag of pleasant (and not so pleasant) surprises.
Google Possum definitely shook up the local SEO world, but it was also a reminder of how crucial local SEO is for small business.
These stats sure do speak for themselves:
- Nearly 78% of all local-based mobile searches lead to off-site purchases.
- On average, 89% of consumers search for at least one local business a week, with about 58% searching for a local business daily.
- Half of all Google searches are local searches. Wow!
But is Possum all sunshine and roses?
Yes and no.
On one hand, it addressed a critical issue that was cutting into local business profits. At the same time, Possum opened the door to new SEO challenges.
To illustrate, let’s quickly go over how Google’s algorithm updates work in general.
Why Does Google Filter Results?
In an effort to prevent spam from dominating SERPS, Google releases periodic updates to filter out or completely deindex low-quality web pages.
However, despite the intention to keep search results high-quality, many local business owners found their own business listings filtered from local search results.
As you know, Google takes duplicate content seriously. Very seriously.
Algorithms are designed to crawl, spot, and drop duplicate blogs, essays, website content, press releases, articles, and any other type of duplicate written content.
They’re also designed to down rank irrelevant content as well.
For example, if you wrote a 100% unique web page targeting the keyword, “organic pet food”, but the content had nothing to do with organic pet food, Google would ding you for irrelevant, low-quality content and you would loose your ranking.
But here’s the kicker. Google also crawls business addresses, phone numbers, and exact city locations.
So why is this such a big deal for local SEO?
How Previous Algorithms Hurt Local Businesses
In its quest to rid the web of duplicate, irrelevant content, Google indirectly created some major marketing problems for business owners and local SEOs.
Businesses located outside of the city limits they serve were filtered from local results for irrelevancy, but not from overall organic results.
Consider the following example:You own a catering business that services Miami residents, but the business address itself is right outside of Miami. Therefore, you would have noticed a severe drop in your local SERP results for Miami catering services.
As a result, you would have found it more difficult to compete online with other Miami-based catering services. Plus, you would have run your money into the ground with low-performing Geo-targeted SEO campaigns.
But that all seemed to change September 1st, 2016.
A Good Day To Be A Local SEO Expert: Possum Fixes City Limit Filters
Far and away, the best news to come out of the Possum update is the change in city limit filtering.
Earlier, you learned that if a business’s actual address lies outside of the servicing area itself, then that business struggled to rank for that area.
But not anymore!
The primary reason for the Possum update was to rid local results of spam and diversify the results themselves. Moreover, it aimed to address the very real problem of city limit filtering and its effect on millions of local businesses.
Since the September 1st update, these businesses have already seen a huge spike in their local SERPS, putting them back in the local marketing game.
Businesses once left out of local search can now enjoy the following benefits:
- Brick and mortar business boost! When people perform a local business search on their phone, they’re 50% more likely to visit that business within one day.
- Enjoy greater competition with local competitors online.
- No restrictions to Geo-targeted marketing campaigns.
- Greater website traffic. Remember that almost half of searches performed on Google are local searches.
The Not So Great News: Address Filtering
Filtering business results that share the same phone number is nothing new, but Possum has put some intense filtering pressure on business addresses specifically.
Remember that Google algorithms hunt down duplicate content, so not even addresses are immune now.
So how strict is this new address filter?
Let’s consider the following example:
Suppose you own a boutique marketing agency that’s located inside an office building. This means, you technically share the same main address with the other businesses in your building.
Typically, it’s the suite number that would separate you from the rest of the businesses in the building. However, if there are other marketing businesses in the building, Possum may create some additional SEO trouble for you.
For example, if there are five other marketing agencies in your building with the same address, then Possum may deem your result as duplicate and filter you out.
Thus far, it remains to be seen how Possum’s strict address filtering will ultimately affect local business owners.
If you currently share a main office building address with similar businesses, you should definitely consult your local SEO expert to prepare for such challenges.
Local Personalized Results Are Bigger Than Ever
Google is always striving to personalize the search experience.
Since Possum, Google has put more emphasis on using IP addresses to deliver relevant results to each individual user.
So what does this mean for you? Consider this scenario:
Suppose you own a floral business in Burlington, Vermont called “Pete’s Flowers”, and there’s an event planner from Burlington attending a meeting in a neighboring city.
That same event planner is looking for a flower vendor and heard your name in passing. However, they don’t have your address or phone number. It’s a common business name, so they perform a local search for “Pete’s Flowers.”
But your business didn’t pop up on the first page. Why?
Instead, that event planner received local results for flower businesses that were nearest to her location.
Moreover, Possum is also giving more scrutiny to the order of local SEO Keywords as well and delivering different results for similar keywords
For example, “hotel marketing Dallas” may not necessarily deliver similar results as “hotel marketing in Dallas TX”
Possum is still fresh, so it remains to be seen how effective or destructive the update will have on local SEO.
As with every Google update, make sure to receive a local SEO audit to make sure you’re adhering to the latest SEO best practices.
Owner and Chief Marketing Officer, Jason Hall, and his team specialize in creating brand awareness / traffic and lead generation / marketing funnel and conversion optimization, while utilizing the appropriate marketing channels available within your industry. With diverse clients throughout the world, Jason's team is well connected within many industries to assist with your marketing strategies. With no long term contracts and various levels of service, Jason's team will increase the quality of your online traffic, leads, and sales.
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About the author...
Located in the heart of the Emerald Coast - Destin, FL, founder and Chief Marketing Officer, Jason Hall, and his team specialize in creating brand awareness / traffic and lead generation / marketing funnel and conversion optimization / and PR campaigns, while utilizing the appropriate marketing channels available within your industry.
With diverse clients throughout the world, Jason's team is well connected within many industries to assist with your marketing strategies. With no long term contracts and various levels of service, Jason's team will increase the quality of your online traffic, leads, and sales.