There’s no shortage of social updates to post, copy to write and ads to run for most Web professionals. This is might be the reason why they may have missed Google’s “popular times” feature launched this past summer – an update designed to save those very people (and others, of course) precious time.
Google searchers can now see the busiest times of the week at millions of places and businesses worldwide directly on the search engine results pages (SERPs). Here’s an example from a Southern California restaurant:
This is beneficial to businesses as hopefully more people will come during their down times, when shoppers/diners/patrons/customers can receive more individualised attention and avoid long waits.
Business owners may be upset to learn, however, that they cannot claim the “busy hours” themselves. Instead, Google uses a variety of sources users have opted into (likely Google Maps being the main one) to aggregate the data. It could be argued that handing over this feature to company owners could make the data more reliable (someone at the shop will know more than a source relying on the number of people asking for driving directions), but they could also start manipulating the information to best suit them making it less credible, which could hurt them over time.
Currently, businesses do not have the ability to turn down this feature, but they should take this update as further proof of Google’s emphasis on improving the usefulness of local search results, as these queries typically lead to immediate action – making them a lucrative advertising sell as well.