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possum-filter updates to Google

Understanding How Google Possum Filters Results

Posted October 27, 2016 in Local Search

Google’s latest local algorithm update continues the journey toward merging local and organic ranking signals. Google is now applying filters to businesses that are physically located closest to the searcher, and Google is also optimizing the local result data and content better than ever.

What kind of filters? Let’s look at this example:

Google Possum’s Local Business Filters In Action

Before the Possum Update: Jane is a Beverly Hills resident looking for a Plastic Surgeon to perform her Mommy Makeover, so she does a local search in Google to find a qualified specialist. In Jane’s area, a major medical facility has five prominent Plastic Surgeons who have all spent considerable time and money working on their local presence. Three of the five appear in the Local Search results and appear in the maps. Jane’s options for a Mommy Makeover all come from the same medical facility.

After the Possum Update: Jane conducts the same Google search for a Mommy Makeover Specialist, but instead of a single facility dominating the local results, Google has allocated more of the local real estate to other medical centers near to Jane to provide her with more diverse results.

What has Google done differently?

Nothing they haven’t already done before! For years now, Google has been making it harder for large brands like Amazon and Best Buy to dominate search results for their products. Google doesn’t want size and prominence to be the most important factors in their search results.

This change — previously applied to the Organic search results —  has now made its way to the local level.

Competition with Your Neighbors is Greater than Ever

As my example above indicates, Google’s Possum algorithm has significantly increased competition for similar businesses that are closely clustered together. These clusters can be anything from:

  • Multiple surgeons in the same hospital
  • Partners located in the exact same practice and office suite
  • Different practices in the same medical center with entirely different suites
  • The same practice with multiple locations in the same city

Possum has made it much less likely that similar businesses that are clustered together will dominate search results. At first glance, this may seem horrific for your business. Most medical professionals find themselves inherently clustered together. However, all hope is not lost.

How to Beat the Local Competition (Your Neighbors)

If you are a plastic surgeon or medical professional operating your business in one of these high-density clusters, you still have options (other than moving your office!).

Evaluate your Local Optimization:

  • Is your data (Name, Address, Phone Number, etc) accurate on EVERY major listing? Start with Google, Yelp, Yellow Pages, and the Major Data Aggregators.
  • Are your profiles populated to 100% completion? If you can add three categories, then add three categories. If you can add photos, biographies, or any other fields, be sure to do so.
  • Do you have high-quality images and additional attributes to differentiate your listing from your competitors? For example, do you validate parking? Be sure to add optimized images of both your staff and office location.

If you are stuck in a business cluster (filtered already or not), your goal should be to outperform (a.k.a. out-optimize) your neighbors. It’s not enough to squeeze out a 1% improvement — you need to outperform by a wide margin to overcome the filter, especially if your neighbors are doing the exact same thing!

Optimizing your local presence is now more important than ever. If you should require any assistance with your Local Optimization, don’t hesitate to give Plastic Surgery Studios a call at (888) 525-6360.