New Local Pack Ranking Factor

The November 2023 Google Core Algorithm Update has caused a lot of volatility in search results. Now that some time has passed, businesses have had time to stabilize and properly analyze any consistent change in their rankings. However, many businesses across unrelated industries continued to see major fluctuations within the same day.

This recent trend of abnormal map pack ranking fluctuations has been a major study point for SEO experts in the past couple of weeks. After an in-depth analysis of these trends and what may be causing these fluctuations, a new local pack ranking factor has been identified.

Understanding the New Local Pack Ranking Factor

Google will now begin to rank your business on its “openness,” or rather if it is open during the time of a user’s search. When a user searches using keywords related to your business or industry, the search results prioritize open business when the searcher seeks this information. This means that businesses currently open at the time of the search rank higher than those that are closed. In some cases, those that are closed may not appear at all.

This “new” factor isn’t as new as people may think. Openness used to be a ranking factor just a few years ago. However, many businesses switched their hours to 24/7 to please the algorithm even if they were not available all day. Due to these results’ negative effect on user experience, openness was removed as a local pack ranking factor.

It appears that Google is trying this ranking factor again, which has concerned many SEO experts. The general concern is that this system will over-promote 24/7 businesses and result in business owners listing their storefronts as open all hours of the day when they are not. While this practice goes against Google community guidelines, it is also hard to prove without several complaints from patrons who tried to contact the business during their off-hours, and even then, it can take weeks to months for support to demerit these businesses properly.

Search Categories Make a Difference

Search queries can be divided into two categories: navigational and non-navigational. Navigational queries are when users search for a specific business by name, such as “BluShark Digital.” Non-navigational queries are when users search for businesses that fit under the same general category, such as “digital marketing firm.” This distinction is important as openness only impacts non-navigational queries, allowing those searching for your business specifically to be guided to your website rather than your competition.

For now, the best practice is to keep your operational hours up-to-date in your Google Business Profile (GBP). Not only will having these hours increase your visibility in local pack rankings during your hours of operation, but it will also attract more customers using “near me” searches to find your type of business during those hours. Additionally, we strongly advise against marking your business as 24/7 if you do not have the infrastructure to keep your business open all hours of the day, as this would go against Google Community guidelines and could result in serious consequences for your business.

Improve your Google Business Profile With BluShark

Besides this new local ranking factor, there are several different ways you can optimize your Google business profile. Our SEO experts are here to guide you through the process to sharpen your look and improve your digital presence. To learn more about how our team can help you optimize your Google Business Profile and boost your overall digital footprint, contact BluShark Digital today!