Google Now Featuring a Location’s Popular Hours on Mobile Devices

Google just announced a new feature on mobile browsers, a chart showing the hours that a given business is popular. From their post:

Do you ever find yourself trying to avoid long lines or wondering when is the best time to go grocery shopping, pick up coffee or hit the gym (hint: avoid Monday after work)? You’re in luck!

Now, you can avoid the wait and see the busiest times of the week at millions of places and businesses around the world directly from Google Search. For example, just search for “Blue Bottle Williamsburg”, tap on the title and see how busy it gets throughout the day. Enjoy your extra time!

coffee2Here is an FAQ that I received from Google about the feature

Q: Is this available Internationally?

A: Yes; this will be available in all locales.

Q: Will this feature be available for all mobile carriers?

A: Yes, this feature is available for all mobile phones with an internet connection on modern mobile browsers and Android GSA, regardless of carrier.

Q: When will this feature be available in the Google App on iOS?

A: As of now, this feature is available on Android devices and a number of browsers, including Safari and Chrome.

Q: What types of features are associated with this launch?

A: This launch lets users see historical trends of how busy a place gets throughout the week.

Q: Where does Google get this data from?

A: The information is based on anonymized and aggregated visits to places from Google users who have opted-in to storing location data.

Q: Is Google tracking my location and saving it for this feature?

A: No. The information is completely anonymous and users must opt-in to store location data.

Q: What can businesses do if they don’t want the busyness data to show for their business?

A: We do not offer a way for businesses to remove this information. We believe this information is valuable for customers in deciding when and where to go.

Q: What types of places will this information show for?

A: This information shows for places where users are commonly worried about how busy it typically gets. Data will show up for locations with regular foot traffic and a local listing on Google Maps.

Since Google’s patent on using driving directions as a ranking factor, we have known that Google had the ability to track the times that a given business was popular. It is not clear that driving directions are the main metric used in this feature but it seems likely to me that it is a potential source. With mobile Google can obviously now learn not just whether driving directions have been requested for a given location but whether they have been used.

Google also has the ability to understand a users location via their mobile device and use that information to better understand commercial space. Another likely source for the information. They have access to a ton of related information via Android Pay, Google Wallet, browser histories etc that they could use to refine and check their data.

Now that they have started to surface this data, it will be interesting to see if it is used in ranking or allowing Google to change ranking during certain times of the day.

On Twitter, AJ Ginrich suggested a creative use of this data: Spy on your competitor & run ads at the right time!

It is rolling out now on mobile although I have been unable to bring it up on any of my browser/phone combos as of yet.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
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12 thoughts on “Google Now Featuring a Location’s Popular Hours on Mobile Devices”

  1. Interesting development, Mike.

    For clients that are closed on the weekend, I’ve long noticed huge variations in traffic and impressions between weekdays and the weekend. I can’t tell if it’s the cause or the effect: maybe those businesses are closed on the weekend precisely because business is slow, or maybe Google doesn’t include businesses in non-branded search results as much on days when they’re closed.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that hours are important to Google on multiple levels, and only getting more important.

  2. @Phil
    It is clear that Google “knows” when a business is popular and it makes sense for them to free the inventory up if a business is closed and another is open.

  3. I just tested this in my region. The information was showing for some, but not all restaurants. It seems that it is available for larger restaurants, but not for smaller restaurants with fewer seats and people.

    Big revelation. The restaurants I saw with the data, and spread out over a large metro region were busier toward and on the weekend and slower on Monday’s and Tuesdays. From a business perspective, one could spy on your competitors and create “creative ways to market against competitors and/or how to fill up a business during slower hours. From a restaurant and historical basis….that is how happy hours got started. Happy hours filled up restaurants when they were not historically busy.

    Regardless of the google marketing hype….its a depiction of scary info on a privacy level. By virtue of your mobile phone, google knows where you are. If you don’t want google to know where you are…get an apple.

    Come to think of it…if a business has a high percentage of visitors in its midst who own apple mobiles…and competitors get a high percentage of visitors with androids….will this information actually give out a false picture????

    Anyway, google has publicly complained about the government mining its data….but this is a stark reminder that google has the data. Who are you worried about??? Choose your poison.

    On a totally different basis, Mike, we recently went over some information about maps, and about the auto manufacturers very cognitively wanting their own proprietary maps system independent of google and of Apple. Its no wonder they want to keep the data for themselves and away from google and/or apple.

    And on another perspective…even if the auto manufacturers have their own maps systems for driving in their cars….google, via your mobile is going to know where you are going from point A to point B, how long it took for you to get there, if another mobile/android owner is in the car with you…and who it is.

    Its very big brotherish….and this element makes us very aware of how much data google has on android owners. Spoooooky!!!!

  4. Neat stuff, Mike. Spooky, like Dave says, but interesting. I have been curious for some time is hours of operation affect rankings. I don’t have the manpower to test, but I’ve wondered if:

    1) The algo is moving at a fast enough speed to move open business up and closed business down for certain keywords, based on the time of the user query in relationship to the hours of operation.

    2) If businesses marked as closed for the day receive less hits.

    Don’t know …

  5. The feature works for high volume restaurants in my neighbourhood but not for pizza take aways with low volume. Despite publishing opening hours.

    The information level available to Google is spooky indeed! But then again also carriers know your exact position at any given time. Hence switching to Apple won’t help. You just hand over your data to them and the carrier…

    BTW, I’m based out of Switzerland, the country with the highest Apple density per capita worldwide. This doesn’t seem to hinder Google in any way…

    And if you were not quite sure just how much they “know” about us, have you tried the latest maps timeline yet?

    Not only does it show when you leave your house, arrive at work, who you had dinner with at which restaurant, etc. It also shows the pictures you took at a given time. They can calculate how long you’re at home on average, how long you commute, how long you work, etc.

    That makes for quite a profile!

    So why on Earth is their AdWords targeting still so lousy? Is it the advertisers’ fault? Don’t they provide the campaigns that would fit my profile? Should Google launch their consulting outlet that advises companies what to produce (in the first place) and then who to market it to?

  6. I noticed that some locations have “not enough data yet for [day of the week]”

    Do you think that this is because they don’t get enough visits? In this case, the business has Wednesday show but all other days have the “not enough data” message.

    Not sure if I should be assuming lack of visits or if the company has yet to be updated.


  7. Its hard to know. Lack of data is not the same as not being busy. And the feature is new. My guess is that it means that there were not enough visits that they could identify without violating privacy.

  8. Thanks Mike for the reply, I was actually using the data to help do some competitive research for my client. In response to the AJ Gingrich tweet you mentioned, I actually created a graphic where I was able to overlay the different traffic reports to see gaps and opportunities.

    I included it here:

  9. Hi Mike, Google says this is only available on mobile devices but I’m seeing the chart show up when searching on my laptop. Have you heard anything more about this?

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