Quick! Can you name the one thing that takes 30 minutes, results in driving massive amounts of new customers your way, and costs you nothing more than the length of time to watch a old rerun of Seinfeld?
Google My Business is the new, centralized location online where restaurants can invest quality time creating a business listing, uploading pictures, location data, hours of operation, and even a menu.
Once this information is verified by Google, your restaurant becomes part of its local searches, through the Google search page and Google Maps. The company then enhances your listing with driving directions, street view, a view of the interior of your restaurant (once you’ve earned the Trusted designation), and a tie in with online menus and its own ranking and review system.
Why is this Important? The Rise of Mobile
Nobody could have guessed where we were headed when Steve Jobs took the stage in 2007 to introduce a revolutionary new phone that looked and functioned like no other. Apple radically transformed the mobile phone industry by creating a new communication device that spun off thousands of new businesses. Uber, Lyft, Instagram, and Spotify wouldn’t exist without this new invention. Facebook wouldn’t even close to what it’s become with over 1.7 billion users, most on mobile.
Today, mobile phones are everywhere, and have become such an important part of our lives that we often feel naked without them. The world is in a major transition to mobile and away from desktop computers.
In 2015, Google announced that it registered more searches on mobile devices than desktop computers. This transition will continue, until the next device comes along and replaces our phones (retina implants anyone?)
Adapt or Die. The Transition of Search.
Darwinism applies to more than living creatures. It applies to companies, and history is replete with organizations that did not respond quickly enough to a rapidly changing environment. Adapt, or suffer the fate of the Dodo bird.
Companies like Google understand this. Consumers are no longer tethered to a desk searching for new restaurants. They are on the go with a mobile phone just a quick reach away.
Hungry for Italian food and heading downtown? A quick search will show Italian eateries filtered by location, and refreshed in real-time as the phone’s GPS coordinates rapidly change while in motion.
We are searching far more often while away from our desks, and a large number of searches are for local businesses. A study in 2014 confirmed this, showing that 56% of on the go searches had local intent.
This transition to location-based searching has opened up new opportunities for restaurants to become more easily discovered, without requiring future customers to take the deep dive all the way into your website.
In an effort to create a quality search experience for its customers, Google is serving up a rich set of mouth-watering details about your restaurant right in the search results - information that was previously cumbersome to find through websites with different structures and layouts.
By moving essential business information to the search results, Google not only creates a quality search experience, but they also move that person from discovery to point of purchase faster than ever before.
Adapt or Die. Now it’s your turn!
It’s easy to grumble about all the changes in search and the social media landscape. It seems like new sites pop up like daisies, always requiring more and more time in an industry where we have very little of it.
But think of it this way. It’s like you hired a thousand Sherpas around the city to guide customers into your restaurant while providing a preview of your menu, mouth-watering photos of your best dishes, and great reviews by happy customers so the guided masses feel at ease about their choice of restaurant. And best of all? It’s FREE. (well…except for your time)
The good news is that it takes very little time to get started with Google My Business. So let’s get started!
1. Our first step isn’t covered in many guides, but it’s important so we’re going to mention it here. Google is one of many sites where you’re going to enter company name, contact information, hours of operation, and a description. Take the time now to put this in a master document so you don’t have to retype this over and over again. Not only does this save you time, but it will help your search rankings as Google looks for accuracy and consistency with this data, with each listing acting as a “signal of validity” that your business is as-advertised.
2. Go to Google My Business and start the process. You will need to have a Google Account, so either use one you’ve already created for your restaurant, or start with something new. Personalize your Google account and make it unique. Be sure to upload a profile picture of yourself - not your dog or favorite NFL team. Google (and your customers) like transparency.
3. Once your Google Account has been established on a personal level, you will be ready to add your business profile listing. To get started, you’ll be presented with Google Map, where you enter your restaurant’s address.
4. After your address has been entered, Google will often require verification by sending a postcard that contains a special activation code. This takes approximately two weeks. In the meantime, you can press forward to ensure your listing is accurate and ready to go.
5. Add your service area. Give this a lot of thought. Do you deliver? Could you deliver if you used a service like UberEATS, GrubHub, DoorDash, Yelp EAT24 or Amazon Prime NOW? Google will let you define your service area on a map.
6. The business name section is pretty straightforward; enter it precisely like any other listing you’ve created for your restaurant.
Google does allow a single descriptor. For example, Cartel Coffee - Downtown, which differentiates the location from all the others. Whatever you do, don’t enter anything promotional here (Cartel Coffee - the best beans ever!) or anywhere else in your business listing. Google will bury your listing faster than the Corleones. After all, the best place to hide a dead body is page two of the search results.
