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Google Possum is Here & Changing Local SEO

Media on Mars blog post thumbnail: Graphic illustration of a possum
Reading Time 4 minutes
Blog post author picture: Angela Bennett
Sunday, 22nd January 2017

Website owners are pretty used to Google shaking up the SEO algorithms from time to time. New standards come in, and Google pushes hard to get websites in line with these new standards.

But the latest round of algorithm updates could hit a lot of our Perth-area business pretty hard.

The update, called Possum, is focused on improving the results in Google’s Local Snack Pack – that is, the map results that show on a Google search results page along with star ratings, local contact information and links to the website.

Screen grab depicting Google's Local Snack Pack results

For some organisations, positioning in the Snack Pack is pure gold. It’s a top-spot in Google, positioned above the organic results on Google’s search engine results page, with star ratings prominently displayed. The Snack Pack is laser-focused on driving local customers to your local business.

When is local really local?

Perth is big. Our population is not huge, but we sprawl along 100 kilometres of coastline and out to the hills. Many of our business owners locate their businesses far from central Perth, out in local suburbs, but travel throughout the area to service customers.

That’s a very different pattern to most American cities that cover the same area. In those heavily populated cities, a search visitor on Google is generally overwhelmed with options in their own local suburb. Perth searcher visitors are usually less specific about their suburbs, choosing to search for services with the “perth” modifier.

For example, if the search visitor in Cottesloe needs a plumber, they’re first and most likely option search phrase is “plumber perth”. Most searchers will find their plumber using that phrase, meaning it’s unlikely that they’d search “plumber cottesloe” unless they were looking for a specific plumber located in Cottesloe.

So our local Perth search is local to 5000+ km2 of area. It’s such a different search scenario that Google’s Possum update could play havoc with our local businesses online presence.

What This Update Means for You

If your business has a Perth address, you’re unlikely to have a problem. Google will just keep associating you with “perth” search, just as before.

However, if your business has a non-Perth address on Google maps and you’re optimised for Perth-related phrases, brace for impact!

If you’re watching your keyword positioning closely, you may start seeing your Perth keywords drop rankings fast. If you have any serious competitors who are optimising around the same phrases, they’ll be pulling ahead of you in Google’s organic search results. If you have a showing in Google’s Snack Pack, you’ll likely drop quickly from that prime position.

Dropping off Google’s 1st page of results generally has an immediate effect on an organisation, as enquiries drop off a trickle. If your calls have slowed in the past few weeks, possum could be the culprit.

How to fix it?

Taking a virtual office in the right geographic centre has been the go-to solution for Google map placement for several years. However, Possum seems to detect the multiple-business nature of these offices and is discounting them over more authentic addressing. So doubling-down on an address-only solution won’t solve it alone this time.

Ultimately, the solution is to go deeper than your physical location. A fully strategised SEO profile with high-quality content to support your site’s genuine authority and expertise provides Google with a deeper sense of how you want to be perceived as a business, and allows Google to give you first page placement based on that stronger perception.

What’s the next move?

If you’ve noticed a drop-off in your site’s enquiries, don’t just assume it’s a slow market. Talk to your online marketing company or website developers and get a report on your keyword positioning. If there’s been a change in your local search phrase positions, act now!

You’ll need a reputable SEO agency to arrest the slide (if possible) and to actively pursue a more effective set of keywords. Keep in mind, if you are competing for positioning with other organisations you’re in a race to capitalise on the other valuable keywords in your market before they notice and start to act… so get moving! You got an online presence to protect!

20 Years

In the game for twenty years.

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