Mobile devices, voice search and location technologies have forever changed the way people make dining decisions. Today, people turn to their mobile devices first when it’s time to find a place for dinner with the kids or brunch with friends. In fact, Google found that four in five consumers use search engines to find local information and one in every three search queries on a daily basis includes some kind of local intent.
The competition online is stiff with more than a million restaurant locations across the US—approximately 380,000 chain restaurants and over 352,000 independent locations. As consumers make dining decisions instantly online, first impressions in search are critical. Keeping this in mind, how do restaurant locations measure up online?
Understanding the Opportunity
The way Google presents information to searchers has changed immensely in recent years. For example, there used to only be ten hyperlinks that Google deemed as “most popular” or “important” on the front page of a search. This ranking was largely based on keywords used and how many other websites linked to that site. If searchers wanted to learn more about a restaurant, they had to click through to the homepage and browse to find hours of operation, menu, address, phone number and other information on the business.
Today, Google provides everything a hungry searcher needs to make a decision directly on the search results page. For instance, Google now displays addresses, phone numbers, business descriptions, menus, photos, reviews and more.
With the ability for searchers to click-to-call, make a reservation, get driving directions and more, why visit a businesses’ homepage? According to recent research from Rio SEO, only one in 60 Google Map Pack views resulted in a click-through to a business’s website. Google enables restaurant owners to control, correct and optimize this data via the Google My Business (GMB) dashboard.
Create Online Ambiance with Smart GMB Optimizations
Searchers are looking for more than just information. They want to understand and pre-evaluate the experience they’ll have if they select a particular restaurant for their next meal. Now ask yourself – how much time, energy, and budget has been invested in planning the restaurant’s theme and menu? Can customers see that when searching on Google or Yelp?
It’s essential to invoke through online search, the same feeling customers get when walking through a restaurant’s entrance or taking the first bite of an appetizer or entrée. The below seven GMB local listing optimization tips can help restaurant owners attract new customers directly from a GMB listing:
Decide where to focus your efforts
The majority of diners are probably utilizing Google for search, so prioritize efforts there. GMB offers an “Insights Dashboard” to help individual restaurants monitor and measure performance in search. Multi-location brands should utilize a local search platform to view competitive analysis and business analytics across several locations in one dashboard.
Include food service and hospitality-specific sites into the optimization strategy. Some examples of these site include: Yelp, OpenTable, TripAdvisor, Facebook, Zomato, Foursquare, etc.
View each business through the eyes of a potential customer
View each locations’ sites asking these questions: Do searchers have access to all the information needed to make a decision? Can potential customers get to each location without having to search for the data somewhere else? Do consumers have a clear picture of what to expect when they arrive?
It is important to add photos and descriptions of all interior and exterior spaces, entrances, parking area, decor, seating styles and kitchen to a business’s GMB profile.
Complete all sections of a GMB profile for each location separately and monitor these profiles on an ongoing basis
Explore GMB’s business categorization and verify the right category was selected to help consumers identify the style and location of each restaurant. Google has recognized that restaurant decisions are deeply personal for diners and has enabled personalized recommendations via mobile.
When reviewing location profiles, verify Google understands what each restaurant offers so each restaurant location will show up in relevant queries.
Add a structured menu to your GMB listing
Adding a structured menu to your GMB listing enables searchers to peruse a restaurant’s food options directly from the search results page. To do this, add a menu tab to the Map Pack listing.
Consider augmenting the menu(s) with photos of various dishes in the photos tab of the GMB dashboard and allowing customers to leave photos/reviews of their experience as well.
Verify hours of operation are always up to date
There is nothing worse than checking a business’s hours online, piling the family into the car and arriving to a restaurant location to find it closed. Do not just “set it and forget it” when promoting local listings information. Again, remember Google pulls information from a variety of different sources.
It’s essential to invoke through online search, the same feeling customers get when walking through a restaurant’s entrance or taking the first bite of an appetizer or entrée.
People who participate in Google’s Local Guides program, for example, can suggest different hours of operation for business locations, among other things. If someone suggests a change of hours and the restaurant marketer hasn’t been active in a while, Google may decide the news is more relevant and can potentially overwrite the information the restaurant marketer originally submitted. Google allows this because it too wants to confirm the information it is displaying is always accurate and up-to-date.
Consider investing in a technology solution that automatically monitors and ensures local listings across an enterprise are accurate on an ongoing basis. Once integrated the technology enables franchises to push out special holiday hours in bulk or make menu changes across all restaurant locations in a snap.
Share local information on each location’s GMB
Local relevance is a key component in Google’s ranking algorithm, which is why local managers and/or the marketing team should publish and promote local events they are hosting via Google. Additionally, local managers should be monitoring and responding to all local Q&A sin a timely manner and pushing brand promotions across all locations.
Maximize the ranking and conversion value of consumer reviews
Google is the top platform for reviews, as 63.6 percent of consumers now say they are likely to check reviews on Google before visiting a business. According to BrightLocal, consumers love sharing their experiences with local businesses online as its been reported that 89 percent of consumers read business responses to reviews.
In general, customer reviews play a sizeable role in local rankings on Google. The search engine uses review quantity, velocity, sentiment, and diversity as ranking factors to help determine which restaurant locations should appear in the Top 3 Map Pack listings for any given query.
Bringing it All Together
We live in a real-time world, where decisions are made at the push of a button. In fact, 78 percent of restaurateurs are looking at their sales metrics and data on a daily basis. To remain successful in 2019 and beyond, restaurant brands must feed the customers’ need for visibility and engagement at the local level. With the right technology in place, individual and chain restaurants can manage local listings, measure reviews, view sentiment analysis by location across a franchise, identify opportunities for greater visibility – all within a single dashboard.