Google Possum & Penguin 4.0: Have you been hit by the recent updates?

7 October 2016| Post by Graham4 minutes


Have you experienced any major fluctuations in your rankings or traffic? This could be the explanation you’re after.

Google have been at it again, and as online marketers, like us, you may have noticed change after change this September?

Back at the start of September 2016, many SEO‘s witnessed major shifts in traffic and rankings. Since then, it’s come to light that Google has published a major algorithm update, meet Possum.

Secondly, Google has recently posted a statement officially confirming on the Google blog that they’ve begun rolling out the Penguin 4.0 Real-Time Algorithm.

If you think your site might have been affected, how will you know for sure which one of these updates has been the cause of it? Do you need to revise your backlink profile or look through the local listings?

What is the “Possum” update all about?

Possum, (an unofficial name), is the term dubbed for a collection of major changes in Google’s Local Ranking Filter which took place on September 1st, 2016.

This update isn’t penalising your site’s pages, rather it’s filtering some listings that were previously ranked OUT of the search results. In simple terms, Google has applied new tweaks to the Local Ranking Algorithm.

Here’s some of the major changes involved

1. The actual physical location of the person searching is now more accurate to the results

Now the actual IP location has become a lot more influential and important for defining the local ranking.

2. Businesses that are located outside the physical city area got a BOOST in ranking!

This is due to the Possum update now treating them the same as businesses within the city. If that’s the case with your local listing, that’s really good news for you!

3. Sharing an address with similar local businesses could now make you less visible in the search results

Google has been discarding listings that share the same or very similar phone numbers or domains for quite some time already, but now they may also filter businesses sharing the same physical address. PRO TIP: Distance yourselves from your competitors.

For example, your company offers stationery printing services and shares the same address with a similar printing provider. One of the listings could now be filtered out. It appears Google’s AI RankBrain is trying to filter out ‘duplicate content’ further in local search results too.

If this applies to me, how can I ensure I’m still included in the local results?

  • Ensure your business listing is as unique and accurate as possible.
  • Make sure your business is listed on all possible local directories and resources.
  • Add multiple high-quality images and videos to your listings to make them stand out.
  • Encourage & inspire your customers to leave great Google reviews.
  • Now’s the time to treat your Google Listing just like your site, regularly keep it updated!

4. Local results differ more depending on the specific search queries

Now’s the time to expand your keyword list with localised long-tail queries. It’s now proven that longer-tail keywords provide more variation in local search results. For example, users searching for “chester web design” and “cheshire web design” may now get slightly different results.

OK, enough about Possum, here’s all you need to know about Google Penguin 4.0

Did Penguin 4.0 / Real Time completely roll out?

When Google officially announced the release of Penguin 4.0, the most discussed topic among SEO’s was “Did Penguin fully roll out?”, the official answer – nobody knows!

Google states because the update is real-time, it is never really done rolling out – this means that the signals and ranking factors are constantly updated.

How’s Penguin 4.0 different?

The main change in Penguin 4.0 is that being real time, it’s now much quicker to recover from a Penguin Penalty. So if your site gets penalised for unnatural/spammy link profiles, now you won’t have to wait for ages for Google to refresh.

Penguin 4.0 penalisations are no longer sitewide

Penguin has moved towards a more granular ranking factor. Meaning, if some of your pages get penalised, the rest of the website may still keep its rankings unchanged.

What remains the same in Penguin 4.0?

Penguin 4.0 is still looking for sites with one or several of the following types of links in their profiles:

  • Links coming from poor quality, “spammy” sites;
  • Links coming from sites created purely for SEO link building (Private Blog Networks);
  • Links coming from topically irrelevant sites;
  • Paid links;
  • Links with overly optimised anchor text.

I’ll be posting our results/findings over the next few months in the base of this post, if you need help with your rankings or updating your local business listings, give me a shout!


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