Imagine if Google re-ranked local businesses based on the time of day that the businesses are most popular with their customers…
Google does a lot of customization of search results, mostly based on what you search for, what you click on, where you’re located, who you’re connected to socially, and things like that. See this great Search Engine Land article on personalized search to see the many ways it happens.
To my knowledge, Google doesn’t change its local rankings based on the time of day and knowing when a business is popular. (If anyone knows otherwise, please speak up in the comments.) But that would be a great feature in some situations, wouldn’t it? Maybe you’re looking for a good meal at 11 pm — knowing what restaurants are popular at that hour might help.
Foursquare can do that now.
As About Foursquare wrote today, business profiles on Foursquare Explore are now showing “Popular Hours” — based, no doubt, on the data that Fousquare has about what times people check-in, leave tips, post photos, and so forth.
I don’t know if Foursquare is using the hourly data for its Explore search results, but it could. And that’s why I think Foursquare can be a serious player in local search:
It has a ton of real-life local data from actual human behavior. It’s not just “popular hours” — think of all the data Foursquare has about local businesses and consumer behavior.
Foursquare doesn’t have to rely on how well a website has done SEO, or whether a business has consistent NAP data across the web — it knows what businesses are actually popular with a lot of consumers. And it can also add on the social element of recommendations based on friend/connection activity, too.
It’s no wonder Apple is apparently interested in working with Foursquare on local data. I would be, too, if I was building a local search engine.