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Google Affirms ‘Openness’ as Key Local Ranking Factor

Emerging insights from SEO professionals indicate a significant recalibration in Google’s local search algorithm. Recent findings suggest that the search engine giant is now assigning increased importance to a business’s listed hours of operation as a critical ranking signal. This shift underscores Google’s ongoing efforts to refine its algorithm and enhance user experience in local search results.

Noteworthy Shifts in Local Search Visibility Post-November 2023 Core Update, Highlighted by Joy Hawkins of Sterling Sky

In the aftermath of the November 2023 core update, a discernible trend has come to light, as reported by Joy Hawkins, a reputable figure at Sterling Sky. The post-update landscape has witnessed a substantial impact on the visibility of businesses within local search results, particularly those labeled as closed. Hawkins’ observations shed light on the notable changes that have transpired in the local search ecosystem following this update.

Enhanced Significance of Business Hours in Local Ranking Systems Confirmed by Google

In response to ongoing discussions within the digital marketing community, Google’s Search Liaison has officially acknowledged recent adjustments in the local search algorithm, confirming that the concept of “openness” has recently evolved into a more robust signal for local search. The Search Liaison team revealed that “openness” has been a longstanding factor in Google’s local ranking systems but has now gained increased prominence, particularly for non-navigational queries. While the current emphasis on “openness” is aimed at providing more relevant information for general topics, Google acknowledges the dynamic nature of user behaviors and search patterns. 

As a result, the application of this signal may undergo various adjustments as Google continues to evaluate its effectiveness. Importantly, it is clarified that this stronger signal is intended specifically for non-navigational queries, distinguishing between searches for business names (navigational) and those seeking general information (non-navigational). This strategic clarification underscores Google’s commitment to refining local search results and tailoring them to the diverse needs and intents of users.

Addressing Concerns Regarding Business Response to the ‘Openness’ Factor

In a recent discussion on X, Sherry Bonelli raised significant concerns about a potential update that might incentivize businesses to inaccurately list 24/7 operating hours in an attempt to enhance their local search visibility. The worry stems from the possibility of misleading users who may arrive at the business during non-operating hours, resulting in a suboptimal user experience.

Swiftly responding to these apprehensions, Google took a proactive stance by advising against the manipulation of business hours for the purpose of gaming the system. Google emphasized that the ranking signal associated with “openness” is subject to continuous adjustments, discouraging businesses from engaging in practices that could compromise the accuracy of information provided to users.

Furthermore, Google highlighted the potential consequences of such manipulative actions, including the risk of receiving a suspension email from Google due to policy violations. This cautionary advice serves as a reminder to businesses to prioritize transparency and accuracy in providing operational information, aligning with Google’s commitment to delivering reliable and user-friendly local search experiences.

Best Practice: Ensuring Accurate Operational Hours on Google Business Profiles for Optimal Local Search Visibility

Local businesses are strongly advised to prioritize the regular updating of their operational hours on Google Business Profiles, with particular attention given to maintaining accuracy, especially during holiday periods. This practice is crucial as it significantly influences local search visibility, offering several benefits for both customers and businesses alike.

For customers, the importance of businesses keeping their operational hours up-to-date cannot be overstated, especially during the final shopping days of the season. Accurate information minimizes frustration, enhances the customer experience, and fosters a positive perception of the business.

For businesses, the impact extends to local search rankings. Keeping operational hours current can lead to increased visibility in the local pack rankings, a critical factor for attracting more customers, particularly those conducting “near me” searches. This becomes especially advantageous if competitors have inaccuracies in their operational hours or are closed during peak shopping times.

In the competitive landscape of local searches, maintaining accurate operational hours emerges as a strategic best practice. By doing so, businesses not only contribute to a positive customer experience but also position themselves favorably in local search results, ultimately attracting more potential customers during key periods. As a fundamental aspect of digital presence management, keeping Google Business Profiles updated aligns with best practices for optimizing local search visibility and overall customer satisfaction.

Arvind Amble

My name is Arvind Amble. As a tech enthusiast and writer, I'm fascinated by the ever-evolving world of technology, AI, IOS, Android, Software & Apps, and Digital Marketing. With a keen eye for emerging trends and a passion for innovation, I bring a fresh perspective to my writing, blending technical expertise with a creative flair.