Yes, another week, another Google algorithm update. This time, this one is impacting Google My Business listings and how they’re performing on the search engines results page (SERP).

So, what is this update and how could it impact your business?

Local Algorithm Update: Possum 2.0

Business owners started seeing this update impacting their Google My Business performance last week in the form of their listings falling off SERPs.

This update is now credited as Google’s biggest local algorithm update since Possum in 2016, according to Search Engine Land.

Unlike the last Google update we wrote about, which was focused on how users are searching, this update is focused on where they’re searching.

Why Google Made this Change

In 2016, Google released the Possum update, which is when Google decided the most important signal it had when determining how to display search results was a user’s location ““ also known as proximity to the searcher. This update also impacted how and when a business’s Google My Business would show up in search results ““ and there was a greater chance if the searcher was closer to their location.

“This update is of no surprise given the continued focus of Google to provide the most relevant results to searchers,” said Rob Frost-Dean, our director of SEO services. “Proximity has been a factor for a while and, with this update, becomes even more important. Gone are the days of trying to “˜fool’ the search engines. Your greatest assets are the ones closest to you!”

I personally benefit from Google’s prioritization of proximity all the time. I start most of my searches for businesses in the Google Maps app on my phone because I find that a business’s Google My Business page gives me all the information I need: reviews, location, phone number, and I can see how close it is to where I am right then or where I’ll be later.

How Does this Update Work?

While many things are a mystery when it comes to Google, we do know that they’re using proximity data to surface results and that zip codes are playing a major role. According to Search Engine Land, the majority of dips businesses saw in their listings occurred in zip codes their business wasn’t actually in. So, for example, if a coffee shop serves a nearby zip code but that zip code isn’t part of their address, they probably saw their results fall off Maps listings in that area.

This means that Google is displaying results that are much closer to the searcher than they previously had been, even if that distance wasn’t too far to begin with. Some people are seeing changes of just a few miles in their Map pack (the Maps results that show at the top of your local search – example below).

An example of Google's Map pack with local search results - LOCALiQ

How this Might Impact You

You may have noticed a dip in your Google My Business page’s performance. But, many report that the impact has evened out a bit, and data shows no more impacts should be recorded.

So, if you haven’t noticed any changes to how your Google My Business page is performing, you should be in the clear.

With this change, you may start to notice that some spam map listings may appear in the Maps results. While Google doesn’t reward inaccurate or spammy listings, they’ll need to sift through these results that try to game the system. If you see that spam listings are showing where your page used to show, you can report it to Google to let them know these listings aren’t following Google’s guidelines. Or, if you’re working with a partner for your local listings, they can do that for you.

But, if you’re looking to get ahold of the Google My Business team via their toll-free number, you’re no longer in luck. Google has discontinued their toll free support and is instead directing users to their Google My Business Help Center. When you get to the Help Center, you can request a call back so you can still speak with a specialist. It may just take a little longer.

How to Prepare Against Future Local Updates

With Possum 2.0, Google is signaling that local continues to be extremely important when it comes to SEO and particularly your local listings.

Having a claimed and optimized Google My Business listing is your best bet to set yourself up for success against future local updates.

Here’s a reminder of some best practices:

  • Consistency is key. It’s important that your business name, address, and phone number are consistent across all your local listings, your website, and your Google My Business page. This means it’s the exact same everywhere. If you have a “the” on your website and it’s missing on your Google My Business page, it’s not consistent.
  • Include all the info. Google My Business gives you the opportunity to add a lot of information. Make sure you fill it all out ““ including a description, your business category, and images can all help your listing perform better.
  • Respond to reviews. Reviews are an important part of your Google My Business page, and responding to reviews not only can improve the health of your page but can also create meaningful engagements with your customers, both happy and not-so-happy.

If you’re looking for help with your local listings, including your Google My Business page, we’re here for you. Contact us today to learn how we can partner for success on Google, across the web, and more.

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