If you do local SEO, you're probably aware of how often Google changes its algorithms. If not, we'll give you an idea: it's thousands of times a year.
These frequent changes often affect what factors go into determining local search rankings, as well as how heavily each of these factors contribute to rankings at any given time.
Well, Google implemented one of its core algorithm updates back in November 2023, and around then local SEO professionals started noticing something pretty big — whether or not a business is currently open is definitely affecting how visible it is in many local search results.
While we've always known that business hours can impact local rankings, Google's emphasis has mainly been on the accuracy of a business listing's hours, rather than whether or not it is open when someone performs a relevant local search.
Since the November update, Google has confirmed that a business's "openness" has become a stronger factor in determining local pack rankings for non-navigational searches, or more general searches that don't include a business's name.
What Does "Openness" as a Ranking Factor Mean for Local SEO and How Can You Test for It?
So, what does all this mean for local SEO in 2024? Well, for starters, it means that it's a good idea for anyone doing local SEO to test for open hours as a ranking factor to see how heavily it's actually impacting their positions on local search engine results pages.
To do so, you can run two baseline reports using the same scan settings, one when your business is open and one when it's closed, and compare them side by side.
What you're probably going to see when you do this is that your business ranks much lower during the hours it's closed compared to during business hours. Now, what can you do with this information?
What you shouldn't do is change your business hours to try and outrank the competition. In fact, listing false business hours would likely hurt your Google Business Profile's position in the local pack, as Google still weighs the accuracy of business hours into its rankings.
In some cases, intentionally listing false business hours could even lead to getting your Google Business Profile suspended — so don't go changing your hours to 24/7 to try and cheat the algorithm!
If you see that "openness" is indeed affecting your local ranking, you should make sure to run most of your local rank tracking scans during business hours, which is when you want to be appearing most in local "near me" type search results.
Running scans when a business is open (and when most competitors are open) can help you make the most valuable optimizations and improve its local SERP position when it matters most. This is particularly true for local businesses that rely heavily on walk-ins, such as restaurants, retail stores, and other brick-and-mortar businesses.
If your business allows customers to schedule appointments outside of business hours, you might also run after-hours scans and make different sets of optimizations to try and outrank competitors then, too. Ultimately, the value of doing this will depend on the type of business you're doing local SEO for and your specific goals.
In short, Google confirming that open hours are now a stronger ranking factor means that there are now two very different sets of data you can look at when doing local rank tracking, allowing you to further tailor your approach to local SEO around business hours.
How To Test for Open Hours as a Ranking Factor in Local Falcon:
Local Falcon is the best local rank tracker for obtaining and analyzing different sets of local ranking data to keep up with algorithm changes.
There are a few different ways you could run baseline scans to test for openness as a ranking factor in Local Falcon, but here's an easy way to do so using Auto Scans:
- Log in to your Local Falcon Dashboard and go to "Schedule a Scan."
- Click the "Create a New Auto Scan" button at the top of the screen.
- "Select a Previously Run Scan" from the drop-down to choose your Scan Settings.
- Set the time to run the scan to sometime outside of business hours and set the frequency to "Run One Time."
- Hit the "Create Auto Scan" button.
- Repeat the process, choosing the same previously run scan to use the same Scan Settings, but set the time to run the scan to sometime during business hours.
Once both of these scans have run, you'll be able to compare the two Scan Reports to see how open hours are affecting your local ranking.
If you want to get even more analytical, you could even run scans at different closed times and different open times, such as outside of business hours both early in the morning and late at night, and during business hours both in the morning and in the afternoon.
This could potentially give you even more insights into how open hours affect local rankings at different times of the day in your specific area.
Although business hours have long been an important ranking factor for Google, the November 2023 algorithm update has specifically changed how open hours affect local rankings.
Google itself has stated that they're still evaluating the usefulness of this ranking factor, so how exactly "openness" affects ranking positions is likely to change and evolve over time.
As such, it's important to periodically test for open hours as a ranking factor, so you can continue to get the most accurate and valuable local ranking data and optimize accordingly.
Local Falcon lets you run one-off local rank tracking scans or set up as many automatic recurring scans as you need, allowing you to effectively stay on top of how Google's algorithm updates affect your position in the local pack.
With Local Falcon's integrated AI tool, Falcon AI, you also get real-time, laser-focused optimization recommendations that you can implement right away!