Penguin 4.0: 101

penguinIt seems like every time Google rolls out with a new algorithm, the SEO community goes into panic mode. We again find ourselves in a similar situation; asking ourselves how Google’s newest update will impact local ranking. We started scratching our heads in early September when we saw SERPs jumping around like crazy.

While it’s still early, new developments are beginning to shed light on what we must do in order to stay ahead.

What is Google’s newest update?

Google tried downplaying September’s abnormalities as “normal fluctuations.” However, SEO experts could see that there was an algorithm change at play here, and caught on pretty quickly that this was an update to Google’s 2014 Penguin algorithm, which penalized websites that were utilizing black hat SEO tactics to manipulate the number of backlinks.

What’s going on?

Penguin now devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals in real time. That means instead of a whole site getting penalized for spammy links, only the individual page will be affected. The local part of the update has already been nicknamed Possum, which, if you don’t know, is an Australian marsupial distinguished by a prehensile tail and grayish-white body.

It was SEO expert, Phil Rozek, who first suggested the name, pointing out “that it is fitting since many business owners think their Google My Business listings are gone, when in fact they are not. They have just been filtered — they’re playing possum.”

How will Possum affect your website?

Since this is a filter update, your site shouldn’t receive a penalty if you aren’t using any redundant local business listings. You might have actually seen a boost in your site’s position, depending on your location.

It used to be difficult for a website with a physical location outside of a city center to rank well, but that seems to be changing. Businesses that are on the outskirts are now seeing a spike in ranking.

Other changes have been noted too. Several weeks ago, you’d get similar results for searches such as, “Montreal Plumber” or “Plumbing Montreal.”  Different results are now being displayed depending on your specific search terms.

What this means for you:

Since Google is playing with the relationship between local maps and organic, NAP (Name Address Phone) consistency is important, now more than ever. Any inconsistency, such as your address appearing differently on Yelp than on your website, will cause Google to question the validity of your business, hurting your placement on search listings.

As far as keywords, it is in your best interest to play with city/service variations and utilize long tail keywords.


The good news? If you aren’t doing anything scammy, chances are you weren’t much affected by the update. Nice guys don’t finish last in this arena. If you were hit? Google is still rolling out this update, so it’s not too late to make adjustments. Clean up low-quality links and over-optimized anchor text. And remember, it pays to use organic techniques to improve your sites ranking, such as building links naturally.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *