As you probably know, Google is in a constant state of evolution. In order to provide its users with the best experience possible, Google is perpetually tweaking its algorithm and launching updates. One of the more recent updates was “Google Possum,” which occurred on September 1, 2016. Here are the details and how it can potentially impact your law firm’s local SEO.
Although Google never went on record saying that a formal update occurred, the SEO community noticed some massive changes to local SEO in early September 2016. More specifically, the 3-pack and Local Finder in local search results experienced some serious fluctuation.
To determine the extent of the change, a company called Bright Local performed a study in which “they looked at the ranking trackers for 1,307 different businesses, which were tracking 14,242 keywords. Then they compared the difference between September 7 and August 31 (the date before Possum).”
Here’s what they found:
- 9% of the keywords had the business pop into the Local Finder when they weren’t there previously.
- 11% of the keywords showed the business had increased in position by three or more positions.
- 15% of the keywords showed the business had increased in position by one to two positions.
- 15% of the keywords showed the business had decreased by one to two positions.
- 14% of the keywords showed the business had decreased by more than three positions.
The bottom line is that 64 percent of keywords saw some type of change and 34 saw some type of significant change. That’s quite a bit.
Why Was it Called Possum?
SEO practitioner, Phil Rozek suggested the name because many business owners thought that their Google My Business listings were gone. But in reality they weren’t and had merely been filtered or were “playing possum.” The name stuck, and that’s why this Google update has yet another animal name in the same vein as Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird and so on.
Here’s a quick rundown on what Google Possum means for local SEO. First of all, it gives businesses located outside of city limits a better chance of ranking higher. Here’s an example:
Prior to Possum, a law firm in Encinitas, CA would have difficulty ranking for keywords like “law firm San Diego.” But now, their chances are significantly higher. It would seem that Google’s logic was to level the playing field between businesses located right in city limits and those located in surrounding areas that would still be relevant for many search engine users.
Next, Google is looking closely at a user’s ISP when generating results. Because so many people are using mobile devices, Google is considering their exact location when deciding which results to produce. This is something to keep in mind moving forward.
Finally, there’s a decent amount of variation in the 3-pack results. For instance, using keywords like “law firm San Diego” and “law firm San Diego CA” generates completely different results.
As with most Google updates, there’s been a mixed reaction to Possum. For some law firms (particularly those outside of city limits), it’s a welcomed change. For others, it means additional work to maintain their rankings. Regardless of your stance, it’s crucial to stay on top of this and similar search engine updates and continually adapt along with Google.