Google My Business (GMB) profiles now indicate when business hours were last updated. A small but important change, this happened roughly two weeks ago.
Not a test. Some SEOs interpreted this as a test when it first appeared, but I confirmed with Google today that it’s not. In the examples below — both are London retail store locations — the hours information includes the notification: “updated by business” and how recently.
Profiles showing how recently business hours updated
It appears to be a global change. However, I’ve had trouble finding U.S. examples.
Yelp did this in June. Yelp introduced a similar “last updated” feature along with other COVID-19 notifications and tools for business owners in June. The obvious purpose of the notification is to give users more confidence in the information presented.
Even as GMB has added more transactional capabilities, calls to local businesses have been going up, according to multiple third party data sources. This is partly because people are seeking to confirm product availability and store-hours information, which are either not available online or not perceived to be accurate.
Near me as important as ever. Despite triple-digit e-commerce growth in many categories, consumers are more interested than ever in shopping locally. That’s according to survey data from Accenture and Nextdoor. What “shopping locally” now means is spending money with businesses rooted in local communities, whether online or offline.
Another indicator, Google Trends data show that “near me” queries haven’t really dropped throughout the lockdown and “post-lockdown” periods.
Near-me search queries have remained consistent
Why we care. During the pandemic, Google introduced numerous tools for business owners to help them survive and communicate new services and information to customers and prospects. Yelp, Facebook, Nextdoor, TripAdvisor and others have done similar things.
But the closed-open-closed craziness of COVID-19 has rendered some profile information untrustworthy (store hours information in particular), compelling phone calls to local stores and restaurants. This small change can relieve pressure on the phone and provide more confidence that the information in the GMB profile is indeed accurate.
Recency could become an issue, however. If the information was updated more than a month ago, will that “disqualify” it; is that too old? And post-pandemic, will Google need to remove this feature because a “stale update” will harm the business? If the feature remains in 2021, businesses might need to keep refreshing their hours to maintain perceptions of accuracy.