How Google’s “Possum” algorithm change and other updates are shaking up local SEO
Every single day, Google is making updates and tweaks to its algorithms to help improve its accuracy for the people using it. For the average searcher, these tweaks are so small and precise that the average person doesn’t even see it happening. For the average shop owner however, these tweaks and updates could be the difference between whether or not they become the “go-to” shop in their area, or being able to keep the lights on next month.
We can all breathe a sigh of relief however, as the most recent changes have been pretty consistently positive, especially for shop owners. Since we’ve had an unusually high number of changes over the past few weeks, I’d like to go over the top 3 and go over a bit how they impact your business, what they mean, what we can do to take the most of these changes and more.
1) Google Possum
“Google Possum” was a very important Google Maps update that happened towards the end of September, which began officially around the 21st (and unofficially a few days before). ‘Google Possum’ is Google’s new attempt at improving the quality of map results, and oddly enough, they were right on the money this time.
Historically, Google has had an issue with ranking businesses within cities that fall outside of traditional city limits. What I mean by that specifically is this: Google has an understanding of where each city has its borders, however, this is to Google’s own understanding. What this means is that you could be a part of a city, but if you happened to fall outside of what Google considered the “prime” city, you were significantly less likely to be ranked. In fact, Google would even categorically consider you as not in the city you were actually in if you were far enough out, actual city-borders be damned.
According to their last update however, it is now considerably easier for a business that exists out of Google’s “prime city center” to rank as well as a business that is dead center on the map. Among other reasons, the primary reason is because physical position of the searcher has become much more important over the past few months, and instead of relying on “accurate enough” for most people, they are now serving up much more locally relevant listings based on where you actually are, not where they think the “city” center is.
2) “Plan Your Visit”
Not all Google changes have been changes to the algorithm, some were aesthetic as well! In particular, Google has rolled out a new function called Plan Your Visit, which appears as supplementary information in a search result.
Using Google Maps (and a ton of data), Google can now ascertain how long on average you are spending at any particular place, and are using that to set a picture about your business and your efficiency.
Some examples below:
Now, you can show off your shop’s turn around efficiency without them even having to come into the shop! People will see how efficiently (or inefficiently) you are on any given day, according to their data. This can be an incredibly helpful benefit to their searchers. It is so beneficial, that if I were a gambling man, I’d wager this will become officially part of the algorithm soon. I can very easily foresee Google using efficiency data as a means to further tweak their rankings, potentially favoring those with low turn around times.
3) “Reviews from the Web”
Back during the good ol’ days (in search engine time, that could easily be last month), when talking about ranking on Google, the only reviews we needed to concern ourselves with were the ones exclusively left on Google.
That quickly changed, and Google started integrating and showing data from Yelp as well.
It has changed again, and makes the “Yelp” change look like a beta test in comparison. Where Google used to be only concerned with their reviews, they now seem to be looking at all reviews from across the web. Do you have reviews on Yelp, Super Pages and Repair Pal? How about reviews on Bing, Yellow Pages and City Search? They are looking at them all, and not only are they looking, but they are also sharing that information as part of their knowledge panel.
Here are 3 examples pulled from around the web from different auto repair shops in different Cities/States:
What’s immediately obvious is that Google isn’t limiting themselves to just one, two or even three review sources. Don’t have reviews on Yellow Pages? That’s fine, they’ll show them from Groupon. Don’t have Groupon reviews? That’s okay, they’ll show RepairPal. Repeat ad infinitum.
We know that historically Google has weighed their own reviews, and sometimes Yelp’s, for an individual sites ranking. Now, it seems as if they are looking all across the web. This goes hand-in-hand with the above updates, as it comes with progress with their own search technology. They simply now have the technology, resources and power to audit all of these websites on a regular basis to display review information where they otherwise didn’t.
Much like the above update, this update gives the searcher more information about your business. Without question, people will be looking at both of these sources of information to help them weigh which shop they will be choosing for their automotive repair service. With this in mind, while they aren’t “officially” pieces of Google’s algorithm yet, one can easily see how it could make itself a permanent metric of how Google decides who ranks and who doesn’t.
In general, Google’s algorithm updates typically follow function rather than form. In this instance, we seem to have favorable updates to both function and form. We are given extra data that the average person would love to have before choosing which shop to give their money to, and we also have received a better quality Map algorithm. In fact, I would suggest the “function” and “form” were so positively impacted this round that my next SEO piece may very well be us confirming “Google Business Efficiency Metrics.”
4) Google Apps is now G Suite!
This week Google announced that it was rebranding their Google Apps product—which is a collection of productivity apps including Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Drive, and Google Docs—and calling it “G Suite”. Nothing is changing with the new suite of products at this time, besides the name, but Google plans to add to more products soon.