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Details about the recent Possum and Penguin updates from Google

In this week’s Wednesday Workshop video, we explain the details about the two major updates released by Google this month. It’s not often that two major updates are pushed out in the same month, so we wanted to explain what’s changed so dealers understand what’s different.

What’s been dubbed the Possum update rolled out a few weeks ago, and it’s the update that most dealers would have noticed. Possum resulted in quite a few changes to how businesses are displayed in local searches, specifically in the 3-pack and the Local Finder page. Google also release Penguin 4.0, the final major iteration on its link spam algorithm (it’s now baked into the core algorithm and updates in real time).


Welcome back to another Wednesday Workshop from DealerOn. This week, we’re sharing important news about recent Google updates – so make sure stick with us for all the details…

If you haven’t heard yet, Google rolled out 2 major updates this month. Just last week, Penguin 4.0 was released. Penguin is Google’s link spam algorithm, and it’s been almost 2 years since the last update. Penguin is now “baked in” to the core algorithm, so it updates in real time.

This is huge – in the past, if you were hit by a Penguin penalty, you’d have to wait until Penguin was updated again to recover (assuming you cleaned up your bad links in the meantime). Now, since the algo updates in real time, recovery should happen much faster.

Most dealers weren’t affected by Penguin 4.0, but a significant number of dealers saw some massive changes earlier this month with what’s being called the Possum update.

Don’t EVEN get me started on the name… There are so many other P-named animals we could have gone with – I definitely would have called it Platypus…

But anyway, it’s the biggest update to local results since Pigeon rolled out in the summer of 2014. It appears that the main focus of the update relates to Google’s filter that applies to local results.

Businesses that “technically” fall outside of city limits, yet still have a mailing address in that city, have had a tough time showing up in searches in the past, but after this Possum update, we’re seeing them show in the map pack a lot more often.

We’re seeing a huge change in how Google filters the local results in the 3 pack and Local Finder as well. Google has always used a filter on local results that filtered out listings that shared a similar phone number or domain name.

After this update, we’re seeing lots of businesses get filtered because they share an address with another business in the same category. For example, if there are 5 personal injury attorneys all in the same building at the same address, but they’re separate firms, they’d all show up in the past… but after the Possum update, only one will show.

This could definitely affect dealerships, when there are separate rooftops and websites for brands that are all at one location. We’re conducting research right now to see if the Possum update has resulted in an increase of filtered results for dealers, so stay tuned to our blog for the results!

Keep in mind – this is a filter, not a penalty. Google is simply showing what it considers to be the best result, and trying to show a variety of results, just like it does with organic listings.

We’re also seeing that the physical location of the searcher is much more important – even if you include the city with the phrase, if you’re not actually in that city, you’ll see different results. To see what local users see, you’ll need to use a tool that allows you to see local search results.
We’re also seeing a big variation in 3-pack results based on the variations of the keyword being searched. In the past, if you searched “used cars Dallas” or “Dallas used cars” or “used cars Dallas TX”, you’d see pretty similar results.

After the Possum update, the results are a lot more varied. In some cases, the entire 3-pack is different, and we’ve even seen a few cases where a business is filtered on one search phrase, but not on another.

We’ve seen a disconnect in the filter as well. In the past, if Google was filtering you organically, it had a negative impact on your visibility in the 3-pack or the Local Finder. Now, that filter is independent – we’ve seen several cases where a business will rank really well for a competitive term in the pack, yet it’s linking to a page that’s been filtered in the standard organic results.

What does this all mean for auto dealers? In most cases, it’s been a win – dealers have seen increased visibility and better local rankings. It’s possible that a few dealerships that share an address might have reduced visibility thanks to the filter, but we haven’t seen any in the wild yet. We’re definitely checking into things, and will have a more thoroughly researched update for you soon.

As always, keep an eye on our blog – we’ll share any important findings in a post or a video as soon as we’ve got anything new figured out. Also, don’t forget to stop back every week for a new Wednesday Workshop video from DealerOn.

Author Greg Gifford

Greg Gifford is the Vice President of Search at DealerOn. He has over 16 years of online marketing and web design experience, and has specialized in automotive SEO for the last 8 years, helping hundreds of auto dealers thrive while the industry has struggled during the recession. Greg speaks internationally at both automotive and SEO conferences, teaching thousands of small business owners and marketers how to get their sites to show up higher in local search rankings. Greg also spends his spare time doing freelance website design and SEO for local businesses. He graduated from Southern Methodist University with a BA in Cinema and Communications, and has an obscure movie quote for just about any situation.

More posts by Greg Gifford

Join the discussion 3 Comments

  •' Steve says:

    Love the T-shirt, Greg

  •' Rob Watson says:

    Hey Greg – another interesting update, especially the bits about the map pack.

    Do you think there is any correlation between different or multiple business categories on GMB? For example, if our dealership sells new and used cars, should we be using the used cars category as a secondary one?

    I’m noticing that a lot of companies that get in to the map pack for used cars +city searches do have used car dealer as one of their categories. However, I never noticed whether or not this was the case before the algo change so I don’t know if this is new.

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