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All the P's: Google's updates could be harming your site's SEO!

 penguin and possum SEO google

People: Oh for the love of all things SEO, not ANOTHER Google update to deal with?!

Me: Unfortunately yes. 

People: Well please say they haven't named it after animals again?! 

Me: Err, also unfortunately yes. Possum and Penguin (4.0)...**


Although this may appear that Google are being deliberately difficult, it is in fact another step towards their ideal customer led experience and ultimately optimising their searches. 

We, as Digital Marketing experts, see this as a fantastic opportunity to re-aline your online activities which benefit those businesses that can get ahead of the curve in this constantly changing environment!

As one person noted internally, "Google's updates always sort the SEO men (and women!) from the boys!"; so to the victor the spoils!


What are they? 

So as above, Google confirmed - on their webmasters blog -  in early September that they were rolling out two new updates. Possum and Penguin. Both algorithms form part of Google's PageRank algorithm and work on separate areas of the search feature. 


Penguin 4.0 - Penguin has been part of Google's algorithm's for a while, but the latest update works in real-time ensuring that websites can recover from penalties on their pages and sites much quicker.

This means once a penalty has been applied (and then fixed), Google's bots will re-scan the page immediately and remove the penalty. This wasn't always the case and caused pain to sites who resolved issues quickly. 

Penguin however now also works in a secondary way. Penalties applied to certain pages used to effect an entire site's ranking but no more. 'Clean' pages will now keep their ranking even if others within the site have been hit. Simple. 


Possum - Possum is alittle more complicated and wasn't offically announced by Google. The change has been applied to the Local Ranking Algorithm and alters the way local searches are pulled up.

It puts more emphasis on the specific IP location of each searcher meaning an individual will see a highly localised set of results which are tailored for them. 

As a result, this will effect businesses that are registered to buildings that have multiple companies inside and could actually boost the ranking of others that aren't exactly in the centre of major towns and cities.

This will aid businesses that have specific location informations entered into Google's listings and will increase the amount of businesses who are ensuring that their details are correctly on Google. 


So what should I do?! 


There really shouldn't be any need to panic but most sites will see a slight dip in their rankings due to the fact that Penguin - as noted above - now works in real-time. Any bad pages will be picked up immediately but equally, once fixed will also have any penalties lifted. 

This will benefit fast responses to any poor pages that you have and will notify you of any negative on / off-page SEO that you may have experienced.

It is important to note that Penguin at its core won't have changed, and its primary objective at looking at the quality of links will remain untouched. Once you notice a drop off in Impressions, look into your back links and begin the process of disavowing them via Google Search Console. 

As above because the update will now work in real-time, fixes should be picked up immediately and Google will make the appropriate alterations. 

Thus Google will still be looking at:  

  • Links coming from poor quality, "spammy" sites;
  • Links coming from sites created purely for SEO link building (PBNs);
  • Links coming from topically irrelevant sites;
  • Paid links;
  • Links with overly optimized anchor text.



This will affect more businesses than Penguin and will begin omitting / filtering some results that were appearing before. Business that will benefit include those who before weren't listed as being in a city or town centre whereas now they will be considered very much part of this area.

As Inessa Bokhan from Link-Assistant.com notes: 


Previously, if your business wasn't physically located in the city you targeted.  But being pretty close to it, it was hard for you to compete with the listings with a more central location. Not any more.


The biggest causality from Possum's updates will be those companies who shared a building or an address with multiple businesses.

As we know, Google is driven by removing or minimising duplicated content whenever possible and it would now appear as though this has now been applied to physical locations as well!

So what can you do (apart from moving your entire business!)? Well:

  • Ensure your company listing information in as up-to-date and accurate as possible.
  • Listed you business on all local online directories.
  • Verify your company descriptions and ensure they read correctly throughout.
  • Add high-quality and engaging rich content to your listings.
  • Inspire your customers to leave reviews via Google reviews!  



What are we able to take away from this? Well firstly that not all Google updates are a bad thing! All look to improve the internet for its searchers and some will directly improve your rankings

These specific updates mainly do the latter, and will require some minor T.L.C to your online listings and possibly a quick audit of your site to ensure you are aware of any penalties you may have gained as a result of September activities. 

But the same as always still applies and as Google itself says: 


Webmasters should be free to focus on creating amazing, compelling websites. It's also important to remember that updates like Penguin are just one of more than 200 signals we use to determine rank.


** No animals were harmed during the writing of this blog...

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