Google’s live busyness information is expanding to cover more types of places, and becoming a prominent fixture in Google Maps.
Live busyness information is a feature Google launched back in 2016 which informs searchers of how busy a place is expected to be at a given time.
The data is typically surfaced when people look for a specific place in Google Search or Maps.
Going forward, live busyness information will be displayed in Google Maps even when people aren’t looking for anywhere specific.
In addition, Google is expanding its coverage of live busyness information to millions of places around the world.
Here’s more about each of these updates which are sure to change how people interact with local search.
Live Busyness in Maps
The pandemic has transformed live busyness into an essential tool that can help people stay safe and avoid crowds.
This is evident in the amount of times people have engaged with live busyness features since the pandemic began.
“We saw engagement with these features rise 50 percent between March and May as more people tapped, scrolled and compared data to find the best days and times to go places.”
In response to growing demand for this data, Google is making it more accessible.
Soon, live busyness information will be surfaced in Google Maps without even searching for a place.
In the example below you can this feature will work.
Notice how Sephora is marked as “not busy,” Flores is marked as “busier than usual,” and Starbucks is marked as “As busy as it gets.”
So if you’re out re-stocking on foundation at Sephora it might be a safe choice to skip the pumpkin spice latte.
Here’s another example where you can see live busyness information being surfaced in Maps after looking up directions.
Greater Coverage & More Useful Data
Since June 2020 alone, global coverage of live busyness information has increased by five times.
Google’s expansion of live busyness includes outdoor areas such beaches and parks, and essential places like grocery stores, gas stations, laundromats, and pharmacies.
In addition to being more widely available, Google is making live busyness data more useful in these times when foot traffic is challenging to predict.
Google has traditionally relied on historical data to estimate how busy a place is expected to be at a given time. Now that data is no longer as reliable as it used to be due to COVID-19.
With social distancing measures being encouraged, coupled with businesses reducing their hours or closing temporarily, historical data isn’t as useful for estimating foot traffic.
In response, Google made adjustments to its popular times algorithms to take into account more recent data:
“To make our systems more nimble, we began favoring more recent data from the previous four to six weeks to quickly adapt to changing patterns for popular times and live busyness information–with plans to bring a similar approach to other features like wait times soon.”
Google notes that, at times, it can even detect spikes in busyness in real-time and display it as “Live” data in Google Maps.
Other Updates to Maps & Local Search
To help people find the most up-to-date information on businesses, Google has been using Duplex conversational technology to call businesses and verify their information on Maps and Search.
Since April 2020, this information has helped make more than 3 million updates, including updated hours of operation, delivery and pickup options, and store inventory information for in-demand products.
Google is taking this important health and safety information, which is provided directly by businesses, and putting it front and center on Maps and Search.
To date, these updates have been viewed more than 20 billion times.