Why Restaurants Should Monitor Their Online Reviews

 

Restaurants are far and away the most searched for and reviewed business type on the Internet, surpassing hotels, retailers and bars.

Receiving 46% of online reviews, restaurants are also seen as the business for which reputation matters most, according to the Search Engine Land’s annual survey of consumer reviews.

These findings serve to reiterate how closely discovery of new businesses and user reviews are aligned.

For customers, searching for restaurants online, reading reviews and writing recommendations (good or bad) has become part of the same activity, making online reputation management essential to any marketing plan.

With Google highlighting user reviews and business listings among its top search results, potential customers are likely to see 10 different reviews before finding your company’s website. (For example, try a simple Google search, like “Austin Burgers”).

It’s time for business owners to share their opinion. In order to attract new customers, restaurant owners need to find the review sites that matter most to their business, claim their business listings and join the discussion.

Foremost among review platforms, Yelp is the leader in online restaurant reviews, boasting 30 million total reviews and 78 million unique visitors in the second quarter of 2012. Yelp is the first stop for any restaurant looking to manage social chatter about their business.

Not only is “restaurants” the most popular search term on the review site, but restaurants are also the second most popular business type reviewed on Yelp (21%). Better still, Yelp is the highest ranking review site on Google across U.S. cities with “restaurants” included in the search terms — when a user types “restaurant” + “city,” a Yelp review is likely what they will see first.

Before Yelp, Citysearch was the trusted source of local restaurant reviews, with 112,000 restaurant reviews before the San Francisco start-up received its first, and then soon began to take over.

TripAdvisor eclipses Yelp as the most active (more than 75 million reviews), but most of the travel review site’s content concentrates on airfare and hotel accommodations. If your restaurant is more of the theme variety attracting tourists, TripAdvisor is a clever alternative.

Moving into mobile search, Foursquare presents another opportunity to reach consumers, with its 20 million users. The app allows businesses to connect with consumers through deals, while consumers can “check-in” and share recommendations with friends. With the recent addition of an  “Explore” feature — recommendations based on where you and your friends have already been — Foursquare is hoping to cover ground on Yelp.

Then, of course, there’s Zagat — a review site once exclusively dedicated to online restaurant reviews. Google’s acquisition and integration of the authority on dining reviews has pushed Zagat to the forefront of local search results.

Since Zagat ratings and reviews are included with every business listed in Google Places, it is impossible for a user to avoid running into this rating system while searching within Google Maps and makes claiming  your business on Google a must.

With the prevalence of online restaurant reviews and the ability to offer deals and discounts, Yelp and Google Places should be at the top of any restaurants marketing to-do list.

Where do you focus your online reputation management efforts? Which review sites have been most effective for your restaurant or cafe?