7. In the next sections, you’ll be adding a brief introduction to your business. This should be pre-written in your master document and it should be worded in a way that truly shows how unique you are in a humanistic, non-promotional way. Speak to you customers naturally in a friendly and fun way - personality is key, and always in the voice of your brand. As an example, our “marketing voice” is different as a taco cabana vs a high-end steakhouse. This has probably been pre-established when you first launched your restaurant. If not, then it’s time to re-visit the basics before going public with something written off-the-cuff.
8. Next up are images. As a restaurant, so much of what you represent is visual, so pick the most delicious photos you can find of your customer’s favorite dishes. Hire a professional photographer if needed - photos can make or break you.
In this day and age when food pics are constantly shared through social media, it’s imperative to spend the extra time on the visuals. Do it right and you’ll drive customers in based on mouth-watering photography alone. Other images might be anything that captures your restaurant as a unique experience. Perhaps your dining room, a great view, your chef plating food, or anything else that seizes the essence of your restaurant
9. Category selection. This is super important. Be sure to categorize your restaurant in great detail. A seafood restaurant should add “restaurant” and “seafood restaurant”. Phrases not only trickle through to the Google search algorithm, but also trigger functions within your listing that are specific to your type of business. Restaurants in particular are given special treatment by Google in terms of online menus, ratings, and inside views.
The Power of Love is a Curious Thing
Huey Lewis knew it long before Google became a verb. Google Reviews for your restaurant are a vital part of your list ranking. It will be important to plant the seeds with your customers by encouraging reviews. Of course this only make sense if the food and service in “foodservice” are top notch, so be sure you’re executing on the highest level, and your listings will showcase your hard work and attention to detail.
Even more importantly, reviews are a major factor when customers are looking at your restaurant for the first time. Be sure to monitor them (along with Yelp and any other review site) on a regular basis. You can do this manually or automate the process through online tools for social monitoring.
At the very least, be sure to set up a Google Alert to monitor your restaurant’s name.
As you can see in the following example, Google considers more than just reviews, but they are definitely a significant ranking factor. It’s been reported that you need to have a minimum of five restaurant reviews before they show up in your listing, so get started soon. To encourage this, we recommend that you require all servers to insert an invitation card with each check that asks for reviews.
Wait. Didn’t Google+ relocate to Deadsville USA?
“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
- Mark “Google Plus” Twain
While it’s true that Google underwent a major transformation to social a few years ago, and the results were far from what the company was hoping for, Google is still a behemoth that still powers a vast portion of the Internet.
Your business page will be tied intrinsically with your company’s Google+ page, which itself will be administered by your personal Google account, which is probably connected to your personal Google+ page. While the Google social experiment has yet to capture the hearts and minds of the adoring public, we recommend posting updates to keep your page fresh. You can do this manually the same time you update your Facebook page, or you can set this up to post automatically through a service like HootSuite.
Grandpa was right. NAPs are good for you!
As mentioned earlier, the accuracy and consistency of your company information is paramount, and this extends beyond your Google business listing. Google looks at NAP (name, address, phone number) citations across the Internet for consistency and uses this as a validity indicator.
Be sure your restaurant is listed in all popular online directories. This includes other review sites like Yelp, and Zomato (formerly Urbanspoon), Trip Advisor and OpenTable. This also includes directories like Dex Knows, Yellow Pages, Manta, BBB, Super Pages, Angie’s List, Yahoo Local, and the White Pages.
Just a Little Patience…Yeah, Yeah.
The Guns and Roses reference aside, anything important takes time right? Changes to your ranking through local searching takes time - typically months. So take it from Axl – we’re going to need a little patience.
The wizards at Google not only develop brilliant software, they also guard and keep ranking factors close to the vest. There are no quick fixes to game the mighty search algorithm. Keep at it, set your listing up correctly, and then focus inward on amazing customer service, great food, and an awesome all-around restaurant experience to keep the positive reviews coming.
About the Author
David Smania founded Foodservice.com, the first and largest online community in the foodservice industry. The site was created to help restaurant owners, managers, chefs and other foodservice professionals compete more effectively by providing a platform for sharing, learning, and growing. David is now an accomplished marketing professional with an extensive background in product management and development. He has a proven track record with over 15 years creating, managing, and executing highly targeted, data-driven marketing campaigns while working with many of the world's largest brands and ad agencies.
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