As far as Google’s algorithm updates go, the Possum update on September 1, 2016, was a relatively quiet one. Many SEO consultants may not have noticed any significant differences to their rankings at all. But local search engine optimization services certainly did.
Now, months later, some experts are only beginning to make sense of how the Possum update truly affected local search engine results page rankings. According to a new study published by Search Engine Land, some 64% of keywords for local search engine optimization campaigns saw a change in rankings, some positive, some negative. Around 15% of the business keywords studied increased by one or two positions, while another 11% saw increases of three positions or more.
On the other hand, some also faltered after the Possum update. Another 15% decreased by one or two positions post-Possum, while another 14% decreased three or more positions. Interestingly, about 9% of the keywords jumped into new local search engine results pages where they didn’t appear before.
So what does this mean for local businesses? For one thing, it reinforces the need for locally-focused companies to work alongside local SEO companies to create compelling content to help them stand out. But it also suggests that Google’s algorithms are becoming much more sophisticated when it comes to local results.
One of the biggest changes that came with the Possum update was that businesses located just outside of city limits (with a location address of “Gilbert” instead of “Phoenix,” for example) saw a huge spike in rankings. This indicates that the algorithm now recognizes that you might consider geographic locations not necessarily bound by zip code.
However, further analyses also show that the physical location of the searcher is now more important than ever before. For instance, if you search “pizza phoenix,” you might see your local pizza joint results change significantly based on whether you’re searching from Scottsdale or Queen Creek. In fact, the results can change from block to block if you’re searching on the go.
Surely, part of that change has to do with our increased mobility as web users. Smartphone and tablet search is more prominent than ever, and today at least half of all local searches are performed with these mobile devices. Ultimately, the Possum update seems to be good news for local businesses, so long as you know how to take advantage of it.