Google Confirms ‘Openness’ As Local Search Ranking Factor

Recent findings by SEO professionals suggest that Google has recalibrated its local search algorithm, placing more emphasis on a business’s listed hours of operation as a key ranking signal.

According to Joy Hawkins of Sterling Sky, the trend became noticeable after the November 2023 core update, leading to businesses that appear as closed being significantly less visible in local search results.

Business Hours Confirmed As ‘Stronger’ Signal In Local Ranking Systems

In response to the discussion, Google’s Search Liaison acknowledged the observations, confirming that “openness” has recently become a stronger signal for local search.

The team tells me we’ve long used “openness” as part of our local ranking systems, and it recently became a stronger signal for non-navigational queries. This might change in various ways, as we continue to evaluate the usefulness of it, however.

local search ranking factor openness business hours confirmedScreenshot from X, December 2023

This confirmation led to more questions, starting with the definition of a non-navigational query.

If you were searching for a name of a business, that would generally be that you wanted to navigate / find that particular business. If you were searching for a general topic, that’s non-navigational.

non-navigational query local searchScreenshot from X, December 2023

Concerns About Business Response To ‘Openness’ Factor

In another portion of the threaded discussion on X, Sherry Bonelli expressed concerns about an update that could prompt some businesses to falsely list 24/7 operating hours for the purpose of improving their local search visibility.

This could lead to a poor user experience for searchers, as they may arrive at the business during non-operating hours.

Google quickly addressed these concerns, advising against manipulating business hours because the ranking signal for openness is subject to ongoing adjustments.

24/7 business listings concernScreenshot from X, December 2023

Plus, you could end up with a newly designed suspension email from Google.

Best Practice: Keep Operational Hours Up-To-Date In Google Business Profiles

Local businesses should maintain current business hours on Google Business Profiles – especially throughout the holiday – as it could influence local search visibility.

For customers, maintaining accurate operational hours ensures minimal frustration during the final shopping days of the season.

For businesses, it could increase visibility in the local pack rankings and attract more customers with near me searches, particularly if your competitors are closed.

Featured image: Ralf Liebhold/Shutterstock

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