The November Core update shook up a lot of online businesses, and local online companies were not immune. In a Search Engine Journal article, author Krisit Hines reported that businesses began to see an impact on their local rankings soon after the November 2023 core update.
A tweet by Joy Hawkins, owner of Sterling Sky, shed some light on the details:
This revelation has caused mixed emotions in the SEO community:
What Does Google Say?
Joy Hawkins called on Danny Sullivan, Google Search Liason, for answers:
His response shed new light on the discovery:
According to Sullivan, this signal has been in play for navigational queries for quite some time. These queries consist of words like “near me,” “directions to,” and “prices.” However, Google is now testing this signal on non-navigational queries, typically queries about a general topic.
Addressing Concerns About the New Ranking Factor
Concerns arose from many individuals addressing manipulation tactics about this signal:
However, Google quickly shut down those concerns, reassuring site owners that businesses trying to manipulate rankings with 24/7 business hours would end up suspended.
Additionally, many SEOs are concerned that this new signal cannot understand the user’s intent well enough. For example, if someone was planning a night out in advance but only saw places open at the time of the search, this could cause a bad user experience because the searcher couldn’t see all the options.
Google assures SEOs that the update is ongoing and will change as they test its “usefulness.”
So What Should You Do?
Like other updates, people are trying to understand how to navigate this enhanced signal.
The consensus is to be very clear about your business hours. This can mean listing the best times to call, email, or fill out a form to ensure everything is clear. Many people suggest that putting office hours is enough, while others suggest spelling out each detail to the user.
As with any update, SEOs should revisit the guidelines to ensure they abide by the rules. In this case, highlighting customer support methods can help. The guidelines state that local businesses should list all support methods such as email, chat, social media, and telephone.
Done correctly, business owners could see increased visibility in local search rankings — a big win, especially during the holidays.