For many brands, store openings involve a complex and costly investment of energy and resources. Multiple departments must collaborate on activities like market research, design, construction, staffing, operations, marketing, and advertising in order to ensure the brand gains a successful foothold in a new territory. Store openings involve more risk and require more coordinated effort than just about anything else a multi-location brand does on a regular basis.
Of course, in the minds of many of today’s consumers, brand locations only exist if they can be found in Google. So it’s been a point of frustration for brands that Google has historically stuck by the rule that your store location has to be open for business before you qualify for a live Google listing.
We’re happy to report that this may be about to change. We anticipated this might happen back in April when Google added the “open date” field to the Google My Business (GMB) API. But at the time, Google only allowed you to indicate the date in the past when the business first opened.
Now, we’ve seen evidence that you can enter dates in the future, and that Google is testing live listings with a notation indicating the date when the location will be open for business.
One of our valued clients, Express Oil Change & Tire Engineers, first brought this to our attention. As you can see from the screenshot, the brand’s newest location in Bradenton, Florida was set to open on September 12.
Before that date, a live listing appeared with “Opens Wed Sep 12” in red text underneath the business name and category. You’ll note that the not-yet-open location lists no hours of operation, even though these were provided by the brand. Google is clearly hiding the hours so as not to confuse consumers.
On the day of opening, the listing automatically displays a different message: the note “Recently opened” and a special ribbon-cutting icon. Notice that hours of operation are now on display.
We’ve actually seen this “Recently opened” feature in listings before, back when open dates were first added. But the “Opens Wed Sep 19” indicator is new. It would appear to mean that Google will now allow you to list a business for some period of time in the future before it opens, and will help you to promote that fact by publishing the listing in advance along with its opening date. According to our friends at Google, this is a limited pilot and not yet an official feature.
How important is this update for brands? Rod Black, Senior Digital Marketing Manager at Express Oil Change & Tire Engineers, puts it like this: “As a brand continuing to grow its footprint, we see the open date feature on Google listings as a very exciting development. Over the last few months, we’ve noticed a significant lift in local-listing-driven traffic to our website, confirming that local listings are more in front of the consumer than ever before. Having the ability to clearly communicate an open date, as well as showing ‘Recently opened’ on our newest locations, presents a great opportunity for us to begin building our presence sooner in local communities.”
It’s simple enough to supply Google with opening dates for new locations. This can be done by making use of the “open date” field -- but for now you can only enter future dates manually in the GMB dashboard. Just how far in the future you can list a new location is still to be determined. And because this is a limited pilot, there’s no guarantee yet that your brand’s listings will qualify for advance publication. (If the feature isn’t yet available for you, you’ll see the message, “Opening date cannot be in the future.”)
With luck, though, this update will stick around and roll out soon for everyone. We know it will be a real benefit for brands to establish early presence on Google for new locations.
Update: After some further experimentation, we can report that for now, it appears you can only indicate the open date for a business one day in advance. Google will also allow you to enter only the month and year, in which case you may see a message like "Opens September" with no specific date. If you notice anything else about this feature in your own GMB listings, let us know!