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Popular Times as a Local Ranking Factor?

Popular Times as a Local Ranking Factor?

Late last year, the local SEO industry was rocked by the realization that opening hours affected local rankings. A slew of studies were conducted, X was ablaze, and we saw an onslaught of businesses using this new factor to their advantage by setting their business to 24 hours (*ahem* yes, in violation of Google’s guidelines.)

We even took the opportunity to implement a feature that allowed BrightLocal Local Search Grid and Local Rank Tracker users to select the run-time of their reports to ensure reliability in the face of this realization (more on that below).

Now, time as a ranking factor seems to be rearing its head again; in a new twist, Claudia Tomina’s latest case study highlights how Google’s popular times graph seems to correlate with improved rankings. 

Popular Times

Source: Reputation Arm

Does Google’s ‘Popular Times’ feature influence local rankings?

When you opt into Google’s Location History, your information contributes to the pool of data that goes into determining popular times at local businesses. This data is anonymized by the time it gets to the SERP, and can provide users with live visit data, including typical visit duration and the estimated wait time. 

In Reputation Arm’s latest blog, Claudia Tomina found a correlation between a business’s popular times and its local ranking.

In her case study, Claudia ran ranking reports on two businesses side by side and compared them with the popular times data from their respective GBPs. Her research revealed that as popular times increase for a business, so does its ranking visibility for keyword rankings. 

She notes that because many restaurants will have similar popular times (such as a spike around dinnertime), sometimes the rankings boost will come later. For one particular business, this occurred at 8pm, despite not being their peak time. It is near their peak time of 7pm, but vying for less competition; the reported popularity of competitors dies out around 8pm, giving our original business the opportunity to shine. 

A follow-up piece additionally emphasized that these sorts of hourly trends are only one ranking factor in what is likely to be a whole host of influences. 

We asked Claudia to summarize her thoughts on her findings:

Claudia Tomina

Claudia Tomina

Chief Product Officer at Reputation ARM

“​​After examining the Google API leak documents, I discovered GoogleApi.ContentWarehouse.V1.Model.WeboftrustTimeRange, which states:

‘Time range (start time and end time). Used to indicate the times in which a LiveResult is considered “hot” and thus a potential for boosting.’

Could “Live, Busier than usual” on Google Maps’ Popular Times graph signify that a business is “hot,” thereby providing a “potential for boosting” rankings? This potential ranking boost is yet to be confirmed by Google, however, the image below provides strong evidence suggesting this could be the LiveResult Google refers to.

[The image shows] an unverified listing that was able to outrank a popular chain restaurant while displaying the “Live: As busy as it gets” status under the popular times graph.”

Unverified Listing Outranks Chain

What should I do with this information?

While there isn’t much you can do to completely change this particular ranking factor, it’s important to be aware of its significance and how you could move the needle. 

Awareness is key, so be sure to continually monitor hourly trends, track your keywords at an hourly rate, and be conscious of your popular times graph. Understand that while this can influence what you see on an hour-to-hour basis, it’s not the be-all and end-all of rankings—there are still a variety of other factors to consider. 

If you want to try to take advantage of this particular boost, this is a great opportunity to try out targeted promotions to run traffic through your door on those typical “quiet times.” 

Scheduling your local ranking reports

Following the revelation that opening hours affect local rankings, our product team got to work on a new update for the Local Search Grid and Local Rank Tracker.

You can now select a preferred three-hour window for reports to run in your local time. Just head to your report settings to amend the frequency, day, time, and timezone, and voila!

Lrt Report Scheduling

Lsg Report Scheduling

While we don’t recommend running your ranking reports around ‘Popular Times’ (as these are based on user visits and location history and could change at any time!), scheduling ranking reports during business hours will help you get the most accurate ranking data for your brand. Just keep in mind your popular times to add context to your findings. 

Abigail Leow
About the author
Abigail is the Marketing & Events Executive at BrightLocal, responsible for supporting the team in their mission to produce high-quality marketing materials across all channels.

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