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Business Hours in Google Maps Now Significantly Impacts Visibility

Google Maps Hours Impact on Visibility

Yesterday a new glitch / “feature” regarding business hours on Google Business Profiles (Maps) was revealed on a LocalU.org Webinar. This new… eh… “feature” **cough** has a dramatic impact on the way your Map Listing / Profile appears in the Google Map section of search results (and Google Maps app), thus impacting local visibility and response rate.

A special thanks to Joy Hawkins at Sterling Sky in Canada for giving this issue the attention it deserves. Screenshot courtesy of Barry Schwartz – Thank you Barry!

Business Hours Now Prioritized in Google Maps Results

When searching for a business category like “family lawyer” or “personal injury attorney”, Google has made the decision to prioritize local businesses in Google Maps based on the hours in which they are open. This means that your firm may be found in Google Maps for a search like “family lawyer” at 4:59pm, but you may disappear or be severely suppressed when you close at 5:00. This also means that your presence may be (will likely be) severely impacted on Saturday & Sunday if you are “closed” when people may be researching local lawyers. This doesn’t impact your visibility when people are searching by business name or attorney name.

Update Dec 9. 2023: Based on my findings with 2 live client tests, I saw that rankings were only impacted within the mobile environment and did not impact desktop results. My guess is because Google may assume that hours are more highly relevant while a User is on their mobile device.

Business disappearing on Google maps after hours

This is a departure from Google’s prior priority of relevance over business hours.

There are some very obvious problems that will inevitably occur as a direct result of this: businesses updating hours to “24 hours” when they aren’t really open those hours, clients driving to a business that shows as open but actually isn’t, clients calling at 8:00pm and getting an answering machine and then leaving a negative review, consumers no longer trusting Google as a reliable source of accurate business information… the list goes on and on.

Unfortunately you now have to make a decision as to either be truthful with your business hours and likely disappear or be suppressed in Google Maps during non-open hours and miss potential new clients, OR choose to show that you’re open during hours that you are not in order to maintain your presence & visibility in Google Maps outside of your “real” hours.

This also has the inevitable outcome that competitors that claim that they are open 24 hours on Google Maps will have better presence and may see an increase in Google Business Profile engagement if you (and other law firms) are absent from results if you don’t dishonestly update your hours.

Google Openness Update

On Dec 15, 2023, Search Engine Journal reported that the Google Openness Update was confirmed. The Google Openness update prioritizes a business’ open hours with navigational queries.

WTF Is Google Thinking?

Will Google correct this? Maybe, maybe not. Even if they do it could be in a day, month or a year. Neither business owners nor consumers benefit with this update and it’s truly a terrible decision because Google can obviously foresee business manipulation and forced inaccuracy, but nonetheless you have to play in their sandbox.

Sources:

 

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