Possum is a cute little mammal that pretends to be dead when it is threatened. Thanks to possums, “playing possum” is a popular phrase that is used when something remains unnoticed.
Like, “Hey, my Google My Business listings are playing possum!”
Yes, that is what this update is all about. That is also why Phil Rozek suggested this name which is so fitting because this update makes people think that their Google My Business listing has disappeared when it has not.
What Actually is the Update?
Possum is the biggest update since Pigeon in 2014 as far as the local search domain is concerned. Possum update has had its greatest impact on the 3-pack local results and the Google Maps results.
One important change after Possum is that Google is now filtering search results based on a duplicate website, affiliation or address.
For example, a clinic could have multiple ‘Google-allowed’ listings – one for the clinic itself and a listing for each of the consultant physicians. If a clinic had 10 consultant physicians, they’d be able to create 11 listings! Each of these listings will have the same NAP and website, so this clinic would be easily able to dominate the local search landscape.
But, such redundant results in the local pack is not very helpful to the customers. Google is all about providing the best user experience and hence decided to filter out duplicates.
Also, Possum has put more weight on the physical location of the user. This means that if a user is searching from location X, businesses located in and around X will get higher rankings than other businesses.
Here’s what is happening after the change…
Fluctuations, Fluctuations all around
As noted by Joy Hawkins, after the Possum update, slight keyword variations are causing major changes in the 3-pack. Before the update, similar keyword terms like “plastic surgeons Los Angeles”, “Los Angeles plastic surgeons” and “plastic surgeons Los Angeles CA” all produced fairly similar results.
Rankings will be Impacted by the Physical Location of the Searcher
Businesses closer to the user’s location will be ranked higher than other businesses. For example, if your business is located at Texas, you might not be able to see your business in the 3-pack if you were to search from California.
Results are being Filtered based on Addresses
After Possum, businesses whose addresses are same as that of another listing in the same category are being filtered. In one case, two businesses that has different NAPs never appeared together in the search results. It was because they were in the same building but facing different sides. This is one clear example of how complex is Google’s algorithm; it is not as simple as getting the names right on a Google My Business listing.
Businesses outside Physical City Limits are Seeing a rise in Rankings
Before the Possum update, businesses that fell just outside the city limits had a tough time ranking for related keywords. According to Google Maps, these businesses does not “technically” fall into any city. Many consultants have jokingly declared that trying to get such businesses ranked is a lost cause because the rankings simply did not change even if you did everything right.
After Possum, the rankings of businesses falling just outside physical city limits spiked like crazy.
Also, after the update, Google’s local filter seems to be running independently from its organic filter.
Google Possum is still “playing possum” – there have been a lot of fluctuations in search rankings. Google is trying to offer accurate and diverse results, but Possum hasn’t stabilized yet. Till now, this update has only been favourable for many local businesses. So, continue doing the same – ensure NAP consistency. list your business on all major directories and ensure an active online presence to make Possum work for your local business!