If you’re confused about what possums have to do with your storage company, don’t worry, all will be explained soon.

Nearly every time Google makes a major change to the way it ranks sites in the search results an animal name is assigned to it (usually beginning with p: Penguin, Panda and Pigeon being other notable p examples).

One of the more recent changes to the local search results has been given the name Possum; and this possum is one that storage companies need to pay attention to.

Before we get to exactly what the changes are, I’ll briefly explain what I meant above by ‘local search results’.

 

What Are Local Search Results?

When a user searches on Google for something with local intent, e.g. ‘find storage near me’, or ‘storage in London’ Google will show a map with companies listed, like in the image shown below.

 

London Storage

 

The map is usually shown just after the paid adverts at the top of the page.

Clicking the ‘More Places’ link at the bottom of the listings will take you to a bigger map where you can see all results for the relevant businesses for that location.  

 

If you want to learn more about how to ensure you show up in these results, you can find more information in our free guide.

 

 

So What Changed With Possum?

Possum wasn’t just one change, it was multiple changes that all happened at the same time, however, not all of them are relevant to storage companies, so we won’t cover them all.

The ones that do affect you are covered below:

 

The listings use a wider location radius

Previously, when someone searched for storage in a specific location e.g. ‘Storage in Birmingham’, Google would be quite strict with their city limits. If a business was located close to, but not actually in Birmingham, they would find it hard to rank well in the local results.

Even worse, proximity to the centre of a city was an important ranking factor. The closer you were to the city centre, the more likely you were to rank higher.

This was obviously a pain for a lot of storage companies who place their facilities on the edges or outside cities / towns.

Post Possum, Google has relaxed its reliance on city limits, meaning storage facilities located on the outskirts of towns are more likely to rank higher than they were.

 

How Does This Affect You?

You’re likely to see more competition for the local search results, as the wider search radius encompasses more storage facilities.

If you’re located somewhere on the outskirts of your town or city, you’re likely to see yourself appearing in the local results, where previously you might not have appeared at all. If you’re located in the middle of your town / city you might start seeing competition from storage facilities that aren’t as centrally located.

 

What Can You Do About It?

There isn’t anything that can be done about your storage facility’s location (without a lot of effort), but with this change that doesn’t matter any more. This update means your location is much less important for your local rankings, what is more important is where the searcher is located. Which brings me on to my next point…

 

The user’s location is weighted more heavily

Since Possum, Google has been placing much more importance on a user’s location. A user based outside of London who does a search for ‘storage in London’ will see different results to a user who performs the same search while inside London.

Phone search for storage

30% of mobile searches are related to a location

Google is now placing more importance on showing the user places that are closer to their physical location rather than showing them places that are closest to the location they searched for.

The further away you are from the location you’re searching for, the more zoomed out the map gets.

 

How Does This Affect You?

The effect of this change comes mainly from how you monitor your rankings for your target terms. If you measure how your site is performing from one location, this is likely to be different to the position that your site is ranking from a separate location. This only affects your local rankings, there is likely to be much less variance in the search results that appear underneath the local pack.

 

What Can You Do About It?

Measuring where you rank in the organic results (the results that appear underneath the local results) should still provide valuable information about your performance in those results. However, if you measure your rankings in the local results, this information is now less useful, as it is only accurate for a certain location.

If you aren’t doing it already, now is the time to place more emphasis in your performance in the Google My Business dashboard rather than in the search results.

 

The results vary more based on search terms

Google is now showing more variation in rankings based off what exactly a user searches for.

Previously Google would usually show users the same or very similar results whether they searched for ‘storage in Boston’, ‘Boston based storage’, ‘self storage Boston’ etc.

Google understood the intent of all of those searches was the same, and so they should be shown the same or similar results.

Post Possum there is more variation in the search results depending on exactly which query a user types. You can see examples of this here for a search on ‘Storage Manchester’.

 

storage manchester

 

Compared with this search for ‘Storage in Manchester’.

 

Storage in Manchester

 

How Does This Affect You?

It is unclear whether this will stop happening with time. However, you should have seen some fluctuations in any rankings you measure if you measure multiple variations of the same terms. It is estimated that 64% of local searches were affected by Possum, so chances are you have seen these fluctuations.

 

What Can You Do About It?

Whether or not this is something that will change with time, it is best to make sure your pages have plenty of high quality content on them that uses your target keywords in multiple different ways, so that your pages aren’t over optimised for one particular search term. This was good advice before Possum and it becomes more relevant now.

 

There’s more variation between local and organic results

What we’ve been talking about so far is the local results. This is the ‘3-Pack’ of results that includes the map, and then up to three results underneath (at the time of writing there are a maximum of three spaces, this may change with the addition of paid results).

Underneath these local results are the organic results. These are the pages on the internet that Google thinks are most relevant to the user’s search.

Storage Leicester

Previously the local and organic results were very highly correlated. If you ranked at the top of the local results, chances are you would rank top of the organic results. Post Possum, these pages are still highly correlated, but less so than before.

There are sites Google filters out of the organic results that appear in the local results. Similarly, there are sites that are appearing high in the organic results, that don’t appear in local. Of course, this happened before Possum, but it seems like it is more common now.

 

How Does This Affect You?

As this wasn’t a dramatic change, it’s possible it hasn’t affected you at all. However, you might see your organic rankings have changed but your local rankings remained the same, or vice versa.

 

What Can You Do About It?

Now the algorithms behind these two rankings seem to be less related to each other, it is time to start thinking of local and organic as separate areas that require your attention.

Maybe you have a good site, which used to prop up your local listings so you didn’t need to spend much attention on them. Now is the time to start making sure each of these areas are performing as well as they can, and start measuring your performance in Google My Business.

 

Final Thoughts

Hopefully you saw a benefit from this update, if you would like to know more about how to perform well in the local search results, check out our free guide, or get in touch to see how we can help you.

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