According to Joy Hawkins of Sterling Sky, the trend became noticeable after the November 2023 core update, leading to businesses that appear as closed being significantly less visible in local search results.
😱Well the news is out, the new ranking factor we are seeing that has a massive impact on ranking is HOURS. We're seeing that businesses literally vanish in the local pack when they are not open. We started seeing this with the November 2023 core update. This is also making… pic.twitter.com/kDzfrbNmB5
— Joy Hawkins (@JoyanneHawkins) December 7, 2023
Business Hours Confirmed As ‘Stronger’ Signal In Local Ranking Systems
In response to the discussion, Google’s Search Liaison acknowledged the observations, confirming that “openness” has recently become a stronger signal for local search.
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.
What Are Non-Navigational Queries In Local Search?
This confirmation led to more questions, starting with the definition of a non-navigational query.
If you were searching for a name of a business, that would generally be that you wanted to navigate / find that particular business. If you were searching for a general topic, that’s non-navigational.
Concerns About Business Response To ‘Openness’ Factor
In another portion of the threaded discussion on X, Sherry Bonelli expressed concerns about an update that could prompt some businesses to falsely list 24/7 operating hours for the purpose of improving their local search visibility.
This could lead to a poor user experience for searchers, as they may arrive at the business during non-operating hours.
Google quickly addressed these concerns, advising against manipulating business hours because the ranking signal for openness is subject to ongoing adjustments.
Plus, you could end up with a newly designed suspension email from Google.
— Molly Youngblood (@mygeigermeister) December 13, 2023
Best Practice: Keep Operational Hours Up-To-Date In Google Business Profiles
For customers, maintaining accurate operational hours ensures minimal frustration during the final shopping days of the season.
For businesses, it could increase visibility in the local pack rankings and attract more customers with near me searches, particularly if your competitors are closed.
Featured image: Ralf Liebhold/Shutterstock