Most search engine optimization experts don’t tell you they’re in the business because it’s easy and evergreen. In fact, if an SEO expert ever tells you that, you should be running for the hills and not paying them any of your hard-earned money because they’re definitely not doing their job.
Good SEO experts know to keep up with the latest in search engine algorithm updates, and especially those that are more mobile-centric and locally focused, in the case of the last notable updates. Of course Google is on the front lines of search engine updates, which bring about the greatest impact, but it behooves a successful SEO to keep tabs on the lesser-used search engines like Bing or Quora too.
If you’re a small business and don’t have the capital to pay an SEO expert to bring your website or content up to snuff, we’ll enlighten you with what has been rolled up in the latest in Google algorithm updates, dubbed Possum, released on September 1, 2016.
What Businesses Should Know About Possum
As one might expect in the days and months following an update like this, much analysis is still being conducted to determine consequences for local businesses as a result. The last of its kind, Pigeon, released in July 2014, laser-focused on local SEO to take it to new heights in accuracy and specificity. Possum’s aims fell into this same focus area.
So what is there to know about Possum?
From what we know now, we have four things to share.
1. If your business technically falls outside of the city limits of the greater area you serve, your ranking will increase for that city with Possum.
Google is placing less weight on just pure physical address now, pairing it with affiliation. So, if you are a law firm that operates just outside of Boulder, CO, for instance, but state that you serve the greater Boulder/Denver area, you’ll increase your ranking in those cities, despite not physically being located there.
Previously, Google went just from zip code, and if you fell outside the jurisdiction of that zip code, you missed out.
2. As mentioned, Google is honoring both address and affiliation together to determine what area your company serves.
We touched on this above. This is HUGE for businesses that simply can’t afford to live within the “city limits”, or serves many geographic areas, but does impact certain businesses who have gamed the algorithms prior by loading up on quantity of postings, rather than quality.
That is, it is important to note that if you do operate the law firm referenced in point #1, and have separate pages dedicated to individual lawyers with identical address information, trying to boost the frequency with which your company turns up, Google will now filter through these to present the most relevant search response to the user, avoiding duplicates.
For actionable tips to remedy your site if this has been your company’s tactic, check out this post from Shelley Media Arts (specifically the comments at the end), or the nitty-gritty of this comprehensive Search Engine Land article.
3. Results turned up by the search engine will vary more widely based on the keyword phrases entered.
Based on the findings of Joy Hawkins, the results turned up in the Google 3-pack (shown below) do vary more than in the past algorithm updates, based on slight keyword variations like order of words queried or even abbreviations of those words. Good examples of this are further illustrated well by Jillian Morgan in this TechWyse article.
This is a boon for businesses trying to crack into the results of more saturated keywords. Perhaps your efforts are better directed toward other frequently occurring permutations or abbreviations of those keywords to capture traffic.
4. The searcher’s location carries more weight than before.
As well it should, Google wants to improve the results for a searcher based on his or her location. This is something we can probably continue to expect from future Google algorithm updates—a focus on immediacy and convenience for the searcher.
That’s why it’s vitally important for searchers wanting the most locally appropriate information to update their searcher location to the correct city.
For businesses, this means focusing on SEO optimization for each and every location of the business is more crucial than ever to reach the widest audience.
As Google seemingly continues to strive to separate local and organic search into their respective buckets, we can expect local businesses to continue to gain an edge and even the playing field in searches to compete with the ad-paying behemoths on a local level. Possum was no exception.