You may have noticed over the past year, that when Googling for places such as restaurants, public houses and even towns, Google has showed “popular times” – a small bar graph which shows you how busy places are at any given time.

Recently, however, Google has expanded this and there is now realtime results, so if you’re thinking of going for a meal at your favourite restaurant you can quickly Google and see how busy it is – ok it’s never going to be 100% accurate, but if it says it’s extremely busy, you’ll know to at least call ahead to see if you can book a table.

This is also handy if you’re off to your local pub, if it looks like it’s dead and you like a busy atmosphere, it may be worth going elsewhere.

When viewing the popular times stats, one of the bars on the graph will display in red – this is the real time bar, if you choose to visit, you can click on the link to say that the statistics are correct, this improves the data for other people.

The data doesn’t only show how many people are in that location at that time (or other times, on the graph) it also lets you know how long people stay in a location, for the likes of restaurants, this will give you an idea of how fast, or slow service is, and for the likes of a nightclub, it gives you a rough idea of whether it’s a good venue or not – if people only stay for a short amount of time, chances are it’s not all that good!

Not only has the expansion to popular times rolled out, Google have now added the ability to add opening hours for “shops within shops” for example, if your local supermarket has a pharmacy inside which has different opening times to the main store, these can now be added on Google’s business opening times saving you a wasted trip (or your customers, if you own/run such a store!).

It looks like this kind of data is becoming more common across not only Google but the likes of Facebook too, will it become a ranking factor in future? We’re not sure – but you can bet that Google is already trialing ways to use this data to it’s full extent!