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How Restaurants Should Use Google My Business and Local Search

Tessa ZuluagaAuthor

If you want to do just one restaurant marketing activity that will take approximately 10 minutes of your time and yield the most customers for 0 cost, optimizing for local search is the one thing you should do. Immediately.

Some quick restaurant SEO (search engine optimization) statistics to inform this conversation:

  • 46% of all Google searches are local or location-based (and growing)

  • 50% of local mobile searches are looking for a local business address (and growing)

  • Approximately 78% of mobile local searches prompt an offline purchase.

Local or location-based searches happen in two ways:

1) a would-be guest enters the location directly into the search parameters: Perhaps "Italian restaurant in Boston MA" 

2) a would-be guest is nearby and Google returns search results based on a device’s GPS coordinates: Someone in Boston, MA, searched for "Italian restaurant.”

In either case, these searches are incredibly vital to your restaurant's online traffic and foot traffic. In this article, we’re going to discuss how your restaurant should use Google My Business and Local Search. We found these topics incredibly relevant at the 2023 National Restaurant Association Show, where Mike Murphy (the head of industry, restaurants at Google) presented some of these findings to us. 

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When does your location matter?

Your location matters any time a person is trying to find a product or service close to where they are or based on its proximity to a location. 

For location-relevant businesses like restaurants, of course, location-based searches are critical. In a local search,  you are not trying to rise above nationwide or global competitors in the search engine rankings. Instead, you are competing with a much smaller local pool. The conversion — meaning your website viewer converts into a customer —  is much faster: In the restaurant industry, 46% of consumers like to buy from brands with a local presence, and 87% of consumers used Google in 2022 to evaluate local businesses. These aren't window shoppers. These are people who are immediately seeking to become customers.

These searches are happening in Google Maps on any browser, or the Google Maps app on iOS or Android. Results are pulled from your Google My Business information.

Google My Business

At one time, Google had a service called Google Places. Over time, Google Places has been sidelined and increasingly merged with Google+ functionality, which was also sidelined, to form Google My Business. And why is Google My Business relevant to restaurant owners? Because 62% of Consumers Discover Restaurants on Google.

This is Not Restaurant SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

To be clear, this is not website search engine optimization — which involves making the content and copy on your website more accessible or optimized for search engines to crawl and index. This is not any form of local SEO. Instead, this is off-site optimization that positions your restaurant as the best choice for local queries.

Local optimization centers around giving Google the best information possible about your business in their "yellow pages" directory, keeping the profile updated and active, and enabling Google to match queries with the best results.

And when the query is a local or location-based search, Google will use this information before using standard search engine results (which is where your restaurant SEO might be a factor).

How to work on your Local Pages

Be as comprehensive as you can. 

Keep all of your contact information current and correct (address, phone numbers, website URLs). Fill out your hours of operation and business description. And above all, make sure you have one or more categories selected.

The categories are critical, so make sure that you include all categories that match your offering. For example, if you're an Italian restaurant, make sure to select both the "Italian restaurant" category as well as the "restaurant" category.

Then make your listing catchy by adding your best cover photo, along with 5 or more other photographs to showcase (people often judge exclusively on imagery). Make those images as appealing and beautiful as possible, showing off your food and your restaurant’s vibe. 

Google My Business for restaurants

Eventide Fenway is a perfect example of why it is so important to take control of your Google My Business profile (GMB). 

Eventide essentially owns its search engine online presence. Its listing is complete and comprehensive: it has included accurate information that any restaurant would want to ensure accessibility to potential clients/customers: restaurant location, phone number, directions, Google reviews, menu items, hours, reservations, links, and images.

Eventide immediately shows its website's capture points or action items before any customers have even reached the website or online ordering platform. For example, it includes what its current availability looks like (takeout, dine-in, and delivery), which online ordering platforms it uses, where to find the menu, and more. 

As a result, Eventide’s profile encourages what search professionals call “zero-click”: All the information is easily accessible right there on Google, so there is no need for a potential customer to even click through to a website. 

Lastly, 30% of guests are more likely to take action if there is a structured menu present on your GMB listing. When adding your menu to your GMB account, consider adding high-quality photos as well. For more information, on menu photography check out this article.

Local Search and Its Importance for a Local Restaurant

How to best leverage the internet to grow your business obviously evolves over time. But at the core: Understanding your target audience, how people are looking for you, and how people are finding you are important aspects of your web strategy, no matter how things may shift.

Let’s look at how this plays out with one example: a one-location popular restaurant in a major city. For clarity, "clicks" in this graph represents the number of clicks to their website (this includes the number of clicks to their business’s website from local search results in Google Maps, Search, and Maps for Mobile). 

The Findings

Over 30 days, the business's information from the GMB profile was displayed:

  • 43,217 times in search views 

  • 28 post views

  • 11 profile views

  • (totaling 43,256 views)

From that information, it had actions of:

  • 7350 clicks to the website

  • 1240 clicks for driving instructions

  • 770 phone calls

  • (totaling 9360 clicks)

This has a click-through rate (CTR) of 21.6%.

Putting This in Context With the Rest of the Website's Traffic:

Over the same 30-day period of time:

  • The website received a total of 23,722 sessions

  • Google Search resulted in 14,221 of those sessions

  • The website was viewed in Google for 23,463 impressions

  • From all of Google Search, the website recorded 7,506 clicks

  • Google Organic Search accounted for 60% of all traffic to the website

Takeaway Observations From This Data

Google Local Search clicks to the website were responsible for 52% of all of the Google Search traffic to the website, and 31% of the total traffic to the website.

If we sum the driving instructions and phone calls as "goal conversions" (as those for a restaurant generally imply a firm movement toward a sale), this is an equivalent of an 8.5% bonus to the goal conversions of the website, as their goals have been fulfilled before the user even visits the site.

Looking at the differences between the Google Webmaster Tools data of impressions (23,463) compared to the Google My Business search views (43,217), we can deduce that the Local Search displays are providing an additional 184% bonus search exposure to the business beyond the standard Google Web Search.

The Value of Google My Business

Google My Business needs to be a prominent piece of every local restaurant marketing strategy and search strategy. It doesn’t take long to add your restaurant to the Google business listing. Do your business a favor and create a Google My Business account today.

Integrating data like this for marketing is essential to best optimize your customer experience. As the local search market grows, local businesses need to maintain a presence within local search results through online marketing efforts and ideally integrate with an online ordering for restaurants, and this is where your Google My Business listing comes into play.

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