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Google Possum: What Local Business Owners Need to Know
As a business owner, you wear a lot of hats—trust me, I know. Before starting Blue Corona, I was the managing partner of a start-up office coffee delivery business. In the early days, I did everything—from building the website to inventorying coffee and supplies to installing and demoing coffee brewers.
Long weeks—80 hours or more—were the norm, and there was always more work to be done than I had time to do it. Back then, I didn’t have time to keep tabs on all Google’s algorithm updates, but I was certainly impacted by them. And, whether you realize it or not, your business is too.
If you want to read technical SEO posts about Google’s most recent algorithm change dubbed “Possum” by the search marketing community, be my guest. But that’s not what this post is really about.
This post is what I think you need to know about Google Possum as a business owner.
The Minimum Business Owners Should Know About Google Algorithm Updates
Google algorithm updates are generally the domain of technical SEO geeks; however, consider the percentage of website visitors and leads you receive from Google Organic search. (Do you even know?)
For most businesses, it’s a lot. And for this reason, there is a certain minimum knowledge you should have about how Google works. Google’s search ranking algorithm is comprised of at least 200 unique signals. Think I’m saying this just to freak you out or give you the impression that SEO is really complicated?
Don’t take my word for it; get the inside scoop on Google’s Webmaster Central Blog:
“Google’s algorithms rely on more than 200 unique signals or “clues” that make it possible to surface what you might be looking for. These signals include things like specific words that appear on websites, the freshness of content, your region, and PageRank.”
SEO is a complicated and ever-changing endeavor. Most search engine experts agree that Google updates their algorithm daily. Now, most of Google’s changes are so small that practically no one notices—no one except the really hardcore SEO experts, people paid to study the search engine results pages.
However, every now and then, Google makes a big change (or multiple small changes) that result in a noticeable change to the organic search results.
On September 1, 2016, this change occurred, and it’s being dubbed “the Google Possum update” by the search engine community.
The Minimum Business Owners Should Know About Google Possum
Here is the minimum you should know about Google Possum: It appears to affect local SEO aka. the local search results—what some people call Google Local Listings, Google Map Listings, the 3-Pack, etc.
Here’s an example of the 3-pack:
Before Google Possum, a local business with a physical address outside a particular city had a very difficult time ranking in the 3-pack for searches including that city.
Today, more businesses are being listed that serve a particular city, even though they may not be physically located within the city limits.
Other things the experts are noticing after Google’s Possum update:
- Businesses with multiple listings for the same address are being filtered down to a single listing.
- Businesses with two different names, addresses, and phone numbers are being filtered down to a single listing when they appear to be in the same industry and owned by the same person.
- Searcher location appears to be weighted even higher than it previously was. In other words, the results you see for the same keyword search may vary considerably as your position changes. You can see this in action by doing searches from your phone as you travel farther and farther from a specific geographic location.
A Business Owner’s Google Possum Action Plan
Don’t try to become an SEO expert
While it’s tempting to try to become an SEO expert, don’t. Even if your business is running on auto-pilot, keeping up with the technical side of SEO is incredibly time-consuming. And unless you manage hundreds of websites (so that you can see how various Google changes impact clients in aggregate), you’ll rarely be able to translate your knowledge into a benefit for your business.
I run a digital marketing company, and I’m not even able to keep up with all the SEO changes anymore (at least not to the extent our SEO team does). Once we hit 30 employees, the other demands on my time became too great.
Luckily, I have a fantastic team of 10+ technical SEO experts that have been tasked with staying on the bleeding edge. They work long hours to ensure that our clients have the best possible strategy despite the ever-changing landscape.
Make sure you have the right digital marketing partner
Any time there is a change in the digital marketing landscape, there’s an opportunity to “run the traps” and make sure you have the right partner in place. Does your digital marketing partner have the right tools in place to proactively identify events like this? They’d better.
There are almost always signals that precede the actual update. Quiz them. Ask them what their take is. Do they even know that a major update has happened? Do they know if you’ve been impacted? Do they have a plan?
Make sure your digital marketing strategy is free of tricks and gimmicks
You know the saying, “nothing good comes easy”? Well, nowhere is it more relevant than digital marketing. Your content marketing and SEO strategy should be free of short-term tricks and short-sighted gimmicks. Certainly, there are often various SEO tactics that, when implemented tactfully, can produce a short-term results boost; however, you have to make sure you’re:
A) Not doing anything that violates Google’s webmaster guidelines
B) Focused on a digital strategy that delivers the best long-term ROI
As a general rule, Google is smarter than you (or your digital marketing partner). If you’re going to play on Google’s playground, you’ve got to play by their rules. Make sure your digital marketing partner’s strategies for your business focus on initiatives approved by Google but overlooked by your competitors (vs. those that directly violate Google’s guidelines).
Focus on the metrics that matter
A lot of online marketing firms make things like keyword rankings and impressions the focus of their monthly client reports. Those metrics are important for your SEO company to monitor, but you shouldn’t get hung up on them.
As I’ve mentioned in other blog posts, the measure of SEO success for business owners is revenue, not keyword rankings. Your focus should remain on leads, sales, revenue, and profit–not algorithm updates and keyword rankings.
No matter what size your business, as the owner, you probably split your time between multiple roles. A big part of building a successful business is identifying the various roles you need to play and delegating the rest to your team.
Which roles you play obviously depends on your business, your skills/background, your team, and your interests; almost certainly technical SEO expertise should not be on the list. Google’s algorithm has at least 200 signals, and changes are made daily.
Whenever Google makes a change, you will receive dozens of emails from marketers. Great marketers know that fear motivates action and that no one cares about your business as much as you do.
But as an owner, you should not take action every time Google updates their algorithm. You also should not try to dive into the technical SEO details. Instead, take ONE change Google makes and use it to ensure you have the right digital marketing partner in place.
For example, schedule an unplanned call with your current digital marketing company. Ask them indirect questions to figure out whether they know about what has happened (the algorithm update). Get their opinion on whether the change impacts your business (not all do). You’ll know, based on the quality of their answers, if they’ve got their shit together or not.
If you’d like guidance before such a call or if that conversation has you in doubt about whether your current partner is the right one or not, drop us a line.
About The Author: Ben Landers is the President and CEO of Blue Corona, a data-driven, inbound internet marketing company. Submit an inquiry to book Ben to speak at your next conference or event.
View more blogs by Ben Landers