Five Key Changes in the Google ‘Possum’ Local Search Algorithm Update

Google ‘Possum” update is reflection of this.  Location and local based searches are rising 50% faster than general search terms, and over a third of all online searches are related to location, according to Jerry Dischler VP of product development at Google.

The “possum” update hasn’t been officially named by Google, unlike the Panda, Penguin, Pigeon and Hummingbird search updates which came before it. The name “possum” comes from a blog post by Phil Rozek  that suggests that local business owners might think that their listings have disappeared from the results, when in fact they are just “playing possum”.

The update was pushed live on the 1st of September 2016 and has resulted in some major changes within local search results.  The aim appears to have been to add more diversity to the local search results and tighten up the signals for spam listings so that the system is less simple to game.

Below is our summary of the main changes in the Possum update:


  1. Different data set for the results

The local map listings are now powered by a completely different database from the standard organic listings. The local map results are now independent. For example, in the past if the URL you were linking to in your Google My Business listing was filtered out of the organic listings, it would have had a negative impact or your listing within the map three pack. Since the update, this appears to no longer be the case.


  1. More flexibility on the “location”

The location filter seems to have relaxed slightly with businesses that are located outside of the defined city limits now having a chance to rank for that location.  These will allow for a more level playing field with businesses that are further from the city centre or outside the city itself now having the chance to rank well.  To take advantage of this it is vitally important that the Google My Business (GMB) profile is correctly set up and that the name address and phone number data (NAP) is consistent across the web.


  1. Address and Affiliation

The relaxation on the city limit and locations has been countered by a much stricter filter on address and affiliations. Google has cracked down on multiple listings for the same address where companies were using a number of staff or “fake” office locations to game the system. It was not uncommon to see the top three listings in the map results to be for doctors or dentists from the same practice. The possum update has eliminated this completely.  You can understand why Google has imposed a stricter filter on the map listings but it will make it difficult for different division of the same business to rank at the same time in the map. We have seen examples where two divisions of the same business are swapped out for each other but both don’t appear at the same time.


  1. Location of the searcher

The location signals of the searcher have become even more important and even slight variations in the location returns different results.  Different office locations for major brands will set different results and the further the IP address is from the centre of city they more zoomed out the map will appear. There are also different results for searches from the same IP location when a geographical qualifier is used in the search and when it is not. A search for “plumbers Bath” from a Bath IP returns a different set of results that those for “plumbers” from the same IP address. If you search for “new windows Chippenham” from an IP address outside of Chippenham then the results are different.


  1. Keyword variations

Slight variations in the order of the keyword searches are also returning slightly different results. A search for “Bath Cherry Pickers” returns different results than “Cherry Pickers Bath” or “Cherry Picker Hire Bath Somerset”. It is important that the fundamental basics of local SEO are undertaken to improve the chances of a site ranking well within the map results for targeted keywords.

Dentons Digital can help you ranking well within the organic and map listings. Talk to one of the SEO team today to get a free quote.


For more information about the possum local search update visit the following articles:



To discuss you local SEO requirements please contact Tony Heywood via email or call 01373 482909

Tony Heywood (C)

SEO Consultant Dentons Digital

Want to grow your business online?

Get Some Helpful Advice

Fill in the form below, and one of the Dentons Digital Team will be in touch.

If you would rather, you can ring up for a chat, or drop in for a coffee. We can help and advise you on how to improve your digital presence. There are no catches.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

Related Posts

Lucille Parker

WordPress FAQ

Whether you are already the owner of a WordPress website, or are considering entering into the wonderful world of WordPress, you will have all sorts of questions to ask, and perhaps be a bit bamboozled by some of the terminology associated with WordPress.

Read More »
Lucille Parker

WordPress Plugin Customisation

We are able to reflect the unique style and functionality needs of each business that commissions a website from our team, using a bespoke set of tried and tested plugins that transform each client’s online space into a vibrant reflection of their vision and practical requirements.

Read More »

What We Provide

We provide custom web development, purpose-built for the needs of your customers and business. Through every step of the development process, we’ll stay in full contact with you to ensure your site is accessible and usable.

Call us on 01373 482774 or click on the link below to see how we can help you.