Store Opening Times May Hurt Google Rankings

John Lister's picture

A change to Google's search algorithm for local rankings has prompted fierce debate about what information is most useful to customers. The rankings now vary minute to minute based on listed opening hours.

The change affects "local pack ranking". That's the section that appears at the top of many Google search results pages showing three businesses close to the user's location and relating to the search. The section, often marked "Places" gives basic information about the business including its address and user ratings.

Many business recently noted their appearance or non-appearance in this spot would vary through the day, even when carried out by the same user from the same location.

Rankings Drop After Hours

It soon became clear that Google had adjusted its algorithm to give much more weight to whether the businesses appeared to be open to customers at the moment of the search, based on listed opening hours.

It's not yet entirely clear if Google is completely removing "closed" businesses from the search rankings or simply pushing them down the list. Either way, the effect is largely the same given only three businesses are shown in a local pack ranking.

Google posted on the former Twitter to confirm the change, saying "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." (Source: twitter.com)

The logic is simple enough: somebody searching for a type of business may want to go to a physical location or phone a business immediately. However, critics of the change have noted that's often not the case.

Time Not Always of The Essence

A press release for SEO consultancy UNMiss pointed out users may be planning a future visit or researching options for a non-emergency situation, both cases where a business not being open at the moment of search makes no difference. It also noted that being "open" or "closed" doesn't make as much sense for a business that operates via appointments rather than unscheduled visits.

Another potential problem is that websites may now be tempted to change their listed opening hours to give the appearance of being open 24/7. Google has warned against that, noting that its algorithm is constantly changing. Other search engine experts have noted that listing inaccurate opening hours can cause problems in getting support from Google or earning a "verified" status. (Source: searchengineland.com)

What's Your Opinion?

When you search for businesses, does it matter if they are open at that precise moment? Was Google right to make this change? Should Google approach this issue differently depending on the type of business?

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Comments

Chief's picture

Why is Google acting like it's a popularity contest?
For the eyeballs.

They have forgotten their mission.

It is absolutely nauseating to drive somewhere that's "open" only to find it's not.
Fortunately, reviewers (like me) sometimes take the time to flame the website.
If I like them, I'll tell them in person.