You may or may not have heard about Google’s latest algorithm update, “Possum.” Possum is the largest update to the local search algorithm since the Pigeon update of 2014.
What Is the Possum Update?
“Possum” is a massive update to the local search algorithm and introduces filtered business results for businesses operating within “clusters.”
Right now, our data shows that the Possum update only impacts rankings in the Local 3-Pack and the map results. Currently, there is no evidence to indicate that any change was made to how organic results are determined.
The main purpose of the Google Possum update is to provide Google users (searchers) with a better, more diverse experience.
The Details of the Possum Algorithm Update
1. Practices outside of major city limits have seen a rise in their local ranking potential.
Prior to Possum, ranking for a major city was incredibly difficult if your business or practice resided just outside of city limits. For example, if your practice is located in Highland Ranch, appearing in the Denver Local 3-Pack for “Coolsculpting” might previously have been impossible.
However, after the Possum update, several of our clients who had struggled for a full year to achieve 3-Pack rankings are now happily in the #1 or #2 positions.
2. Google is filtering medical practices based on their address and practice affiliation.
We discussed Google’s new local business filtering in a previous blog post. Practices located in “clusters” or in close proximity to one another may find they are no longer appearing on the maps. This is not a penalty! These practices have simply been “filtered out” of the results.
The reason for this filtering is that Google is striving to provide more diversity in their geographic results. If there are five plastic surgeons in one office, all working hard to dominate the Local Pack, Google feels this is not a realistic representation of people’s options. Now, three or four of those plastic surgeons may be filtered out in order to show searchers another option across town.
Google is filtering out multiple practitioners in one office. For example, the following may occur:
Doe & Smith Cosmetic Surgery
John Doe – Board-certified Plastic Surgeon (Shows on the local results)
John Smith – Board-certified Plastic Surgeon (filtered)
Google is also filtering out multiple practices in one medical center at the same address (123 Med Center Drive):
Doe and Smith Cosmetic Surgery (showing)
ABC Surgery Specialists (filtered)
Plastic Surgery ABCVille (filtered)
Google is ALSO filtering out multiple listings from the same practice, even if their name, address, and phone number are different. The reason: They are in the same building:
Doe and Smith Cosmetic Surgery (showing)
Doe and Smith MediSpa (filtered)
The only way to see these filtered results is to zoom in on the map so that your view is closer to the location where these offices are located (practically invisible).
3. Suite numbers no longer matter.
A common tactic in the past for practices with multiple partners was to simply add or change a suite number so that they would appear in the search results. Unfortunately, this strategy does not work anymore, and it cannot be used to avoid the filter.
4. The physical location of the searcher is more important than before.
Before Possum, there was more allowance for searching an area. A searcher might type in “breast augmentation in Phoenix AZ” and find the same three listings if they made the same search from Scottsdale or Phoenix. Now, the results will vary drastically.
If a searcher conducts a search in northern Phoenix, the searcher may see three plastic surgeons that a different searcher in southern Phoenix would never be shown.
However, in markets with fewer practices, some overlap will still occur.
5. Local search results vary more based on small keyword variations.
Previously, you would have seen almost identical results for “Seattle Tummy Tuck” and “Tummy Tuck Surgeon in Seattle.” Possum introduced more variation in results, and the above search could now return entirely different listings for the Local 3-Pack.
6. Local and Organic search now operate more independently.
In the past, businesses that were filtered out in the organic results for having websites which were too similar (specialty sites) would have also been filtered out in the local results. For years, local results closely mirrored organic rankings.
Possum has now introduced more freedom for the local search algorithm to return listings which are more diverse, largely due to practice clusters. Businesses previously lacking any organic authority at all can now have a much greater chance of appearing in the local search results.
If you need assistance with figuring out the complexities of local search optimization, don’t hesitate to contact us. We are here to help.