Google local knowledge panel profile images are not loading in search

There is an active bug with Google search. It’s not loading the profile images in the local knowledge panel section. If you search for your favorite business and the local knowledge panel shows up in the search results, both desktop or mobile results, the profile images will not load. Instead, you will either see a blank white space or a broken graphic image.
This is a global and widespread issue that has been reported to Google. We assume it will be resolved shortly, but until then, you do not need to panic. Google should fix the issue on its end.
Here are some screen shots I took from both desktop and mobile of some local knowledge panels:

Mike Blumenthal, who is a top contributor volunteer at Google confirmed the company has been notified of the issue:

PSA: Knowledge Panel profile photo and images in GMB are broken today. Google has been alerted https://t.co/MtKFctuwGS
— Mike Blumenthal (@mblumenthal) April 4, 2018

Postscript: This is

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Waze launches ‘Local’ ads primarily aimed at SMBs and franchises

eskay / Shutterstock.com
Previewed roughly a year ago, Waze is now introducing “Waze Local,” map-based ads aimed primarily (though not exclusively) at small businesses. Designed to be simple to buy and set up, it features three ad units:

Branded Pin.
Promoted Search.
Zero-Speed Takeover.

Below are screen mockups of each type of ad.

The Branded Pin offers additional information when it’s clicked. Promoted Search gives priority rankings to advertisers in a search context (like AdWords), and the Zero-Speed Takeover is a banner that only appears during traffic stops.
In an internal study with 1,400 US advertisers during the beta period, Waze said advertisers saw “20.4 percent more monthly navigations when they started advertising with Waze Local.”
Beyond the ads themselves, there are two primary offerings that feature different pricing for different segments: “Starter” and “Plus.” Starter is for businesses with fewer than 10 locations. Plus is for businesses with up to 50 locations (e.g., franchises and regional chains). There’s also an enterprise offering for companies

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Google adding business descriptions in Google My Business & local panel

Google looks to be adding a feature in Google My Business that allows business owners to add descriptions that appear in the local panel in search results. Both @deegs20 and @maulikpanchal posted screen shots of this in action. Google removed this feature back in 2016 when they dropped the Google+ support but it seems to be added back via the Google My Business console.
Users of Google My Business can go into their accounts and click on the “info” section, where they may see this business description section that can be edited. Here is a screenshot from Dave DiGregorio:

It then can show up in your local panel, towards the bottom:

This information was also recently added to the official Google help documents, which now say:
Enter a brief description of your business — what you offer, what sets you apart, your history, or anything else that’s helpful for customers to know. Descriptions must be no longer than 750 characters and can’t include URLs

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Law firm that used contest to solicit Google reviews sees all but one disappear

Reviews are an essential part of doing business online. They heavily influence consumer buying and local rankings. But as Joy Hawkins points out, using rewards or other incentives to help generate them is a bad idea.
A law firm in Louisville, Kentucky, Winton & Hiestand Law Group, had the vast majority of its reviews on Google removed after it was discovered that the firm was incentivizing people to review the business with contests and giveaways.
The firm had roughly 100 reviews on Google before the matter was reported in Google My Business forums. As of this moment, the firm has a single review on Google (albeit five stars). The firm was giving out family zoo passes as the incentive in this case.

On Facebook, the firm has 1,000 five-star reviews. It may well be that a high percentage of these are the byproduct of contests and incentives. Google previously stated this policy against using financial incentives to generate reviews:
Don’t offer or accept

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How do you optimize content for a voice-first world?

For years, the use of voice search and voice assistants to answer questions has been on the rise. According to Google, 20 percent of all mobile search queries are voice search, and that number will only go up.
Voice recognition technology is getting better and better: Google’s technology is now 95 percent accurate.

