The Game-Changer in Local Search: Understanding ‘Openness’
The landscape of SEO is always evolving, and the most recent twist is Google’s enhanced focus on business operational hours in local search rankings. This pivotal shift, first observed by Joy Hawkins from Sterling Sky following the November 2023 core update, marks a defining moment for businesses. Those marked as closed are now finding themselves less visible in search results, underlining the critical nature of this update.
Understanding the New Landscape: Operational Hours Take Center Stage
Business Hours: The New Powerhouse in Local Search
The recent confirmation from Google’s Search Liaison that a business’s listed hours, or “openness,” are now a major factor in local search rankings, signals a strategic shift. Especially in non-navigational queries, where users search more for services or products than specific business names, this change is paramount. It’s Google’s way of ensuring that searchers find businesses ready and open to serve their needs.
Non-Navigational Queries: The Unsung Heroes in Local Search
At the heart of this update lies the concept of non-navigational queries. These are searches focused on a type or category of service, like “coffee shops near me,” rather than a specific name. Understanding this distinction is crucial in grasping how Google’s updated algorithm now elevates the importance of business hours.
Challenges and Pitfalls: Navigating ‘Openness’
The Temptation to Overextend Business Hours
The new importance placed on openness in local search rankings has raised red flags among SEO experts. Sherry Bonelli pointed out the risk of businesses listing inaccurate 24/7 hours to gain an SEO edge. Such practices can lead to poor customer experiences and ultimately damage a business’s reputation. Google’s ongoing refinements to this ranking signal aim to mitigate such potential manipulations.
The Danger of Misrepresenting Operational Hours
Businesses should tread carefully in representing their operational hours. Misrepresentation not only frustrates potential customers but could also invite punitive actions from Google, including the possibility of suspension emails.
Best Practices for Navigating the New Local Search Terrain
Accuracy is Key: Keeping Business Hours Up-to-Date
For local businesses, the main action point is to keep their Google Business Profiles meticulously updated with current operational hours. This is especially crucial during holidays, ensuring minimal customer frustration and optimal shopping experiences. Accurate hours not only improve local pack ranking visibility but also provide a competitive edge when others might be closed.
Embracing ‘Openness’ for Business Success
In conclusion, Google’s recalibration in its local search algorithm to favor business hours presents unique opportunities and challenges. Local businesses that adhere to best practices and resist the urge to manipulate operational hours can capitalize on this development to boost their visibility and attract more customers.