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Google’s Possum Update Explained & Local SEO

As a local business, Google’s SERPs can often work in your favor. Mobile users automatically see the listings of local businesses near them that Google deems most relevant or helpful to their queries, and desktop users can enjoy this convenience as well. But with Google’s Possum update, it takes more than a listing to propel you to the top of the SERPs. The Possum algorithm update provides Google’s users with a more diverse and helpful list of local businesses. We’ve outlined everything you need to know about the update and how to make it work to your advantage.

Launch Date: September 1, 2016

As the Fall of 2016 approached, the use of mobile devices for searching Google was growing more than ever. When a user searches for a product, they want a solution fast. And that means finding a store or business locally that can meet their specific needs. Google realized this, and Possum was born, making local search more nuanced and relevant than ever.

What Google’s Fred Update Impacted

The Possum algorithm update aims to give users more relevant local options when they input a query. Unfortunately, this means that competition for these local spots is fiercer than ever. The main hazard of the Possum update is having a lot of competition. While you can’t do anything about having local competitors, there are specific steps you can take to make sure your local SEO is optimized for this update.

How Google’s Possum Update Works

Possum was created to diversify local rankings, putting more weight on the searcher’s location than ever before. The closer you are to a business’s address, the more likely it will pop up in the search results if it matches your query—and if it’s got good SEO. Additionally, Possum added more variety to local search results based on the user’s specific keywords and keyword order.

Possum can also potentially benefit businesses outside of the city limits where the searcher is located. Before the update, Google didn’t include businesses located outside of the lines of demarcation for a town or city, even if the business was within a reasonable range of a user. With the advent of Possum, these businesses now have a better chance of ranking for local search even if the business itself is not in the same zip code as the user. Again, what matters most is proximity.

How to Adjust Your SEO Strategy

Even a small local business needs to take its ranking seriously. Because your potential customers are looking for you online—and probably from a mobile device—you can’t afford to neglect the implications and effects of Possum. Here are a few simple, practical steps you can take to adjust your SEO so you can recover from a downrank—or avoid one from happening in the future.

Optimize Your Site’s SEO

When you’re trying to rank for local listings, the number one way to work the system in your favor is to practice good SEO. As Google aims to present the most relevant searches to its users, you need to do everything you can to get picked up by Google in the first place, showing the web crawlers that you are the answer to that particular user’s query.

Experiment with Google My Business

If you’re one of a few—or many—businesses in the same category on Google My Business, and your locations are in fairly proximity, this might be the cause of your low rankings. Try toying with your categories on your Google My Business Page. Choose a more specific category, or, if possible, try a different category altogether.

This tip comes with a word of warning. You can do serious damage to your SEO if you flippantly make these changes. Because your web traffic depends highly on your SEO strategy, we recommend consulting with SEO experts before you make any drastic category changes to your Google My Business page.

Vary Your Keywords

When dealing with Possum, even the order or your keywords matter. Different iterations of keywords and keyword phrases will return different results, even if you’re communicating the same idea. It’s easy to do this keyword research on your own. Enter in the keywords you’re trying to rank for. Then change up the order of the same keywords and try again. Different results? Possum’s particularity with keywords and keyword order means your keyword strategizing has to be constantly evolving so you can be on top. 


When users want local solutions, Google does its best to give them options close to physical proximity and give them the exact answer or product they’re looking for. The good news for local businesses is that the Possum update can really work to their advantage—if they’ve got an effective SEO strategy. Now that you know what triggers the update and what you can do to avoid being taken out of the top rankings, make the appropriate changes, and reap the benefits of local traffic.