Google local search ranking algorithm strengthens “openness” signal
Google’s local search ranking algorithm has recently been updated to strengthen its “openness” signal for non-navigational queries. Danny Sullivan, Google’s Search Liaison, said, “we’ve long used “openness” as part of our local ranking systems, and it recently became a stronger signal for non-navigational queries.”
What changed. Earlier this month a report showed Google ranked open businesses more often in its local search rankings higher than businesses that are closed. “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. A couple weeks later, Danny Sullivan from Google confirmed this saying, “we’ve long used “openness” as part of our local ranking systems, and it recently became a stronger signal for non-navigational queries.”
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. The report said, “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.”
But Sullivan said, “This might change in various ways, as we continue to evaluate the usefulness of it, however.” He added, “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 some sort of 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 to debate and probably very query dependent.