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Understanding Google My Business & Local Search

Infographic: Citations – Time To Live

The local ecosystem is a complex web of interrelations with Google having positioned themselves at its center. Given this complexity, just how long does it take for data to move through the various parts before it makes it into Google’s index. And from the main index into their local index and the cluster of data they have about your business? Just why does fixing error or changing a listing detail at InfoUSA take so long to impact your Google listing?

David Mihm and I have been working on detailing the time it takes for any given citation creation to impact the Google cluster for your business.

Chart Explanation

Our goal is to provide a broad stroke as to the range of times it might take for citation data to show up in a desktop Google search. The ranges are estimates only based on our experience and do not reflect comprehensive empirical data. As such, you might find discrepancies with our assessment of any given citation tactic. That being said, we think that the information is broadly accurate and provides insights into the delays at various points in the local ecosystem.

Depending on where the data enters the system it can take more or less time to finally make it into Google’s cluster of data in their local index and depending on where it hits in any given cycle along the way it can make it there more or less quickly.

For example, in the case of Infogroup they might take 2 months cycle to vet a new listing and another month before the data is fed to one of their customers for display in a local directory. Thus the range of times, depending on when the data hits their cycle could be as long as 180 days before (blue) the time for it to first appear live on the web. Depending on the importance of the page and its visibility where that data is shown it might take anywhere from a day to sixty days for Google (orange) to include the data in their main search engine. From there Google then needs to re-build their local index and include the new citation data into the Google+ Local cluster (Green) which occurs every 4 to 6 weeks.

The circle thus represents an educated guess as to the average time to inclusion in the Google+ Local cluster for data that started at any given point.


Historically, as I have noted previously, a listing that went through a list broker, onto a primary list supplier like InfoUSA and then off to Google had a number of time delays before it would hit paydirt in the business cluster in the Google local index. This data could, if it hit every cycle just wrong, take as long as 9 months from beginning to end.

Recent developments in the use of APIs by CityGrid (2010) for their ad network, Yext (2011) and UBL Direct (2012) now remove one level of the delay and push data in near real time from aggregator to the display on an IYP site.

There still however is the issue with the time it takes for Google to bring 3rd party data into their main index and then for them to do a data build to push it into their local index. Google has dramatically sped up the time for moving new data into their main index over the past few years but given that the local index is rebuilt only every 4-8 weeks there is still on average a 5 or 6 week delay for data to show in their local index AFTER it hits the IYP page.

Google too has made improvements in their internal data pipeline although these improvements only affect their products. An edit in MapMaker or a G+ Page for local (one that has merged with the G+ Local page) can now flow to display within several hours once it has been approved as opposed to an edit in the Places for Business that can take as long as a month to make its way to display on the listing.

So while there have been significant improvements in parts of the local ecosystem, the dream of real time updates of local data like events, sales and specials across the whole web is still something that is in the future. But there will be a day when a business came make 3 or 3 edits and have fresh data display everywhere and the process of changing hours or announcing sales will become trivial rather than the trial they are today.

Please note: This infrographic is approved for non-commercial re-use with full attribution. It is not to be re-used for commercial purposes without explicit permission of copyright holders.