In this week’s episode, I’m sharing the details around Google’s recent “Openness Update”, which (currently) affects the visibility of local businesses based on the hours of operation listed in the Google Business Profile. There’s been a lot of buzz lately, so I’m sharing a simple explanation and an outline of how your Local SEO strategy should change because of the update.
Welcome back to another episode of Local Search Tuesdays. There’s been a lot of buzz recently around what’s been unfortunately dubbed the “Openness Update”, so in today’s episode, I’m going to fill you in on what’s going on… and what you need to do about it.
Strap in, y’all – this is a crazy one. In early December, Joy Hawkins from Sterling Sky discovered a pretty shocking update that Google rolled out recently. As she was digging through local rank tracking data, she realized that if searches happened when businesses were closed, the rankings were fluctuating wildly.
Basically, it looks like Google is adjusting the map pack results based on whether or not the business you’re searching for are open or closed. Let’s say you’re looking for a plumber. If you search in the afternoon, you get one set of businesses. If you search at 8pm, when most are closed, it’s likely that you’ll see an entirely different set of businesses – the ones who have their GBP hours marked as open at 8pm.
The results were super wacky – for some verticals, there wasn’t much of a change, and for others, there were absolutely bonkers fluctuations. Darren Shaw did some research and saw some businesses drop from the top 5 down into the 50s.
On December 7th, Joy tweeted to Danny Sullivan “Hey man – is this intentional or is it a bug?”
About a week later, Danny answered from the Search Liaison account “Hey, the team says “openness” has always been part of the system, but we recently made it a stronger signal for non-navigational queries”
And then Joy was all “What does that mean, bro?”
And Danny was all “That’s searching for a general topic, not a specific business”
And then I was all “Bro, not cool. If I’m searching at night for something to eat tomorrow, results wouldn’t match my intent” Also, don’t come at me because of the typo, it was late and I was tweeting on my phone.
And then Danny was all “Dude, good points, we’re chatting about this and it may change”
So first of all, hats off to Danny – it’s rare that Google will come out and admit a major update like this. But what does it all mean for your Local SEO strategy?
Absolutely jack squat. The knee-jerk reaction is to just change your hours to open 24 hours every day… but Danny also tweeted “Don’t do that, bro”
Sure, it’s a train wreck of an update. It makes sense for plumbers or electricians, or if you’ve broken a tooth and need an emergency dentist. But for a ton of searches, this makes zero sense.
Changing your hours is a horrendously awful idea. The juice isn’t worth the squeeze. In a lot of the tests that people have done, there wasn’t a huge change in ranking. And if you do change your hours, it won’t affect how you rank when you’re open, it only potentially changes things at night when you’re closed.
Think about the customer service nightmare you’ll be inviting. You’re marked as open, but no one answers the phone if someone calls. Or maybe you’ve got an answering service, but even then, that potential customer won’t get to actually talk to someone until the next business day anyway. Or heaven forbid, someone shows up and finds out that you’re actually closed.
You’re virtually guaranteed to get a ton of bad reviews – and that’s going to tank your rankings AND scare away potential customers in the future who see your bad rating and bad reviews.
So just ignore all the buzz – there’s literally nothing you need to change because of this update, and it’s incredibly likely that Google’s going to adjust this pretty quickly. The only implication here is that if you’re running any sort of rank tracking system, you should make sure it’s checking your rankings during business hours, so you get an accurate picture of what your customers will be seeing when you’re open for business.
That’s all the time we’ve got left for this week’s episode, so you know what that means.
Put your hand on the screen right here:
We totally just high-fived ‘cause you learned something awesome.
Thanks for watching, and we’ll see you again next week for another episode of Local Search Tuesdays.