Over the next six months, Google is going to employ machine learning and AI to alter the hours of operation on twenty million Google Business Profiles as part of their project of creating a “self-updating map”. Some experts estimate that this is roughly one-fifth to one-sixth of all GBP listings, meaning the chances are strong that you or one or more of your clients could experience these edits.
Google has good reason for pursuing accuracy in their local index, but local business owners have even better reason to be on top of this announcement and proactively safeguard the validity of their own data. Today, we’ll show you what to do to take charge on these vital listings which, while they belong to Google, represent your business.
Google is right in observing that the chaos of COVID-19 has affected the accuracy of their local business index. Updating GBP hours to reflect changes may not be at the top of the to-do lists of business owners struggling with so many challenges.
However, Google’s description of how they plan to alter business hours is raising some alarm, due to the peculiarity of their disclosed methods. Some processes are sound. For example, Google mentions use of Duplex to actually phone business owners directly to ask what their current open hours are, which makes excellent horse sense. Additionally, asking Local Guides to validate this information could also help if an owner is unreachable, for some reason, and the guides being tapped are civic-minded instead of just playing for points. All fine and good.
Where we get into murkier waters is in Google saying they will use the hours of other related local businesses to “predict” what the hours should be for the business you are marketing. The example they use is determining what the hours of Liam’s Lemonade Shop should be by looking at the hours of other nearby lemonade shops. In other words, if Larry’s Lemonade Emporium is open from 9-5, Google assumes that Liam’s Lemonade Shop shop should be, too, which will come as a surprise to him if he runs a late night citrus spot. I’m not the only one finding Google’s logic less than exemplary on this.
Another process Google mentions is that of deriving information from Street View, which I am dubious about, given that many places I visit via this service have not been updated in more than a year, and in some cases, in more than a decade:
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