Google has confirmed: Open hours are definitely a key factor when it comes to your ranking in local search results. 

And before you say, “I’ll just say I’m open 24/7,” that could actually backfire. 

Kristi Hines breaks it all down in her Search Engine Journal article highlighting recent findings from SEO experts. 

Is this for real?

According to those expert findings, Google has recalibrated its algorithm for local searches to put more emphasis on the listed hours of operation when ranking businesses in search results. 

Joy Hawkins of Sterling Sky noticed the trend after the November 2023 core update. Businesses that appear as “closed” were less visible in local search results. And the impact of limited hours on that visibility was significant enough to start a conversation about it. 

Google confirms business open hours are a “stronger signal” in local ranking systems

Joy raised the question on X/Twitter and tagged Google’s Search Liaison, who acknowledged her observation and confirmed that “openness” has recently become a stronger determinant of local ranking in non-navigational search queries. 

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What’s a “non-navigational” local search query?

The Google Search Liaison’s confirmation opened the door to more questions, starting with one from Joy asking Danny to clarify what he means by “non-navigational query.” 

After all, if we’re ranking local business options, wouldn’t navigation always come into it?

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So, for example, if you’re looking for a specific business by name, Google assumes you’ll want directions to navigate to the business address. 

But if you’re searching for a brick-and-mortar bookstore, it’s considered a non-navigational search because you’re not looking to navigate to a specific location. Google will suggest options in your area, ranked by the algorithm based on certain signals—one of them being the open hours listed for each business. 

Possible business response: false 24/7 open hours

Another commenter, Sherry Bonelli, expressed her concern that businesses might react to this news by falsely listing 24/7 open hours just to improve their local search ranking and visibility. 

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For businesses with brick-and-mortar locations, listing non-operational hours as open could lead to a poor customer experience as search users navigate to a business only to find it closed. 

Google’s search liaison responded saying he wouldn’t recommend this strategy for businesses, explaining that ongoing adjustments to the ranking signal could adversely affect their visibility in local search results. 

And for anyone still inclined to experiment with this, falsely posting 24/7 open hours could also get you one of these emails from Google:

Best practice for businesses on Google: Keep your open hours up-to-date

Raise your hand if this is you: You remember looking for stores open on the weekend before Christmas, and you found one nearby, grabbed your coat, headed on over, and miraculously found a parking spot on the street or in a nearby parking lot…only to find that particular business was actually closed. 

Remember that moment in The Hobbit where we see a flashback of the elves abandoning the dwarves in their time of need? 

The words, “And he never forgave. And he never forgot” pretty much nail the feeling. 

Businesses don’t have to be open 24/7 to give their customers a good user experience. But they do need to keep their open hours up to date—especially around holidays. 

The last thing you want on your Google Business profile is a string of 1-star reviews from people who were looking for your business services when it was advertised to be open only to find the doors locked and not a soul in sight (or no one picking up the phone). 

Visibility in local ranking definitely helps, but it can’t undo a low average rating thanks to disgruntled would-be customers who now know not to trust your advertised open hours. 

One thing that can definitely help your ranking in local search results is if you’re actually open during times when your competitors are closed. But make sure you’re actually accessible during those times and ready to deliver top-notch customer service. 

Think of your open hours as part of your strategy to build trust by being there when you say you’ll be there—and then by going above and beyond.