Did you notice your local rankings fluctuating after the 22nd August? Well, that’s because Google threw in a new little algorithm strictly targeting local results. The update was to change the way the local filter works for SERPs. Previously, Google had always filtered out listings from local results that were similar to other ranking listings. Similar to what they do to duplicate content, they pick the most relevant listing to prioritise and filters out the rest.
In September 2016, an update to local listings (dubbed the Possum update by some) proved problematic for many businesses. Basically, it started filtering out listings that shared the same phone number, website and also listings of businesses that were physically located near each other. That meant that if another business in your industry, even a direct competitor, shared the same building or road, then it could cause you to get filtered out of search results! Not great, Google!
Obviously, people weren’t particularly happy with these results. And this brings us to the newest update, dubbed ‘Hawk’ by Joy Hawkins (we see what you did there, Joy). Google refined their proximity filter to make it more precise and we’re starting to see fewer businesses affected by these changes, though they still are happening, in particular to those who share the same building or within about 50 feet.
Joy started to notice the results when she monitored the search rankings for a local orthodontic centre;
“Weber Orthodontics got filtered after the Possum algorithm update for the term “orthodontist wheaton il” due to the fact that they had a competitor down the street — 325 feet from where they were located. This competitor had a higher organic ranking and stronger relevance to that keyword, so they were included in the results, and Weber was filtered out.”
After the Hawk update, Joy started to notice the listings for Weber Orthodontics return to the front page. A few months prior to this, they were missing altogether.
It’s unfortunate that it took almost a year for Google to realise that their Possum algorithm was just way too broad, even after multiple complaints. This new update will hopefully see your local listings start to return so keep working on them and monitoring them daily for changes.