Yet for most SEO professionals, not much has changed in the way they optimize content for this new way to search. Now is the perfect time to pay attention to voice search and to start incorporating SEO strategies that can increase your chances to show up in voice results.
Gary Vaynerchuk agrees. From his book, “Crushing It”:
It’s called Voice-First, and anyone currently building a personal brand needs to learn about it fast and early. Its platforms are the equivalent of yet-to-be-discovered Malibu beachfront property, much like Twitter in 2006, Instagram in 2010 and Snapchat in 2012.
Voice search and personal voice assistants like Siri, Cortana, Google Assistant, Google

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Customer loyalty: A key ingredient for successful local search results

Customer loyalty is often overlooked in local search. The thinking is that people are searching for new places to shop or for things they don’t know about already. If they were a regular or loyal customer, they wouldn’t need to search.
But that’s not entirely true. Due to the  “Google effect” or digital amnesia, consumers process information differently today. We’ve become so inundated with information we have adjusted to relying on search outlets like Google to find information instead of remembering the actual content.
For example, instead of recalling the name of the coffee shop I enjoyed the last time I visited Washington, D.C., I remembered that it was near the train station. Once I pulled up search results for coffee shops on Google Maps, the choices of names and locations triggered my memory.
Loyalty in local search is about being top of mind when choices need to be made and friends ask for recommendations. Below are six ways to

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Google My Business video uploads now available to business owners

Allyson Wright from the Google My Business team announced today that the video upload feature we saw being tested is now available for business owners in the Google My Business dashboard.
Business owners can “view videos added by customers and upload videos about their business for customers to view,” she said. The video maximum length is 30 seconds, and after a video is uploaded, it can take up to 24 hours for it to be visible on the business listing in Google Maps or the local web search results.
Merchants should soon have the ability to flag inappropriate videos through their dashboard, and Google also promises mobile support in the future.
To add video to your business, go to the Google My Business dashboard and click on the “photos,” then select the “video” link at the top. After it loads, select the option to “Post Videos.”

Drag and drop the video to the box.

The video will begin uploading.

After the video is

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How much will privacy regulation disrupt the local search market in 2018?

Most marketing professionals don’t give much thought to the regulatory climate. In the US, unlike Europe, privacy laws are largely industry-specific and targeted toward healthcare and financial services. Thus, marketers have largely been able to rely on lawyers to provide privacy disclosures and then go on to business as usual.
Yet there are a number of indications that a tipping point may be near, giving way to new regulations that demand significant changes in business practice. These changes can have a disproportionate impact on small and medium-sized local businesses. And varying standards across state lines means that companies with local operations in different states may have to make multiple adjustments.
Below, I take a look at the current environment and indicators that major changes are due in 2018. Then I cover seven ways changing privacy laws will impact the local search market.
Deregulation on federal level driving changes on state level
With all the news on Net Neutrality last month, you

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Report: Google exploring sale of Zagat reviews

According to a report appearing in Reuters, Google’s parent Alphabet is considering a sale of reviews publication Zagat. The company was purchased in September, 2011 for a reported $151 million in the wake of a failed deal to acquire Yelp.
At the time Google needed local reviews content to better compete in local search with rivals such as Yelp, TripAdvisor and others. Marissa Mayer was responsible for the acquisition. Less than a year later Mayer became Yahoo’s CEO.
The Reuters report says, “Google has held informal talks in recent months with multiple companies about offloading Zagat . . . Any deal would likely involve the Zagat brand name and website . . .”
Whether the sale will actually happen and any potential purchase price are uncertain. If Zagat did sell it almost certainly would fetch less than what Google paid for it. Its brand has undoubtedly declined in value during the nearly seven years Google has owned and managed it.
Google clearly

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Google again showing third-party reviews in local results

Google is integrating third-party reviews into the Knowledge Graph for hotels. It apparently has been happening since 2016 and is entirely opt-in for the provider.
Google works directly with the third-party review source (e.g., TripAdvisor) to integrate the content. In the example below, TripAdvisor reviews for Southern California hotel Terranea are available under the “view Google reviews” link in the Knowledge Panel.

Google got into trouble roughly seven years ago for “scraping” and incorporating third-party review content from sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp into Google Places without permission. Yelp saw the move as a kind of antitrust “extortion” and mounted a vigorous campaign against it.
One of the provisions of Google’s 2012 antitrust settlement with the FTC was that the company would allow publishers to block Google from including third-party reviews in “vertical search offerings” without their being excluded from the general index. According to the FTC statement announcing the settlement:
Google also has promised to provide all websites the option to

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