Local SEO is one of those areas of internet marketing that has so many unknown variables at work.  Every local business owner wants to rank at the top of Google maps, but actually getting there is harder than simply hiring any ole’ SEO agency.  To make a real dent in the local listing you need to understand both those variables you can control, and what variables you can’t control.  As such Google just released a new local algorithm update with more controllable, and uncontrollable variables many are calling “Possum.” Here are the top 3 tweaks Google is making through “Possum.”


#1 Businesses Outside Physical City Limits Now Ranking Higher

One of the most annoying things in the world for Local SEO-ers is when a business wants to rank locally for a major metro search term but can’t because they fall just outside the actual city limits.  It doesn’t matter how popular that particular business is to the city metro as a whole, or if they even have the city in the name of the business, they’re going to have a tough time ranking for that particular city.  But Google’s latest algorithm seems to confront this issue because many businesses outside city limits have seen their local search result rankings improve.
Take one case study for example that showed how one home inspector business just outside of Sarasota, FL called Direct Inspections improved their rankings.  Originally ranking at #32 for “home inspector Sarasota” the business struggled to improve their local rankings for their major metro city search term.  Technically Direct Inspections wasn’t within Sarasota city limits and the census-designated place (CDP) called them apart of the Gulf Gate Estates.  But the business was just outside city limits and even had a Sarasota mailing address.  Since the recent local algorithm update the business now ranks #10 for “home inspector Sarasota” a giant gain of +22!


Google is now filtering the local results by business affiliation

Many local search results prior to the algorithm update would have profiles with similar domains or phone numbers.  For example, you might be searching for a local dentist, but the individual office may have 3 separate dentists practicing under the same roof.  These dentists though separate individuals would often get placed on the local search results, taking up space that other dentists could have used.  From the eyes of the searcher this practice of putting all 3 on the map never really made much sense.  After all, the 3 dentists were in the same office, with the same phone number, same website, so why Google would choose to display all thee was anyone’s guess.  From the searchers point of view it didn’t make sense to chew up 3 spots on the local map rankings, because they the searcher wants to see what dentists are around town.  Now the update is looking for business affiliation among the local rankings, and filtering out listings with similar addresses, websites, or phone numbers.  A win/win for searchers and local businesses alike looking for more space on the maps.


Physical location of the Searcher Holds More Weight

Some companies have been worried because they’ve noticed their local rankings dropping off the map, but the issue isn’t that their rankings are falling, it’s simply because Google is getting smarter.  Google for awhile has been basing your local listings based on your physical location, but now it seems your physical location holds even more weight now.  To better understand this let’s say for example a company in Denver, CO sees that their local rankings dropping for their locations in Des Moines, IA.  Obviously, the company would be worried about their listings dropping in rank even though they’ve been searching with “Des Moines, IA” keywords.  But if the business searcher were to change their searcher location in Google to Des Moines from Denver they would receive a more accurate picture of the local search results for the Des Moines metro area perspective.

What’s happening in this example is the farther away you physically are from the search area, even if you use local search keywords, the more zoomed out the map will be of that specific area.  Google figures if you’re living in one area, but searching for another area you might want to see the “bigger picture” of the area.  It makes sense from a searchers point of view because if you’re not familiar with the streets you would want to look at a bigger picture of the major roadways, hence your map is zoomed out.  But if you’re familiar with the streets and know the area you’re map can be zoomed in to better see the details of the area.  But this can change the rankings on the map.  As the map is zoomed out so too is the number of listings that that can be placed on the map rankings, and the more competition you have to face, the more competition you have to beat off to rank higher.

With these changes in the local ranking algorithm Google has once again proven to the world of the internet that the searcher is King, and all of Google is there to serve.