Google Maps results have changed drastically in many parts of the United States. Starting around the second week of September, we have seen a recent Google update impact hundreds of thousands of search terms, including local searches for an orthodontist.
Generally speaking, it appears that Google has expanded its overall search area. Businesses located a long way from the city center are now ranking where they didn’t before. Google has essentially let more ping pong balls into the lottery machine.
Prior to the Possum update, Google placed a larger emphasis on the “centroid” which is the part of a city or town that features the most businesses in a given category. The centroid for one city can vary based on the different search terms people use. For example, the centroid for manufacturing in a given city could be a considerable distance from the centroid for healthcare providers.
Who Has Been Hit?
The worst of it appears to be an issue that arises when competing businesses are located extremely close to one another. If two different businesses share the same category, i.e. Orthodontist, and they are located next door to one another, one of them could be filtered out of the Maps results.
A peculiar twist occurs when adjusting the zoom level of the Google Map. After doing a Google search and clicking on the Map (or the “More places” link below the map) you can then adjust the zoom level. By scrolling or clicking the zoom toggle either up or down, just one iota, the results suddenly change.
Listings that used to rank very well, and have been missing from the Maps since the Possum update, suddenly pop into the top five. The common denominator with all of these occurrences, where listings reappear after adjusting the zoom in the Maps, is a competitor being located close by. It could be right next door, on the same street corner, or in the same office complex.
Google Business Pages Playing Possum
The pages that are filtered out of the Maps, and then reappear after the zoom is slightly tweaked, are not being penalized, per se. They seem dead, but they are actually alive and well. Initial testing indicates that these fluky Maps results are limited to one or two search phrases in most areas.
The examples we have found where businesses are unfairly filtered out of the Maps area do not have any red flags such as incorrect or incomplete data. These are perfectly accurate, optimized, verified pages being omitted from Google Maps results. Furthermore, these are pages that merited a top-five ranking in the Maps just a short time ago, and nothing has changed or updated that might normally compromise that ranking.
This is likely a result of a new rule in Google’s algorithm, presumably created to reduce spam and illegitimate listings, having unintended consequences on honest business owners. It is friendly fire. Sometimes when Google launches a counterattack against hackers and spammers, it impacts the rest of us, too.
Is There A Resolution?
So far, no one has been able to fix this new problem of Google Business pages being filtered out due to a competitor being in very close proximity. Not all Google Business pages that are experiencing problems in the Maps can point to this recent update as the cause.
Google Maps rankings are very complex and nuanced, and therefore each practice must be evaluated as its own case. Every location is unique in its own way. Google is updating all the time, and normally the updates go unnoticed. Other times, the updates shake things up quite a bit!
Google Possum has left many business owners scratching their heads, contemplating their next move. If you need help sorting out your Google Business pages and troubleshooting your Maps ranking, call (877) 295-5611 and we’ll get started right away.