Have you ever been offput by an initial impression?
Whether a person or a business, a first impression can be a lasting impression — both good or bad.
As a business, your Google Business Profile (GBP) is essentially the first point of contact most local customers have with your brand. It’s your first opportunity to build trust, develop a relationship, and ultimately prompt a consumer to take action. Or, it could drive customers to your competitors instead.
Unreliable information on a GBP can put off potential customers. If they can’t trust your hours and updates—can they really trust the quality of your services?
This is why it’s important to pay attention to unwanted Google Business Profile updates. Updates to personal Google accounts, Google Workspace accounts, and Google apps are already hard to track — but no other Google property comes with as much stake as a GBP. You don’t only stand to lose the trust of your consumers — you may also lose your search rankings in the long run.
Google continues to advance its AI
Given Google’s recent announcement in April about using artificial intelligence (AI) tools to automatically update some business information, businesses need to constantly monitor incorrect updates and modify the information as and when required.
To help your business get a better understanding of how and why Google changes your hours, we’ve put together five tips you can use to protect your GBP ours from unwanted updates.
In this blog, we discuss the reason behind these unwanted updates and how you can steer clear of them. But first let’s get more background on why Google changes Business Profile hours on its own.
Why do Google Business Profile hours change on their own?
Even before this Google update, you may have been subjected to Google changing hours for your business. Before the new update, suggested updates prioritized suggestions about a particular business made by local guides rather than confirming it directly with the owner. These Suggested Updates would also rely on user feedback on third-party apps after crawling the web for inconsistencies with local listings.
With the Covid-19 pandemic, the whole game changed. Business hours kept changing regularly, and it became difficult for businesses to actually stay on top of things. So Google decided to announce the latest update, which uses imagery and data provided by local guides to build self-updating maps automatically.
As with all AI-related predictions, the accuracy relies on the efficiency of the machine learning tool and how well the data used to gather patterns for the AI predictions can be analyzed. There is an obvious scope of error, so your hours can change without you knowing.
What parameters does Google use to determine the new hours?
The AI tool recognizes patterns among pre-set parameters and makes predictions to restore what it believes are the legitimate business hours of a business.
These parameters include:
- Business hours of other similar businesses
- Relevant details on the website and social media of the business
- Automated calls received by the business
- Business hours provided by those working at the business
- Information provided by Google map users, especially local guides
- Google’s use of imagery to build self-updating maps
- Street view images of storefronts and verifications from local guides
How can I prevent my normal business hours from changing on their own?
1. Make bulk changes via the Google Business Profile API
A few years ago, Google launched the Google Business Profile API, which allows parent businesses to manage their listings at scale for multiple locations and brands in real-time. You can create/edit location settings of individual business locations with this API, add special hours, and exercise control at the local level.
Through this API, you can also solve technical issues related to the non-resolution of IP address errors and other bugs. Essentially, you can set valid values on your GBP so that your customers have the correct information. You can also stay connected to your audience through reviews, Q&A, booking tools, and other features.
This Google Business Profile API replaces a lengthy verification process that was in place with a more efficient system of bulk changes that gets reflected in Google Search and Maps in real-time, even for those scanning for this information on their mobile devices.
In the previous iteration, marketers would have to put in a request through the Google Dashboard. But, it would take days for this request to be processed. This would beat the purpose of providing up-to-date information to the customers.
How is all this related to the current Google update? Mastering the Google business API as an enterprise or brand will give you more control over your information and help you make changes before the AI tool makes wrong predictions.
As an illustration, consider the recent tornado in northern Michigan. You are a business owner in the affected area, and you have fifteen stores. Maybe you want to keep ten open and close the rest for the day until further notice. You can use Google Business Profile API before the AI tool lists all your stores as shut based on the parameters it uses.
2. Confirm holiday hours even if they’re not changing
Google uses a list of holiday hours to alert its users about potential changes to business hours on a Google Business Profile.
Based on what other businesses might be doing, it may assume that your business is open or shut during any of the holidays.
You may not be celebrating the holiday —yet the AI tool may predict that your hours will differ because businesses around you are wrapping up early for the day.
This is where you need to remove friction in the consumer journey with special hours. A busy customer looking to make last-minute purchases or bookings during the holiday season will likely choose your business if none of the others are open—but only if they know for sure you aren’t closed for the holidays.
If you set holiday and other special hours in advance, the AI will not make these predictions on its own, and you can continue to provide correct information to your customers.
3. Use special hours to offer more relevant information
In March 2021, Google rolled out its Google My Business API V4.9 update. This allowed businesses to add different ranges of hours to give a more nuanced picture of their service hours to their customers. It’s not just about opening and closing hours anymore, but so many other categories.
Consider you are a sit-down restaurant. Since the pandemic, you have also started providing curbside pickup and delivery but only during the later portion of the day. You can’t put your general business hours and call it a day. Your brunch hours and happy hours will probably differ too.
You can find more examples in our Google My Business API V4.9 update guide.
You should also mention the following additional hours types for each location to give Google a tiered collection of times indicating when the location/service is available and open:
- Delivery Hours
- Takeout Hours
- Pickup Hours
- Kitchen Hours
- Drive-through Hours
- Happy Hours
- Brunch Hours
- Online Service Hours
- Senior Hours
4. Know when to use temporary closures vs changing hours
Setting your operational hours is not as simple as noting your opening hours and closing hours. Changes happen, and you have to keep track to keep your customers informed.
Google’s handy tip is this, if your business will close temporarily for longer than seven days, or is a seasonal business that closes for the off-season, mark it as “Temporarily Closed.” This will indicate to the tool that you are not changing hours as a general practice, but there has been a temporary closure.
You can intervene and prevent the AI tool from marking your business as permanently closed based on its prediction parameters by updating these hours on your own.
What happens if Google marks your business permanently closed?
If the AI marks your business as ‘permanently closed,’ you will receive email alerts and will have to reopen the location. A lag in this process can effectively tell your customers that you are permanently closed for a considerable period. Since they might also assume you are out of business, your business name might never hit their thought process (or default search engines) again.
The danger is that if the tool does not have enough information from native sources like your website or social media, it will likely predict your temporary hours based on other businesses or not update it at all. This will confuse your customers.
Keeping this collection of times up-to-date can be a challenging task. Still, it’s critical to keep your customers in the loop when you have varied or temporary closing hours or if your business is undergoing an extended closure.
5. Monitor for changes to location hours at scale
Google is not the only option available to search for local businesses online. Customers also look at niche search directories to find out more about the business.
Your business must also monitor changes in these search directories. This entials not only managing your Google Business Profile but also monitoring changes to location hours at scale on other platforms.
Local listing management ensures your business hours update across an expansive network of listing sites. Additionally, local listings management, can optimize the process of controlling your business listings across digital assistants, GPS systems, social media, and other sources.
By updating your business hours correctly with local listing management, the predictions of the AI tool will be accurate as well.
Staying on top of changes to Google Business Profile hours
Next month, Google Business Profile will also be available as a mobile app. This will be available for both Android devices and Apple. This will mean more efficient management of how your local business listings appear on Google Search. Though this will make editing of business hours quicker, the updates will keep coming, so you need someone to stay on top of the process.
Still unsure how the Google update may adjust your business hours? Get a free local audit to understand what your local customers see while searching for products or services like yours. Let’s get your customers the most relevant and updated version of you.