What is the Possum update and how it affects Local Pack.

Google reportedly updated it’s local search algorithm in the first week of September.

The Local search community is calling it “Possum”.

What exactly was the update?
This is one of the biggest updates since Pigeon. However, it only impacted the local 3 pack and local finder, organic search results are completely unaffected from this update. It is believed that this update was applied to diversify the local results and hinder spam from ranking well.

1. City limits have been exceeded.
Earlier, it was very difficult for businesses which “technically” fell out of the city limits to rank well on the search engine result pages. They were facing a real tough time. But after this update, some have witnessed a major hike in their rankings. For example, a business in “Gulf Gate Estates, Florida” ranks for the term “direct home inspections sarasota”


2. Google has become more sophisticated in identifying businesses.
Earlier, Google used to filter the websites that had the same name, domain, site or address. But a business that had a different NAP and domain name often ranked separately. After this update, Google has become more sophisticated in identifying the business. Now, you might not see the same business ranking twice in the SERP for the same term, even if they have no similarity between their websites. It clearly indicates that Google knows more about the business and the industry than we thought.

However, it is not a penalty and Google is not removing or hindering your business from ranking well. Instead, they have made the local packs work like the organic filter, which picks the best & most relevant listings. So only one of your listings (which is most relevant to the search query) will make it to the local packs instead of all, to keep it fair.

3. Location of the searcher is more important than ever.
One of our clients called us lately. “My ranking in the Google map has dropped from 1 to 9”, he said worriedly. We immediately checked the ranking and to our surprise, his listing was in the ninth position. We were wondering that how it’s even possible? So we decided to a check the rankings from the location the business was actually located i.e. Dallas instead of their headquarters in Alabama (where they were searching from). We sighed a breath of relief as we found out that their listing was still in the first position. So why it was showing a different result?

Well, the recent update has placed more importance on the location of the searcher. If anyone searches for a business listing, sitting far from the location, they are more likely to get zoomed out results, and will get less varying results if they are within the limits.

4. Slightest variations in the search term can bring different results.
Now even the slightest variation in the search term is bringing different results. Earlier, the search results for “New York Lawyers” and “Lawyers New York” were the same. But since the update, we are seeing different results for variations of the search term. So we suggest you to precisely select your targeted keywords while optimizing the site.


Local Pack result for “New York Lawyers”

5. Organic filter and local filter are now less connected.
The recent update has drawn a huge line between Organic filter and Local filter. They seem to be completely different & very less connected to each other. Before the update, If Google filtered out your site organically, it was confirmed that your site rankings will suffer.

But after the update, we have seen many sites that are ranking well for competitive terms that are linking to the pages that were filtered out organically.