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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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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3 inconsistencies in Yelp’s review solicitation crackdown

Last month, Yelp doubled down on its war on review solicitation. Yelp has long given mixed signals about whether you can ask customers for reviews on their platform, but they seem to now be unifying their message against review solicitation.
In November, they began sending messages like this to businesses and agencies:

Disclosure: We (Go Fish Digital) received the email above. However, they must not have really done a lot of research to compile this list, as we do help clients with reputation management, but we do not solicit Yelp reviews on their behalf. We don’t do any review solicitation.
This new crackdown is a little disturbing, and in many ways, quite misleading. Here are three ways in which I view this all as quite hypocritical.
1. They LITERALLY told us review solicitation was OK
I once emailed Yelp support and asked them directly if review solicitation was OK. The wording on their website was ambiguous, so I wanted a clear answer

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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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SEO ranking factors for 4 business verticals and what they mean for local businesses

SEO for local business has gone through a number of changes. First, local businesses had to figure out Google’s algorithm so that their websites would appear in search results. Next came local search ranking factors that emphasized location-based factors. Now, it seems Google updates will require a new look at vertical-specific ranking factors.
This isn’t really a third wave of SEO — rather, it’s an evolution of Google’s general ranking factors. Consistent with attaining its goal of providing consumers with search results that best match what they are looking for and content that will be most helpful, Google looks more deeply and more specifically at factors that determine search results.
What this means is that pursuing general factors like “more backlinks” or “matching keywords” simply doesn’t cut it anymore. That’s not to say those factors are no longer relevant; they are. But it’s getting more complicated.
One size no longer fits all
While the debate rages on about the importance of websites

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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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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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