I’ve suggested at least since 2017 that Google’s been shifting its algorithm to focus on more democratic, transactional signals of popularity, like clicks to call, clicks for driving directions, and store visit information to rank local businesses. But we don’t actually know if Google uses it in its ranking algorithm. Unlike links, citations, or reviews, there isn’t really a great way to test this as a ranking signal, since only Google has location data from Android phone owners and iOS users of Google Maps.
But the difficulty in testing this signal is also one of its virtues: it’s darn near impossible to manipulate. Links and citations are easily bought — and even reviews, as Mike Blumenthal, Joy Hawkins, and others have been working to highlight. Store visits on the other hand are about the most foolproof ranking signal to assess the actual popularity of a given business. I’d suggest that if a competitor of your business has a Knowledge Panel feature showing when it’s busy and how long people typically stay there, and you don’t, that’s a likely contributor to their ranking superiority.