The “NEW” local ranking factor “opening hours” is BOGUS and here is why. 🧵
Recently Joy Hawkins published some research done at Sterling Sky and tweeted about (Yes I still say tweeted and still call it twitter. The URL is still twitter.com). You can see the tweet below.
But I see a flaw in how this is presented.
The rank tracking tools that we all love to use and show graphs and charts for all pull from specific api’s and/or they collect data a very specific way. They don’t all pull from the same api and in some cases, like Places Scout, the one we see in the screenshot Joy shared, they pull data from live Google Searches. But, Google doesn’t alway serve the same content from the same source. And it is dependent on user account data, device, browser, mobile vs desktop, physical location, time of day, and I am sure there are other personal factors that play into it.
There are inconsistencies in how the tools collect their data. So lets look at what sources they can even pull data from.
Local maps data collection sources
Google serves data from multiple databases or data sources. If you didnt’ know this then now you do. The data may be stored in one place(which is highly unlikely) but where it displays that data or the channels it allows to access that data are different. They essentially have two data sources. Google Business and LSA. The data “SHOULD” be the same between the two but it isn’t always. How Google associates certain info to a specific business listing in its ecosystem is somewhat of a mystery.
For example you can read about this on Mike Blumenthals post at Near Media regarding Review Hijacking. Google doesn’t immediately associate a GBP listing with an LSA registration or a user account. You provide the listing info independently which suggest that info is stored separately.
The first one we will look at is Google Maps.
I know what you are thinking… Kevin, these are all coming from Google Maps; That is why it is a new local maps ranking factor…
False. These do not all come from Google Maps.
Google Maps has its own URL. It acts like a filter on Google and we can see that in the image below:
Notice the filters below the url. We have the option to select maps. When we do that we get the next image:
Notice the URL structure. This is the “google.com/maps/search”. This is important because this is where the distinction lies and this is where we see the biggest difference in ranking fluctuations.
Google Search Results “map”
Next up is the regular Google Search Results “map” display. This one is often used by rank trackers like Places Scout because they will do a live search and collect the data of the top 3 spots. Usually this is considered to be more accurate but we don’t know which database or source the listings are being served from which is problematic. I will explain this more later.
For now, here is an image of what this display looks like. Pay particular attention to the way the URL is structured. We can see the following image represents the standard Google Search:
Next we have the database or source that I believe is causing all the hype and unnecessary excitement over a “NEW” ranking factor that isn’t really new when you consider where the info is coming from.
Google Prolist Results
Since we already know we are looking at the url structure to see how Google is filtering information and presenting it, i’ll let you look at the images below to see if you can spot the difference.
When I click on the “More Businesses –>” I am taken to the following screen:
As you can see in the image if you look closely, the url is showns as “google.com/localservices/prolist”.
What we have here is a completely separate way of showing the data and slightly varying results although these ones line up very well. These are separate filters.
What we notice here though is this. The prolist results are coming from Google Local Service Ads. We know that “hours” play a factor there but NOT the ONLY Factor. So we already know that YES, we will see impact of having updated hours. Google wants to provide a listing that will answer the phone.
But this doesn’t take into account looking for services for tomorrow or in an emergency which has been brought up by numerous people on different social media threads.
In this example, we see the Burnetti, P.A. listing showing as closed. They aren’t showing up in the Google Sponsored Spots. But you can bet they do when their hours say “Open” if they are also paying for LSA.
If Google is pulling data from the LSA database and displaying it in search it would be natural to think they would apply the same ranking factors and signals to those listings.
So no, this “ranking factor” is not new. It has been used by LSA for a while now and I think we will continue to see more of this as Google expands the LSA categories and continues to integrate it more into the search results.
As for the rank tracking tools, they will need to figure out how to pull data from search results that are coming from both the LSA prolist database and also the standard Google Search “maps” results because they get filtered differently and the filtering is important. The filtering allows almost ANY aspect of a listing to be a ranking factor.
Reach out to me and let me know what you think. You can chat with me on my original tweet regarding this.