Google just confirmed the first local algorithm update in 2 years. To be clear, we think there have been several updates since 2021 but it’s pretty uncommon for Google to announce or confirm updates to the local algorithm.
We spotted some massive ranking changes and published an article about them on December 7, 2023. That same day we inquired with Danny Sullivan at Google to see if he could confirm if these were intended or if they were the result of a technical issue.
@dannysullivan really want to know if this is intentional or a bug. It makes sense for some industries, but not for others.
— Joy Hawkins (@JoyanneHawkins) December 7, 2023
Last Friday, Google confirmed that there was indeed a change to the local ranking system and the hours a business is open became a stronger factor than before.
The team tells me we’ve long used “openness” as part of our local ranking systems, and it recently became a stronger signal for non-navigational queries. This might change in various ways, as we continue to evaluate the usefulness of it, however.
— Google Search Liaison (@searchliaison) December 15, 2023
We had an hourly ranking tracker set up to take screenshots of the SERPs for a test we were doing and were able to use that to confirm that this update rolled out on approximately November 1, 2023. We decided this update needs a name and will be calling it the Openness Algorithm Update.
These Changes Can Be Fairly Drastic
These screenshots we gathered hourly give you a good idea of how this algorithm update works. Back on October 31, 2023, this search for a family lawyer showed the same results at 1pm as it did at 11pm.
However, a day later, after this update rolled out, you will see the results vary drastically and now Google is featuring businesses that are currently open at 11pm instead of the ones it showed at 1pm.
These Drastic Changes Might Not Stick
There are some issues with this update. Greg Gifford points out that if he’s planning to eat lunch tomorrow somewhere, he wouldn’t want a list of what’s open now. This update could potentially push down some great candidates just because they weren’t currently open.
Google agreed that these are valid concerns and said they are discussing them and we might see change over time.
Agreed. Those are good points that I and a few others are discussing with the team. It’s why I said this might change in various ways.
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) December 18, 2023