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Neil McNulty

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Latest Google Updates Causing Snack Pack Fluctuations

Looks like Google’s been at it again, secretly sliding in a couple more algorithm updates. It’s at times like this that businesses which have outsourced their search engine optimization to local SEO experts, breathe a sigh of relief, knowing the consequences will be taken care of for them.

If it feels as if there are more Google Updates than ever before, you’re probably right. By its own admission, Google makes around 500-600 algorithm changes every year – and those are the ones they tell us about!

Should these updates concern you? If you have a website, yes they should. Every change Google makes effects your SEO is some way.

Has Your Site Ranking Changed?

An obvious giveaway when a change has been made is that your site suddenly ranks higher or lower for no obvious reason – something you may have noticed during September.

We believe two updates were carried out, one affecting core web search, the other local rankings.

Google has confirmed that it updated its Penguin algorithm, following “a period of development and testing”. First launched in 2012, Penguin has just become part of Google’s core algorithm.

Penguin Now On Real-Time

So what does that mean? The biggest change is that Penguin is now real-time, as opposed to periodic. Previously it had to be refreshed to reflect site improvements or launches.

Google says that Penguin also now devalues spam, “by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting ranking of the whole site”. This is a positive.

Penguin is effectively a filter used by Google to catch sites considered “spammy”. The sites are penalized for this. The problem was that even when the sites made changes and improved, they would continue to be penalized until Penguin refreshed again. as the last Penguin update was in October 2014, that’s been a long wait for some sites!

Watch Out For The Possum

The other likely update affected local rankings and has been nicknamed Possum. It seems Possum is a much trickier beast than Penguin, and the main cause of all the fluctuations we’ve been seeing. However, it could prove to be extremely beneficial to businesses located outside of city centres, giving them a far better chance of making Google’s Snack Pack.

The update – rumoured to be the biggest change to Local Search since 2014 – has placed major importance on a user’s physical location, so it is crucial that your business’s searcher location is set to the town, city of region you actually want to target.

Keywords Now Even More Important

Google also appears to be filtering similar and identical addresses, and this could cause problems for some businesses. Let’s say one building is home to two separate solicitor’s offices. When you search for solicitors in that location, only one is now likely to appear in the Snack Pack, even though they are different practices. As a result, the use of specific keywords will now be even more important for businesses to be found.

In addition, Possum also appears to have had a general nibble at keywords, with ranking fluctuations resulting. So again, the focus is on improving your keyword search.

If these latest Google Updates have affected your ranking and you need help, it is recommended you contact your local SEO experts – Suncoast Web Solutions – immediately.

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More Stories By Neil McNulty

Neil is a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP), but has an extensive knowledge of a wide variety of software, operating systems and web development processes.