With Google having frequently rolled out updates over the past few years, it doesn’t come much as a surprise any more to those who dabble in SEO. On September 1st, we started to see Google’s Possum update being rolled out, affecting our organic results. The Penguin 4.0 update seemed to follow close behind with it’s new real-time features in effect.

What we all would like to know, however, is if our website has been affected by these algorithm changes. Have our rankings been affected? Are there any changes my website could benefit from? What changes do I need to make to keep my ranks up? Rest assured, good citizen, we’re here to guide you through Google’s changes and how to prevent search engine disaster.



What is Google’s Possum algorithm?

Possum is the name for several changes that Google has made to a website’s local ranking. This update in the algorithm commenced on September 1st 2016. It’s important to understand that the Possum update focuses largely on filtering some local business listings as opposed to simply handing out penalties to the pages on your site. Think of this as an update to Google’s current local ranking algorithm, not a major game-changer. So, what’s changed?

Let’s jump right in.

Your searcher’s physical IP location influences your page’s rank

Where your visitors are when they search the web is an important factor. The Google Possum update has included a user’s physical location as factor when delivering more relevant results in the search results. This makes sense on Google’s part. It makes sense that they want to provide their users with the most relevant search results, right?

The Google Possum update has included a user’s physical location as factor when delivering more relevant results in the search results.

Businesses outside of cities are now inclusive (and get a ranking boost)

Local used to actually mean local. It used to be that businesses operating outside of cities they were targeting made it difficult for them to gain any competitive edge. Why? Simply, and sadly, because they weren’t within what was defined as the city perimeter, thus limiting them from being competitive. Naturally, businesses that were more centrally located reaped many times more benefits, from better ranking and increased awareness. With the Google Possum update, your business should start seeing more search engine ranking rewards and you too could start swiping these benefits for yourself.

Bunked up with other similar businesses? There could be bad news

If you happen to share an address with another business that provides a similar service, there may be some unfortunate news for you. Even though Google has been filtering listings for a while (including domains and telephone numbers) the Google Possum update has upped the ante and tweaked the algorithm to add physical locations to their list.

You may be thinking: I don’t deserve this! How do I avoid it?

Here’s the remedy:

  • Ensure that the information of your business listing is original and accurate as it can be.
  • Look at local directories, such as Yelp and Google My Business. Make sure you’re on there.
  • Step back and examine your business descriptions. Are they accurate?
  • Optimise your listings with better media, including videos and great-quality images.
  • Reach out to your customers. Encourage them to drop a review on Google if possible.

In summary, optimising your information helps to gain wins and in the long-term. You would make sure your website runs and looks complete, why should your local listings be treated any different?

Long-tail keywords matter more now than ever before

With the Possum update, your local ranking could differ depending on the search queries customers’ use. Long-tail keywords matter more now because the longer your keywords are, the more variation visitors get in the local results.

Here. Let’s say someone was looking for:

“Liverpool street bike shop”


“Liverpool street bike shop London”

That user may not be receiving the same results. What can you do about this? We suggest that if you notice a change in your results due to the filters, you should aim to optimise your local listings by ensuring you include the essential information. This means:

  • Your postcode
  • County name
  • City name (in full)

Google’s Penguin 4.0 Update

Unlike the Google Possum update, Google’s Penguin 4.0 update applies to all websites. In this next section, we run through the tweaks that have been introduced, new factors that could issue penalties, and how to minimise the risks of being a victim. The new update features what Google describes as real-time; updates to signals are constantly rolled-out and there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight.

What’s different with the new Penguin update?

As mentioned before, real-time is the new kid on the block. Should your website fall victim to penalties, guilty or not, it is much faster to recover from them should you ever experience one. Similarly, it’s also much easier to see your ranks in the results page drop quicker too.

Real-time is the new kid on the block.

For example, amassing a questionable number of low-quality links; expect to see your ranks plummet relatively quickly. Fix those issues and you should witness the opposite. This is the real-time function that Google has augmented into its existing algorithm.

Pages are punished, not whole sites

This is great news for your website if one of your pages appears to misbehave. Google decided not to hand out penalties across whole sites but instead punishes the individual without bringing the whole group down. This means your website and other pages may still retain their ranks in the search results.

Am I affected by Penguin 4.0?

Firstly, let’s clarify which links Penguin 4.0 pays attention to:


  • Bad quality links – Try to avoid spam and buying links
  • Links from Private Blog Networks – Steer clear from these.
  • Irrelevant links from unrelated sites – Ensure your links provide value to your visitors.
  • Links with anchor texts that are over-optimised with focus keywords

There are various tools you can use to check if your website has been a victim of Google’s algorithm including Rank Tracker, a popular pick by SEOs. The way to figure out what’s been going is to analyse your rank data. Use this tool to compare the dates of when Penguin 4.0 was released and the fluctuations and changes afterwards. This is one method to check the changes.

Audit your links and examine those penalty risks

If you are using the SEO SpyGlass tool by PowerSuite, it’s relatively simple to examine whether the links that Penguin 4.0 focus on are within its firing range. It’s helpful in gaining a holistic view of which links are at risk and which are in the safe zone.

Here’s how to check those links:

  1. Create a project
  2. Scroll over to Link Penalty Risk
  3. Grab the links and hit Update Link Penalty Risk
  4. Find the Penalty Risk column to see the results

Some links are in more danger than some. Generally, if you find a link that hovers over the 60% mark then this indicates that changes need to be made with immediate effect. Any links below this is normally considered a green light, however do investigate further and fix any issues should you feel the need to.

Banish those toxic links

If your content has gained some good traction, then the chances of getting inbound links are likely. Not all links are great for your site though. Low-quality links, as we’ve mentioned above, only exist to hurt your SEO efforts. You should start by trying to contact the webmasters who created those links and ask for them to be removed. If this fails, you should resort to Google’s Disavow tool, which signals to Google that these links are unwanted on your site and should be excluded when they crawl your site.

So, to cap it off

So the Google Possum and Penguin updates are still in their infancy and don’t seem to be as frightening as their older, ruthless cousins. However it’s always wise to keep an eye open for any sudden changes (or growth spurts) that can arise. Any penalties that incur on your pages will see your search ranks rise or fall relatively quickly due to Penguin’s new real-time add-on. The updates are still an ongoing process so stay alert.

Still unsure of how these changes will affect you? Our experts here at The Content Works can get your site up to scratch. To find out more about how we can help, drop us a line on 0207 305 55 99 or send an email to hello@thecontentworks.net – we’d be happy to lend a hand.


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