I’ve been working a lot of overtime so far in November, with Black Friday coming in a few weeks and new clients and oh yes the sky is falling again in the local Local Search world. Some people are calling it Possum 2.0 – and others are calling it Bedlam.
Yeah – sounds about right. Threads on Bright Local, Google WHC, Search Engine Land, and numerous facebook groups are all echoing people’s reports of massive changes in the map pack starting at the beginning of this month around November 5.
What Does Google Bedlam Look Like in the Wild
I have to admit, I’m kind of annoyed at that heading, it would’ve been so much easier to make a possum joke. Anyways – here’s a visualization from Local Viking, a tool I use primarily for checking out where a GMB (Google My Business page) ranks in different areas of a city. It also lets you schedule GMB posts too.
Here’s one of my own local listings rankings in the Sacramento area on October 31, 2019. These rankings have been very stable for about 5 years now.
Once the Bedlam update hit on November 5th, 2019, we saw this listing was nowhere to be found in the map packs, even though we still rank well organically for the keyword search.
We didn’t panic too much because the next day on November 6th, 2019 it seemed like we bounced back into the fray… and traffic to the site wasn’t visibly down much at all.
As of today, November 12, 2019 – it doesn’t feel like the dust has quite settled yet – day by day the listings are still jumping around all over the place.
Google Bedlam’s Actual Impact on Traffic
We talk about rankings a lot and that’s these tools do their best to measure visibility on the SERPS, but here’s the weird thing. In spite of the “visibility” issues and “lost rankings” I’m still seeing more traffic to this GMB page than I have seen all quarter. Feels like the listing is being shown more than the tool is reporting. When I check my hand I see the listing pop up about 15-20% of the time. I’ve been checking it pretty frequently on multiple devices at home, at my office, and while I drive around to meetings in the greater Sacramento area. Sometimes I see it and do a little dance, sometimes I don’t see it and I find myself cursing Google, lol.
So although the rankings and visualizations look bad, the actual impact is pretty low, at least for me. Posts are seeing record numbers of views and my maps traffic is up 800% vs last month.
Spam Listings Winning Right Now
What I am noticing is a lot more spammy listings keyword-stuffed entries with no reviews, “low quality” GMBs that don’t have a lot of citations and have really poor rating averages, and an increase in fake address GMB’s showing up. Proximity to city center appears to have a bigger impact than before – then again, the listing I’m showing is pretty central to downtown Sacramento so I’m still out on how that factors in exactly.
The general consensus in the SEO community seems to people going into a holding pattern – they don’t want to overreact and see how this shakes out. I’m running some more tests this week to test some theories, so I’ll update this post soon to reflect what I learn.
December 16th update: I just created a new post instead of just updating this one so check out: How to Beat Google Bedlam Update