Exploring New Local Ranking Factors

In the wake of the November 2023 Google Core Algorithm Update, the SEO landscape has witnessed considerable volatility, leading to significant fluctuations in search results across various industries. Despite initial instability, businesses have now had the opportunity to stabilize and discern any persistent changes in their rankings. Nonetheless, many continue to experience significant ranking shifts within a single day, a trend that has become particularly pronounced following the core update. This phenomenon has prompted SEO professionals to thoroughly investigate the factors driving these oscillations, ultimately identifying a new factor influencing local pack rankings.

Deciphering the New Local Pack Ranking Factor

Google has recently introduced a criterion based on the operational status, or “open hours,” of businesses during a user’s search. When a user conducts a search with keywords relevant to your industry or business, the search engine now prioritizes businesses that are open at the moment of the query. Consequently, establishments that are open during the search are ranked higher than those that are closed, and in some instances, closed businesses might not appear in the search results at all.

Contrary to what some might believe, this emphasis on operational status isn’t entirely new. It was once a factor in local pack rankings but was phased out when businesses began listing their operational hours as 24/7 to manipulate the algorithm, even when they weren’t actually available around the clock. This tactic led to a degradation in user experience, prompting Google to remove it as a ranking criterion. However, it seems Google is reintroducing this factor, albeit with heightened scrutiny, much to the concern of SEO experts. The worry is that this could lead to an overrepresentation of 24/7 businesses and encourage business owners to falsely list their operational hours, a practice that goes against Google’s community guidelines but is challenging to verify without multiple customer complaints.

Operational Hours and Search Queries: Navigational vs. Non-Navigational

Search queries generally fall into two categories: navigational and non-navigational. Navigational queries occur when users search for a specific business by name, while non-navigational queries are broader, encompassing searches for businesses within a general category. The distinction is crucial as the new ranking factor primarily impacts non-navigational queries. This means that individuals searching directly for your business will still be directed to your Google profile, minimizing the risk of losing potential clients to competitors due to operational hour listings.

Currently, the best practice is to accurately maintain your operational hours on your Google Business Profile (GBP). Accurate hours not only enhance your visibility in local pack rankings during your operational hours but also attract more customers using “near me” searches. It is strongly advised against marking your business as 24/7 if you lack the infrastructure to support constant operations, as this could lead to severe repercussions and contravene Google’s community guidelines.

Enhancing Your Google Business Profile

Beyond this new local ranking factor, there are numerous strategies to optimize your Google business profile. Our SEO specialists are ready to assist you in refining your profile to enhance your digital presence and sharpen your brand’s image. For comprehensive support in optimizing your Google Business Profile and elevating your overall digital footprint, consider reaching out to our team.

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