What on Earth is Google Possum? And Why Is It Important for Local Businesses?

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Guest post by Daniel Deelstra from The Marketing Mix

Ranking in Google’s snack pack of map results is arguably the best way to drive traffic from the web to your physical storefront.


There has recently been a big shake up on local pack results. From time to time Google changes it’s algorithm to improve the relevancy of its search results and combat spam.  Google’s latest local algorithm shakeup has been nicknamed “Possum” and ever since its release in September it has been shaking things up in the local SEO results. This algorithm only effects search queries with local intent and the probability for businesses to appear in the local snack pack. In this article we take a look at the impact of Google Possum and analyse the winners and losers.


So What Are The Significant Changes?

City Limits Have Been Extended

Before the update, Search Engine Journal identified a problem with local SEO.  The problem was that when a location was specified in a search query businesses were unable to rank if they were technically not located in the city limits.  For example for the term “Melbourne Car Dealership” it would be difficult to rank for that term if you were not located within the city limits of Melbourne.   Possum seems to have fixed this issue. If your business is not technically located within the boundaries of a city you can now rank for local intent terms with the location included.  So what’s the takeaway?  In the past, if you were located outside the city limits it would be a waste of effort to try and force yourself in the local pack.  Now that is not the case, Google is more forgiving in regards to location and seems to include relevant results outside the city limits. So focus on local ranking factors such as NAP consistency, reviews and external links to your site and go after that local pack result.


Local Stores Are the Big Winners

It seems that with Google Possum the biggest winners are local businesses close to their customer base.  This comes down to the fact that user location is more important than ever.  Many SEO specialists are seeing a greater separation between local rankings and organic rankings since the Possum update.  Before the update, ranking high in the list results was likely the most important factor for appearing in the local pack result.  Since the Possum update, SEO specialists are seeing a separation between these two results.  This is due to the importance of user location affecting the rankings. 

Take this search for the term “Boat Storage”. This search was done from the location of Osborne Park WA.  Note that Storage King Osborne Park ranks number 1 in maps despite ranking on page 3 for the traditional list results. This shows how important your user location is to appearing in the map result.  User location has long been a factor for local SEO, but since Possum it seems to be given more weight.  This will result in more varied results based on user location.


Variations in Keywords Matter

Techwyse­­­ made an interesting discovery that shows that variations in keywords matter more since the Possum update.   Looking at some examples, different combinations of keywords yield different local pack results.  Take the niche of a doctor in Fremantle for example.   The results vary depending on the order the keywords are placed together.


“Doctor Fremantle”


“Fremantle Doctor”

It seems that Google perceives a different search intent for these two terms. This is where good keyword research comes into play  Hiring a local SEO company would be wise to ensure you are targeting the right keywords that have the most searches per month and highest purchase intent.



At this stage, the algorithm is still coming into effect and things have not settled down yet. Certainly, our tracking at The Marketing Mix has seen significant fluctuations in local results since Possum’s inception. At this stage the best practice is to do what we know does improve results such as quality content, quality local directory listings and good on page SEO.   


Daniel Deelstra is a keen digital marketer, SEO and entrepreneur from Perth-based marketing agency The Marketing Mix. Daniel is passionate about business growth using all digital marketing channels. Always scoping for innovative ways to communicate with customers, and provide engaging content, Daniel loves nothing more than driving sales through qualified web traffic and leads.