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On-SERP Business Hours Just Got More Complicated

Big Data and Robocalling Are Getting Involved

May 18, 2022 | Posted in: Search

Until a few years ago, the business information listed on SERPs (search engine results pages) was solely determined by the verified business owner. Google eventually started to realize that changes to store hours were rarely reflected online, so they decided to allow “the community” to suggest edits. Still dissatisfied with the potential for on-SERP hours mismatching actual store hours, Google has now decided to take matters into their own hands…

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Why does Google care? Shouldn’t the accuracy of business hours be the responsibility of the business owner or their marketing agency?

Google’s competitive strategy with search has always been to provide the most relevant and accurate results available on the web. Their daily search volume has proven that the average user is willing to give up privacy and anonymity for more accurate answers to their queries. If users start to question the accuracy of Google’s information, that opens the door for competitors like Bing, DuckDuckGo, and more. Every year, we as a society expect more from technology. Google is on a mission to provide their customers with a list of perfectly relevant results and accurate information about those results.

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So what’s changing?

In April, Google announced that they will be using artificial intelligence to update the business hours shown in search results. The process will combine a few new tactics:

  1. The most noticeable update is a rollout of robocalls from Duplex. Businesses will receive periodic automated calls asking things like “are you going to be open on Memorial day?” While potentially annoying, the Duplex integration should be helpful and totally harmless.
  2. Where things start to get iffy is the shift from asking owners to “update” their hours into “predicting” business hours. Google plans to use information from Maps’ “busy times” and even “nearby similar businesses” to guesstimate when your store might be open. The inherent risk is that Google could make an incorrect assumption and cause your business to show up as “closed” when you’re actually open.
  3. The other new data source is Street View. Through machine learning and image recognition, hours of operation data will now be extracted from photographs. Google will soon begin attempting to read the business hours on your physical storefront and use their findings to update your online listing.
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How can I protect my hours from being edited?

  1. The number one best way to keep your Google Business Profile correct is to ensure you are an administrator of that profile. By verifying your ownership, you will start to receive emails about edits and changes being made.
  2. The second most important step in protecting your business hours is to make sure the information displayed on your website is (A) accurate and (B) correctly marked up with schema. Rich markup is especially important if you have multiple locations. Google can easily get confused when they see a list of business hours on your website that don’t match what they have on record for your Business Profile. They often fail to connect the dots that a page showing contradictory hours represents a different location, unless the schema data is perfectly configured.
  3. As crazy as it sounds, the third recommended tactic is to make sure any hours displayed outside your store are accurate and representative of your general opening hours. If you were to display a sign that says “accepting delivery orders until 2pm,” it is now possible that Google could start to assume your shop closes at two o’clock.
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