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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Chat rate is the new CTR for AdWords message extensions

Google rolled out its click-to-message AdWords extension in October 2016. Similar to call extensions, message extensions allow users to message a business directly from the ad.
Now the company is announcing formal reporting for messaging. It will be available in the next few weeks in the US, the UK, Canada, France, Brazil and Australia. Users of message extensions will need to turn on message reporting in account settings.
Three primary metrics will be captured:

Chat rate: This is analogous to CTR (impressions vs. actual messaging interactions).
Start time: When users tend to interact with you via messaging. Google says this metric will help with dayparting.
Number of messages exchanged within a single chat session: Google says to use this metric to evaluate which ad creatives are driving the most engagement.

Each session will be charged as a click.
The number displayed in the ad will be a Google call-forwarding number, which is how the company is able to track the above metrics. “Whenever possible, Google

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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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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 adds price tracking features to flight search, hotel search and Google Trips

Google announced it has added features to help you plan your trips, flights and hotel stays for your vacations or business trips. Many of the features are around how you can save money or track prices for a travel destination. Google has been testing many of these features over the past month, so they may not appear new to some of our readers.
Google is showing new “tips” under the flight search results to show you ways to save money for that trip. Google says it uses “machine learning and statistical analysis of historical flights data, Flights displays tips under your search results, and you can scroll through them to figure out when it’s best to book flights.” Here is a screen shot:

Google may also display a new tip above search results when room rates are higher than usual, or if the area is busier than usual due to a holiday, a music festival, or even a business

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5 local search tactics your competitors probably aren’t using

Local SEO is competitive and fierce. With more and more local businesses vying for the Google local three-pack — and ads and online directories occupying a large percentage of the remaining SERP real estate — your local SEO strategy has to be aggressive.
So, what can you do to outrank your local competitors down the street, especially when you’ve all got the basics down? One approach is to use local SEO tactics that your competitors may not know about or aren’t using. Here are five local SEO tactics you can implement to help get ahead of your competitors.
Google Posts
First, every local business should claim their Google My Business (GMB) listing. It’s a must-do. Non-negotiable. If you don’t claim your Google My Business listing, you essentially don’t exist online! (Okay, that’s an exaggeration — but not claiming your GMB listing will significantly diminish your chances of showing up in local search results.)
Of your competitors who claim their Google My Business listing,

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Top 10 local search insights of 2017

Is it just me, or does it seem time flies faster in the local search industry? Another year has gone by, with many changes and developments to boot. Here’s a list of my top 10 insights from 2017:
1. Customer data is the new competitive edge
SMBs often feel at a competitive disadvantage compared to larger companies who benefit from scale at every level, including the purchase of search advertising or other marketing services. Data is helping even the playing field as it emphasizes quality over quantity.
Better data resulting in better targeting means that local businesses experience lower costs, higher conversion rates and greater ROI. And while targeting is not a new strategy, what’s new is the access to and quality of data.
Just as the price of technology drops with increased adoption, data will be cheaper, more accurate and more insightful. The Internet of Things (IoT) is driving growth in data much faster than what could be achieved by

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Google brings local lead generation to Google Assistant and Google Home

Google is bringing new forms of local search to the Google Assistant and Google Home. The company announced it’s working with local home service providers “like HomeAdvisor and Porch.”
On any platform where Google Assistant is available, users will be able to ask for contractors (e.g., “Ok Google find me a plumber”). That initiates a structured interaction which generates a lead or contact with a local service provider.
In the case of IAC-owned HomeAdvisor, which now also owns Angie’s List, users can ask to be connected by phone at the end of the process to a contractor or receive a list of relevant, pre-screened contractors. The following graphic depicts part of the user experience and the structured Q&A that’s used to refine the lead.
This is a highly structured local search and lead-generation experience that will bypass conventional search results (i.e., business listings). Google said the new functionality would be rolling out in the next week or so.

Google itself offers local lead generation for contractors

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