Google algorithm updates: Possum and Penguin.

5 Ways to Improve Local SEO – Possum. Penguin. Penalty Prevention.

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September was an interesting month for Search Engine Optimization.

Google regularly refreshes its search algorithms and occasionally will make more significant changes and updates. Google rarely announces when they’re doing updates, but when they happen, we see a lot of chatter in search forums and on blogs from SEO specialists whose web pages have been affected.

That’s exactly how it is with Google Possum — we know an update happened, but it’s impossible to know the exact impact this early in the game.

In addition, at the end of a month of wild ranking fluctuations, Google officially announced, “Penguin 4.0.”

Here’s what we have seen from both updates:


The consensus among the local SEO community is that the Possum algorithm update has been applied to fight spammy listings and improve the Google “local pack” or map listing diversity.

Google is essentially trying to improve the local user experience by filtering out duplicate listings and including additional relevant listings that may not have been readily visible because they were outside the city limit of a local query.  

For example: You have a well-reviewed dental business listing located in Colbert, WA. This listing is also in full compliance of the Google Local Business Guidelines.   

Although your business is outside of Spokane city limits, it’s still relevant for “Spokane Dentists,” as the business is still located within Spokane county.  The Possum update will now give your business a better chance of appearing for relevant, geographically-targeted phrases that previously excluded your business because of the city limit cut off.


PENGUIN 4.0 (read official announcement)

Google’s latest update to its link spam algorithm has three main facets:

  1. Penguin is now operating more granularly, on a page-level rather than a domain-level. This means that any penalties or ranking changes will only affect individual pages, rather than affecting organic visibility for the whole site.
  2. Penguin will now devalue spam links instead of demoting. Spammy links pointing to your site will be ignored by Google rather than causing your entire site’s visibility to drop. This means that disavowing links is less important (you still need to use the disavow tool to recover from a manual action, and monitoring and disavowing bad links will also mean you’re less likely to be hit with a penalty).
  3. Penguin is now operating in real-time. This means that any algorithm effects on a page will be applied as soon as it has been crawled and indexed (rather than waiting for the next Penguin update to roll out).

Penalty Prevention – What can be done?

How you conduct your on-site and off-site SEO should not change, assuming you are adhering to Google’s Best Practice guidelines. Best-practice SEO still applies, and in relation to the local and Penguin updates, the following are still true:

  1. Update your Google My Business listings. Ensure your google local business listings are up to date, and an accurate representation of your business and its location(s).
  2. Update your schema markup. Information about your business (phone number, address, etc) should be included on your site and have valid schema markup.
  3. Local directory listings are still fine, as long as they are on relevant, high quality sites and useful for potential customers.
  4. Never build unnatural links to your site. If Google sees evidence of link buying then you are likely to get hit with a manual penalty.
  5. Contact ElementarySEO. Local businesses, it’s definitely time to brush up your local listings and on-site content.

Search is a zero sum game — as one business listing drops in rankings, a better optimized and more suitable listing always rises up to take its place.

Want to be that local business? Drop me a line, 509-703-4099 or leave your details here.

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