Google local search ranking algorithm strengthens ‘openness’ signal

Google recently updated its local search ranking algorithm to strengthen its “openness” signal for non-navigational queries.

“We’ve long used ‘openness’ as part of our local ranking systems, and it recently became a stronger signal for non-navigational queries,” said Danny Sullivan, Google’s Search Liaison.

What changed. Google started ranking open businesses more often in its local search rankings higher than businesses that are closed, according to a Sterling Sky blog post published earlier this month:

  • “As of November 2023, Google appears to be looking at whether a business is currently open as a ranking factor for local pack rankings,” Joy Hawkins wrote in her report.

Google confirmed. Sullivan confirmed the change Dec. 15 on X.

Navigational queries. Non-navigational queries are queries where you search for types of services versus specific brands. So a non-navigational query would be to search for a pharmacy, whereas a navigational query would be to search for CVS.

Don’t change your business hours. “If you are a business that’s open 24-hours a day, this would benefit you in the evenings when your competitors disappear but you still rank,” the report said.

But Sullivan said businesses should not do this:

  • “This might change in various ways, as we continue to evaluate the usefulness of it, however. … I wouldn’t recommend businesses do this, given the ranking signal may continue to be adjusted.”

Why we care. If you notice changes to your Google Business Profile listings, this may be why. It is also important to ensure your business hours reflect your true open hours because if you make up your business hours, you never know if you can be hit by a penalty in the future.

In short, Google is now showing more businesses that are open at the current time of the search. Is that a good thing for searchers or bad is up for debate and probably query dependent.

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