Google Confirms Business Openness As A Ranking Factor: Here’s What To Do

Brian Bojan Dordevic
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Brian Decoded

President at Alpha Efficiency

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Google has officially confirmed that business operating hours are now a more significant ranking signal in local search results.  How will this impact your online visibility? How does it redefine local search?

We’re all used to Google changing things up now and then, but it’s not rare that search algorithm updates turn the SEO industry upside down. There’s a justifiable concern that some businesses might now try to manipulate search ranking algorithms by pretending they’re open 24/7. How will this impact honest businesses and user experience?

As a Chicago SEO agency owner, I knew I had to dig into this. I decided to discover what impact business openness will have on your local search rankings and what measures you must take as an SEO professional to protect your clients and your own business.

In this article, I’m going to break down the ‘business openness’ ranking signal. You’ll learn how to keep ranking high in local search results without using risky strategies.

Table of Contents:
Google confirms business openness as a ranking factor

Business hours have just become a stronger local ranking factor for non-navigational queries: What does this mean?

In November 2023, we started seeing signs that Google was favoring open businesses in search rankings, especially over those closed at the time of the search.

By favoring businesses that are open, Google’s betting that they’re more likely to offer immediate solutions to users’ needs. This approach aligns with their goal of providing the most relevant, helpful results to users – something Google tried to accomplish with the October 2023 core update too.

Then, on December 15th, a Google Liaison confirmed it on X: business operating hours are now a stronger factor in ranking, particularly for non-navigational queries.

But what do non-navigational queries mean?

These are searches where you’re not looking for a specific business by name. Instead, you’re searching for a general service or product. For example, ‘coffee shops near me’ or ‘best bookstores in Chicago’ are non-navigational. You’re not asking for a specific place; you want options.

So, why does this matter? Well, Google’s shift means that your business’s operating hours could significantly influence where you land in these types of searches. If you’re open when someone’s searching, Google might give you a nudge up in the rankings compared to a competitor who’s closed.

This update is a game-changer for local businesses. It adds another layer to local presence management, as now you have to keep a closer eye on your operating hours across business listings.

Your Next Steps After Google Confirmed Business Openness As A Strong Ranking Signal

With the confirmation that business openness is now a significant ranking signal, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and preserve local search visibility.

There are two key things to remember:

DO NOT Try To Manipulate Search Algorithms By Listing 24/7 Operating Hours

Some businesses might think they can outsmart the local search algorithm by claiming they’re always open. Sure, this might seem like a clever way to boost local search visibility.

But should you list false open hours too? No, it’s a strategy that’s likely to backfire.

Google has already addressed concerns, hinting that the business openness ranking factor is subject to further adjustments. The last thing you want is for your business to be on the wrong side of these changes.

If your false listings disrupt Google’s goal of providing reliable information and a smooth user experience, expect consequences.

What will those consequences be?

My guess is that your Google Business Profile might get suspended. If that doesn’t happen, you will probably get a serious drop in rankings, making it more difficult to connect with potential customers.

Keep Your Operating Hours Up-To-Date Within Google Business Profiles

You should maintain your current operating hours on Google Business Profile (unless you really change them).

Let’s put potential penalties by Google aside for now and try to see why accurate operating hours are crucial.

First and foremost, accurate business hours help you build trust and reliability. When potential customers look up your business, they’re often planning their visit based on the information you provide. If they arrive only to find your doors closed, it will break trust. You’ll get bad reviews and lose customers, which no business can afford.

Sometimes business hours need to change, whether due to holidays, special events, or unforeseen circumstances. Regularly updating your Google Business Profile reflects well on your business. It shows that you’re attentive and considerate of your customers’ needs, enhancing your reputation both online and offline.

So, keep your operating hours accurate across listings and you have nothing to worry about. Even if you’re not working 24/7, there shouldn’t be any consequences on your local search visibility during open hours.

Have You Noticed Changes In Your Local Rankings?

In the wake of Google’s latest update, you might have observed some shifts in your local search rankings. Understanding these changes is key to adapting your SEO strategy effectively.

If you’ve seen an uptick in your local rankings, consider the timing of searches in relation to your competitors’ operating hours. It’s possible that your business is gaining visibility because you’re open when others are closed. This advantage highlights the importance of Google’s recent emphasis on business openness as a ranking factor.

On the flip side, if you’ve noticed a decline in your rankings despite maintaining accurate operating hours, it’s a signal to delve deeper into your overall SEO strategy. This drop could be pointing to other areas in your SEO that need attention. Maybe it’s your on-page optimization, local citations, or something else that’s not quite hitting the mark.

If you’re puzzled about why your rankings have changed or you’re struggling to climb back up, I’m here to help. As an SEO agency owner with years of experience, I have the tools and expertise to diagnose the underlying issues that might be affecting your visibility and search traffic.

Feel free to schedule a call with me. During consulting sessions, we can take a thorough look at your current SEO strategy, identify any gaps or weaknesses, and develop a plan to strengthen your local presence.

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