All you should know about Google’s ‘Possum’ algorithm update

google algorithm update september 2016
google algorithm update september 2016

Google seo algorithm changed

Have you been thinking what’s the matter with the recent local search rankings? Here’s a detail of what’s been happening and what the local SEO experts call it as ‘Possum’.

So what is exactly ‘Possum’? Possum is simply the name given by the SEO fellas for the latest algorithm update of Google on Sep 1, 2016, which is of course a kind of big one.

Wondering how this name came about? After this new update most of the business biggies started to think that their google ranking is gone. But in fact, it wasn’t completely gone, but they were just getting filtered – they’re played possum. And hence, the name came around.

What the update has to do?

With what we have figured out, it indicates that this particular update only affected ranking in the 3-pack and Local Finder (AKA the local results or Google Maps results). There is a suspicion for another update that was done just after this one and which might be the cause for affecting organic results.

The experts’ opinion is that the update was fundamentally given to diversify the local results and to reduce spam from getting good ranks.

Thinking of the past updates that’s been given to the Local, this might be the biggest one following Pigeon in 2014. One of the very crucial feature that was updated was Google’s filtering algorithm which affects to the local results.

Getting into the specs

  1. City limits are now considered.

    City limits are now considered.
    City limits are now considered.

Before this update, there was a problem in ranking business and place that falls outside the city limit when searched by a city name since they were technically outside the city.

After this update, this issue is sorted out and google can now rank any businesses or place that is closely to your city as well. Most businesses like this saw massive increases in their local ranking. Here is an example.

For example, think of business that is running closely to a particular city. Google will rank the business only when you search from the address on which the business is run. Regardless of how much do the SEO for the neighbouring cities, the ranking will not improve since the SEO will be filtered due to the address.

But with the latest update, google can now rank businesses from your neighbouring cities as well. This will greatly improve the rankings.


  1. Google is now filtering based on address and affiliation.


On the earlier version, we have to use a filter to clear-out profiles and individual contacts that shared the same phone number or domain.

For example, you might have a business or a company that has a number of separate listings for individual consultants or employees and then an extra generalised one for your company itself. After the update, all these individual profiles can be linked under the generalised listing that has the same website and phone number. Others will be filtered, allowing only one or two to show up.

This makes sense, as Google regularly filters duplicate content organically, and showing their users tons of results from the same company isn’t necessarily what’s best for users. When you are searching for a new dentist, do you really want to see the same office listed several times?

Thanks to the new update, now we can see a lot of varying businesses in our search results than just one guy repeated over and over again.

This information helped us confirm that Google is a bit more sophisticated than just looking at the address you enter in Google My Business (GMB).


  1. The physical location of the searcher gets more importance.


Google search results will now be filtered giving priority to your search location as well. Which means if you search for a shopping mall from one location, then Google will try to rank the ones that are closest to you. It will leave out the head-office that is located much far from your location. But, if you go to the close by location of the head-office, there is more possibility that the head-office will be ranked top at your listing.

This also means that two results from two locations might not be the same always. The results and rankings will become more specific and user centred.

However, once again, this also doesn’t mean that all your SEO work is gone and your ranking is lot. It only means for better user experience. And moreover, just because you are ranked top first to a user far from you, it doesn’t mean that he/she is going to come to you. So keep cool.

It seems that since this update, it’s more important than ever to make sure the searcher location is set to the right city when tracking ranking.


  1. Search results vary more based on slight variations of the keyword searched.

There’ve been a lot of reports coming out lately regarding variations in keyword as well. Before the update when you type in two or three keywords or any combinations of it, the results will all be the same.

Since this update, we are experiencing more variation between alike keywords. In some cases, we’ve seen listings that was filtered for one query but then appeared back in the local results if you added the state abbreviation to the keyword.


  1. The local filter seems to be running more independently from the organic filter.

Previously, we used to figure out if Google is filtering your website organically or does it filter the one page that you have given to your listing, this had a slighter negative impact on ranking. With this new update, we are experiencing examples of businesses that are getting ranked very high for competitive terms that are linking to pages that are filtered organically.


If you are having multiple websites, and two of these sites are having a lot of similarity, then it is more likely that one of the twin sites get filtered out no matter how much SEO you are doing.

Organically, Google is smart enough to realize this is the same site (One version does not 301 to the other, so it is set up incorrectly), and Google hasn’t indexed both versions, but this is another example of how the local filter and the organic filter seem to be completely different and less connected than they were before.



In context, most of the user are still encountering lot of variation, which is makes wonder if Google is still testing with their various ranking signals. Ranking trackers like Algoroo are still showing a lot of fluctuation in the search results. While saying that, it is also possible for certain things they changed to revert back as well.

Until now, the filtering system manages to hold steady, but the exact pattern is not being correctly recognised.

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