Google Possum, the latest algorithm update for Google’s search results, launched on September 1st causing massive fluctuations in Local search listings. Now, I’m not going to sit here and explain in vast detail what the update is and what it does. Let’s be honest, this post on Search Engine Land does a great job of that and there’s not point rehashing the same information.

Instead, I’m going to look at what this update means for businesses in general. In other words, how does Google Possum affect your business in terms of local listing such as Google Map search results.

Local Listing Filtering By Address

As shown in the image above, when you search for a local service (in this case “seo agency peterborough”) it comes up with a Google Maps style search result typically called Local Listings. It used to be that if you had multiple listings with the same address and/or phone number, they would all appear within these listings. The issue with that is that it could easily be spammed and lead to a complete takeover and domination of the listings by one company using multiple Google My Business entries.

Google Possum has completely changed that by adding in a much more sophisticated filtering system – if there are multiple business listings in the same business category, using the same address and/or phone number, only one will be shown. For those of us not trying to spam Local Listings, this is a godsend!

Up until now, it could be really hard to get your business found in local listings because competitors with bigger budgets to spend on bad marketing practices could just fill up the listings and push you out of the way. Not anymore. Now the field is far more level, meaning that smaller businesses or businesses with small marketing budgets actually stand a chance!

Local Listing Filtering By City Limits

In the image above (taken from Search Engine Land) you can clearly see that the business pointed out is outside of the city limits. This is despite the fact that their address still has the city name in it. In the UK, you can think of it like a town outside Cambridge still technically having a Cambridge address due to it being the nearest city. The issue here is that, even though they are still within the city’s business area and serve customers in that city, because they are not within the city limits the business would not have shown up in Local Listings.

Basically, if you are in Yaxley, just outside of Peterborough (by about 3 miles) you wouldn’t show up for the search term “hair dresser peterborough”. Google Possum, once again, has changed this. A number of businesses just outside city limits have seen huge increases in their local listing rankings following the algorithm update!

So what does that mean for you and your business? Well, it means that even if you are not within the boundaries of your local city, you’ll be able to rank for the Local Listings of that city! So that’s an instant increase in visibility, which will likely lead to an increase in business and revenue. Great, right?

Searcher Location Is Everything

On final thing to take into consideration, however, is that it appears as though Google Possum takes a searcher’s actual physical location at the time of search as a serious factor in determining which listings are shown. So, using the example above, the further away the searcher is from your business, the less likely you are to appear in their search results.

This increasingly personalised search result page is great from a user experience point of view, but when it comes to businesses that sell across a large area but have a very limited footfall (e.g one brick and mortar address), it will be hard for them to be seen by clients further away from them. So one major shift here is that Local Listings truly do now mean “local”.

And That’s Basically It…

There you have it. I will probably post an update in the future when more details about Google Possum come to light, but at the moment that is basically all there is to it. It is a pretty major update that significantly changes the way Google Local search results are shown… From cutting down spam marketing techniques to making the Local Listings actually local to the searcher, it is actually a really good update that should be embraced by us.

As long as you are listing your business correctly, you’ve got nothing to worry about (which is generally the case with algorithm updates). Well, except for the issue of how big your footfall is… That’s something we are going to have to trial and error to see how rankings are effected for national serving companies with a small physical footfall.

Let me know your thoughts on the Google Possum update in the comments below! Are you happy about it? Or does it really worry you?