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Google local search updates: do you know your possums from your pigeons?

16 February, 2017

Google local search updates: do you know your possums from your pigeons?For business leaders, or in-house marketers, trying to stay on top of the latest Google algorithm updates can be a constant uphill strive. Google usually makes these updates with no prior announcement. So, you could be top of the search results one day, and not even be on the first page the next day.

For most of you who are already interested in search engine optimisation (SEO), Panda and Penguin will be reasonably well known updates. But there are several others that could be impacting where your website ranks in Google search. Two of these updates – Pigeon and Possum – have come fairly recently and, if your business relies on local search, they should definitely be of interest to you:


The Possum update

Google’s Possum update arrived on September 1st 2016, although it still hasn’t actually been confirmed by Google. Many local businesses noticed a dip in their search rankings for certain keywords, whilst some noticed an increase. A study, by Search Engine Land, looked at 1,307 businesses, which ranked for a total of 14,242 different keywords. They discovered that 64% of local search engine ranking pages (SERPs) had seen some sort of change between August 31st (the day before the update) and September 7th. Was your business affected?

Apart from search rankings being affected, there are some other notable changes that resulted from the Possum update:

  • With a focus on mobile in recent years, Google now considers your IP address. This means that the search engine is using your location to find the most relevant search results for you.
  • Another change is that Google has focused more on delivering more accurate results. The algorithm detects results that are still relevant to you, even if it’s not exactly what you searched for. For example, if you searched for ‘Digital agencies in Leeds’, it’s not just digital agencies, that are directly in Leeds, which are going to show up. Google even shows relevant agencies that are slightly outside of the city boundaries.
  • Google also offers more of a variety between results depending on what keywords you search for. For example, before the Possum update, if you searched for ‘digital agencies in Leeds’ and ‘Leeds digital agencies’, you would get quite similar results. Whereas, now, the results would be completely different.


Google PossumThe Pigeon update

Google’s Pigeon update first arrived back in July 2014, although this was only a US-wide rollout. The update was rolled out across the UK, Canada, and Australia in December 2014. This algorithm helped to connect the web search results with the map search results, offering more accurate and cohesive results. Similarly, to the Possum update, Pigeon affected a huge amount of local search rankings, with many local business owners reporting changes in their rankings.

We’ve outlined some of the other most notable local search changes that were caused by the Pigeon update:

  • Due to an issue between Google and Yelp, where Google seemed to be prioritising their own reviews ahead of Yelp’s, we’ve seen Google putting Yelp reviews ahead of their own. This is also similar with other review sites such as Tripadvisor, Trustpilot, Just Eat, and so on.
  • Google now provides relevant search results for places that are slightly outside of a searched-for area. This is similar to an aspect of the Possum update, although, as the Possum update is newer, we’ll assume that it is a lot more advanced.
  • The Pigeon algorithm also gives greater weight to businesses who have optimised their websites and social profiles to reflect the specific neighbourhood where they’re based, rather than just the name of a city or region.

Both of these updates focus on the local search results, but, when you break them down, they are two quite different updates.


As a local business owner, you’re not expected to understand all of this. Your website development company should be able to advise you on SEO as part of the build and launch process. For example, developing for mobile first is now a popular request, since Google changed its algorithms to de-rank sites that aren’t optimised for viewing on mobile devices.

Many website development companies simply hand over the website when it goes live, whereas you need to understand how to drive traffic to the website. To do this yourself, you should really have some sort of understanding of how Google search rankings work.Website maintenance

At, we offer a free marketing strategy consultation as part of all new website builds, to ensure you have a reliable plan for driving traffic to your site after it’s been built.

Search engines continually update algorithms and the platform your site is built upon will also publish regular updates with improved security, functionality and usability features. It’s important to keep on top of these to ensure your website continues to run smoothly. We offer several web maintenance packages, depending on your requirements – both with and without hosting. Some of our packages also include free monthly design and development hours, for any updates or design changes you want to make, on an ongoing basis.

Why not get in touch today to find out how we can help?

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  • I am amazed by this article. It has so much information that any blogger or website owner must know. Thanks a lot!

  • SEO Consultant Ahmedabad says:

    Thanks for sharing such an amazing Informative blog. Very well explained guidelines for Possums and Pigeons Updates. Great work!

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