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Google’s Local Search Update: What “Possum” Means for Your Dealership


Last month, Google updated its algorithms for both organic and local search. While the exact updates are not clear, we can already deduce a few critical changes, especially for local search.

The local algorithm changes, referred to as “Possum” by local SEO experts, have affected Google Maps listings. Since local listings are just as important as organic listings — if not more so — auto dealerships should pay attention to these new changes.

We've addressed the importance of local search in a previous post, so feel free to read that before continuing with this article.  

Here are the most important changes we have noticed from the Possum update.

The Details

1. Filtered Local Packs

“Local packs” are the three map results that show up when you search for a business on Google.

Local packs have always been filtered, obviously, but those filters are even stronger now. This extra filtering is what gave SEO experts the idea to name the Google update Possum — as though business listings are just hiding and playing possum.

Essentially, Google wants the searcher to get the best, most relevant answer. It doesn't want them to get three separate listings of the same dealership.

To make sure the most unique listings are shown, Google filters out duplicate business names, addresses, phone numbers, website domains, and even business licenses in some cases. These extra filters have caused a shake-up for Google Maps results, especially for dealerships with multiple listings.

2. Search Proximity

The distance between the searcher and the business has always mattered, but with the Possum update, it has become stricter. So if you are trying to track your keywords, your results will now be unique to your location (not necessarily your target market).

To get an accurate reading of your keyword rankings, use Bright Local. It’s a free keyword checker that lets you choose the location of the search results you want to test.

3. Keyword Variations

With the algorithm update, we are also seeing more changes in Google results from slight keyword variations.

For example, below is the difference between “jeep dealership denver” and “jeep dealership denver co.”


“jeep dealership denver”



“jeep dealership denver co”


Action Items

It's easy to feel helpless when Google is controlling the changes, but there are several quick ways you can benefit from the algorithm update. Here are some ways you can take action and adapt your local search strategy.

1. Check Your Categories

In Google My Business, go through your category listings and make sure your dealership listing is as accurate as possible.

If you have separate listings for separate brands, be sure those listings have brand specific categories.

2. Adjust Your NAP

“NAP” stands for name, address, and phone number, and it refers to your all of your business listings online. This is how both people and search engines find your basic business info.

If necessary, update your Google My Business name, physical address, phone number, and web domain to make them as unique as possible to your dealership. Also, make sure your NAP is consistent across the web — on Facebook, Bing, and any other third-party listing sites.

3. Track Local Traffic

Slowly but surely, dealerships are paying more attention to their local traffic coming from Google Maps. You should, too!

There are two easy ways to track your local traffic:

  1. Log in to your Google My Business listing, and look at the Insights page. It is packed full of information beyond just search volume. It also shows the actions people take on your map listing.
  2. Implement a custom UTM tag on your Google My Business website field. That way, you will be able to see your local Google traffic, rather than just your organic Google traffic.


The Customer Experience

All of these changes can seem annoying and anti-business, but keep in mind that Google is a business too.

If searchers are unhappy with Google search results, they will take their business elsewhere. These algorithm changes are simply meant to give searchers a better, more relevant experience. 

To learn more about local search and why it is important for your dealership, read our article “Local SEO vs. Organic SEO for Auto Dealerships”. The difference is critical.

Banner image: Stilgherrian