Google showing knowledge graph data in local panels

Google has started showing more information about local businesses in some local knowledge panel results. It is implementing this by showing additional tabs of information above the local panel for (a) locations (b) about, and sometimes (c) Google Posts.
Here is a screen shot showing a search for [kfc] which brings up locations for nearby KFCs and an “about” tab for knowledge panel information about the chain.

Sergey Alakov, who first spotted this, said it “looks like Google started combining knowledge panels and local packs in mobile search results for businesses that have a knowledge panel displayed for their brand name search and local presence in the user’s area.”
I cannot consistently bring this up, so it might be Google is testing this feature still or it is currently still rolling out to searchers.
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Google’s new #SmallThanks Hub automatically creates digital & printed marketing assets for SMBs

In a move to help SMBs — as well as drive up its verified business listings — Google has launched #SmallThanks Hub, an online resource that creates customized digital marketing content and printed materials based on Google reviews.
“Simply search for your business name on the site, and we’ll automatically create posters, social media posts, window clings, stickers and more — based on the reviews and local love from your customers on Google,” writes Google’s vice president of marketing for Ads & Americas, Lisa Gevelber, on The Keyword blog.
Google says its #SmallThanks Hub, which is rolling out in the US today, is available to any verified Google listing with an address.
“Reviews from your fans are like digital thank you notes, and they’re one of the first things people notice about your business in search results,” writes Gevelber in the announcement. Google shared the following image to highlight how it is repurposing Google reviews into social media posts and

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Google Maps enables creating & sharing lists on desktop version

Android Police reports Google is now rolling out the ability to create and share lists of places on the desktop version of Google Maps.
This feature originally launched on mobile in February and now seems to be rolling out to the desktop interface. It allows searchers to keep track of saved places and share lists with others via text, email and popular messaging apps.
Here is a screen shot from Android Police showing what happens when you click the “save” button now on the Google local listing in Google Maps:

You can, of course, continue to access your places in the menu on the side of Google Maps to check your saved listings on both desktop and mobile.
It is unclear how long this feature will take to roll out to all users, but it does seem to be rolling out more widely now.
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Google searches now correspond to user location instead of domain

Google announced today that it is changing the way it labels country services on the mobile web, Google app for iOS and desktop Search and Maps.
According to Google, one in five searches is now location-related. To make search results more relevant, Google says the country of service will no longer be indicated by the country code top level domain name (ccTLD) such as “google.co.uk” for the UK or “google.com.br” for Brazil, but instead will default to the country where the user is performing the search.
From the Google Search Blog:
So if you live in Australia, you’ll automatically receive the country service for Australia, but when you travel to New Zealand, your results will switch automatically to the country service for New Zealand. Upon return to Australia, you will seamlessly revert back to the Australian country service.

Google says that typing the relevant ccTLD into a browser will no longer return various country services. Instead, users must go into their settings

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A brief history of Google’s most important local search updates

Deciphering the Google algorithm can sometimes feel like an exercise in futility. The search engine giant has made many changes over the years, keeping digital marketers on their toes and continually moving the goalposts on SEO best practices.
Google’s continuous updating can hit local businesses as hard as anyone. Every tweak and modification to its algorithm could adversely impact their search ranking or even prevent them from appearing on the first page of search results for targeted queries. What makes things really tricky is the fact that Google sometimes does not telegraph the changes it makes or how they’ll impact organizations. It’s up to savvy observers to deduce what has been altered and what it means for SEO and digital marketing strategies.
What’s been the evolution of local search, and how did we get here? Let’s take a look at the history of Google’s local algorithm and its effect on brick-and-mortar locations.
2005: Google Maps and Local Business Center become

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Markets with home service ads: Service-area businesses are coming back to the local results

After my column about Home Service Ads came out last week, I got a message from Google with some great news. They told me two things:

Google plans to add pure service-area businesses (SABs) back into the local results — this includes home-based businesses.
The disappearance of results for home-based businesses in markets without Home Service Ads was due to a bug (not intentional), which Google says should be resolved soon.

So, almost a year after deciding to remove service-area businesses from the local results, I’m starting to see that Google is adding them back.
Here is an example of a search result I spotted this morning.

A few days ago, it looked like this (Notice how every listing has a directions icon — meaning the address is showing on the listing):

Although owners of service-area businesses will be extremely excited about this change, service-area businesses aren’t the only listings returning to the local results.
The return of spam
One of the good things about

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Yelp says Google violated ‘do not crawl’ provision of 2013 FTC settlement agreement

Mark Van Scyoc / Shutterstock.com
Yelp has sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) asserting that Google is improperly using Yelp images in local search results in violation of its 2013 antitrust settlement with the regulatory agency. Yelp also circulated the letter to several members of Congress and state attorneys general, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
The 2013 settlement concluded nearly two years of investigations and political maneuvering. As part of the agreement, Google said it would:
[M]ake available a web-based notice form that provides website owners with the option to opt out from display on Google’s Covered Webpages of content from their website that has been crawled by Google. When a website owner exercises this option, Google will cease displaying crawled content from the domain name designated by the website owner on Covered Webpages on the google.com domain in the United States. Website owners will be able to exercise the opt-out described above by completing a web-based

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August 22, 2017: The day the ‘Hawk’ Google local algorithm update swooped in

I recently reported on an algorithm update impacting the local results that happened on August 22, 2017. This was a strictly-local update, from what I can tell so far, which means that it had no impact on the non-local organic results.
What changed?
The update, which I have dubbed “Hawk,” was a change to the way the local filter works. To get some history here, Google actively filters out listings from the local results that are similar to other listings that rank already. Basically, Google picks the most relevant listing of the bunch and filters the rest. It’s very similar to what they do organically with duplicate content. (Note: Google is typically loath to confirm algorithm updates, usually only saying that it rolls out several updates every day, so these observations are based on an analysis of how local results have changed rather than on any official announcement or acknowledgment.)
The filter has existed for a long time to help ensure that

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Google local pack tests displaying website mentions matching your query

Google is testing displaying in the local pack results if the local website returns the keywords you searched for on their website. For example, if you search for [climate control] in a specific region, the local pack might add an additional line to the search snippet, mentioning if the website in the local listing actually has those words on their web pages.
Here is a screen shot from Matt Schexnayder of Sparefoot, who sent this tip to us:

It is unclear if this means that the local results use the local listing’s website content for ranking purposes or not. All this is telling us is that Google local is indeed aware if the local business website has the query’s content on their website.
We have emailed Google for a comment, but at this point, it seems like a limited test.
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Google upgrades flight and hotel search to provide price grid views & more

Google announced several upgrades to both their flight search and hotel search features to aid searchers in finding the most economical options for their trips.
Rolling out on Google Flights is the ability to ability to click on “Dates” to see the calendar view of date combinations with the cheapest prices highlighted in green and the most expensive in red. You can also see price graphs over time if you have a certain length of trip in mind. This feature is available on mobile and rolling out to desktop later this year. Here is a GIF of these flight search features in action:

Often, flying to different nearby cities’ airports can save you on flight costs. Google also added the ability to see all nearby airports on an interactive map, view the distance between each one and your final destination and select the most convenient airports to include in your results. Here is a screen shot of this feature:

Google

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