Everything You Need to Know About Google’s ‘Possum’ Update

‘Possum’ is the latest algorithm update launched by Google. It has flown under the radar slightly in the SEO headlines due the it being launched in the same period as the latest update to the penguin algorithm. We have everything that you need to know about this latest update and how you can protect your online presence and benefit from this update.
‘Possum’ is a large local update which has mainly affected local results and Google Map listings. There has also been some talk about the update affecting organic listings but this is just speculation and has not been confirmed by Google.
The main purpose of the update was to diversify the local results and also prevent spam for ranking as well. This is being reported as the biggest local update since the Pidgeon update in 2014 and the SEO forums are lit up with chatter about the affects the update has had on their own local rankings.

The Update in More Detail

We have broken the update down into more detail which will help you identify any possible issues that ‘Possum’ may cause you.

  1. Google is now filtering based on address and affiliation

For years, Google has applied a local filter to its local results that would filter out profiles that shared a similar phone number or domain. This filter made sense as Google regularly filters duplicate content organically and showing a bunch of results for the same company would not benefit users.
Since the ‘Possum’ update there are now a lot of businesses being filtered out due to the address of the business being the same as another listing within the same category.
An example of this are dentists, say there are 3 dentists working out of the same practise but each with their own Google listing. They all share the same address and phone number so Google is now only displaying one of the listings and filtering the other two listings out of the results. They have however put in place an option to display all the results unfiltered by zooming into the map slightly on the Local Finder.
Remember that this filtering is not the same as a penalty and Google is not removing your listing from the search results, they are just judging it similar to the organic listing where they try to display the most relevant listing to the search query typed in. If you have multiple listings try altering the keywords that each are trying to display for so that you have the best chance of having a listing appear for a multitude of your targeted keywords.

  1. Slight variations in search queries affect search results more

Previously if you typed in search terms such as ‘SEO Agency Middlesbrough’ or ‘Middlesbrough SEO Agency’ you would see almost identical results for both terms. However, with this update you can now see more distinct differences in the results for extremely similar keywords.

  1. Businesses that fall outside of the physical city limits now appearing for location search terms

It has been talked about previously that businesses which fell just outside of the physical city limits would struggle to rank for location search terms for the city. Google seemed to class these businesses as having no city ‘technically’ which meant local SEO was extremely difficult for these businesses.
The ‘Possum’ update seems to have changed this and levelled the playing field for those businesses as several of these are now reporting local rankings, with some reporting huge jumps up in the rankings entering the top 5 for location terms they could previously only dream about.

  1. The local filter now seems to be running separately from the organic filter

In the past, we used to find that if Google filtered out your website organically (or filtered out the specific page that you were linking your listing to), this had a negative impact on ranking.
Since the update, I’ve seen tons of examples of businesses that rank very high for competitive terms that are linking to pages that are filtered organically.
An example is a business that ranked twice after the update. They have two listings on Google for the same business, and before the update, only one of them ranked in the 3-pack (The other would have been filtered). The difference between the two listings is that one links to the www version of their website and the other listing just goes to the http://domain.com version (no www).
Organically, Google is smart enough to realize this is the same site (One version does not 301 to the other, so it is set up incorrectly), and Google hasn’t indexed both versions, but this is another example of how the local filter and the organic filter seem to be completely different and less connected than they were before.

  1. The physical location of the searcher is more important than ever before

The update now seems to place a huge importance on the searcher location and trying to bring the very best local results to them for the surrounding area to their location. Google now seems to try and tell the searcher what the closest results to them are. The more specific the location is drilled down to the more proximity plays a part in the local search results received by the searcher.


There fluctuation in results is still ongoing which points to Google running A/B testing on the ranking signals being used. This means that some of the changes that have been applied initially could still revert back but from the comments made by Google they so far feel that the ‘Possum’ update has been a success and improved how users interact and use the local search results. Changes to this update will be monitored, if you have seen a drop in your local listings and the traffic generated from these please get in touch and we can assess what has happened together.

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