Google changes local search results – again

Once again, Google has changed the way their local listings appear. In the past, when someone would make a vague search, such as, ‘Italian restaurants financial district’ or ‘Italian restaurants midtown east’, 7 options would appear. These 7 options would come up as the first thing you see on a Google search results page, but would only show up 25% of the time. Now, they’ve reduced the number of local search results so that only 3 options appear. These 3 options appear as the first thing on your page, without having to scroll down, 93% of the time.
This is important because users want information quickly and easily. When making a vague search, they want results as fast as possible, without having to dig for a viable selection. In the case of the search query examples above, I had the ability to find Italian restaurant names, near me, as soon as possible, without having to deal with clutter and other unwanted results.

Why Google is keeping local searchers around longer

The new local 3-pack is also designed to keep searchers in Google’s knowledge graph longer, and provide them with all of the information they need without having to click through multiple pages – or even to a specific business’ website. If one of the first three listings looks appetizing, one click takes you to all of the information you need. The name, address, phone number, and menu are the first thing you see. To the right, you have the ability to access the restaurant’s website and get directions via Google maps.

google search italian midtown google search italian midtown

It is incredibly important for business owners to make sure their information on Google is accurate. Even if you have a great website, and had previously done SEO with that site, 93% of the time Google local listings will appear before your website. Google controls over 64% of the search engine market share, so having accurate information on Google, including your name, address, phone number, and menus, gives you a far better chance at earning business than having inconsistent or no information available at all.

8 Local Business Marketing Tips for Success

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in business. Staffing, logistics and general daily activities can be overwhelming. It makes you think “I don’t have time for marketing.” The truth is, marketing is an imperative component that helps your business stay afloat. Keeping up with marketing trends and best practices helps stand out from competition, winning you more business.

We’ve compiled 8 tips to make marketing your local business more manageable, and many of these tools are already at your disposable. And if you’re interested in more tips, our blog about Restaurant Marketing Ideas can be found here!

1. The Personal Touch

ThePersonalTouch

Don’t first name greetings at your neighborhood salon, spa, or gym make you feel all warm and fuzzy? Small businesses are more personal in nature, allowing for better quality and customer service. It’s no surprise 91% of consumers shop at local businesses because of they way they’re treated.

The personal touch pays off, so take advantage of being local and having a closer clientele. Learn names, start conversations, write handwritten thank-you notes, and offer special deals.

2. Be insta-fabulous and extra friendly

If your business is not on Instagram, you’re missing out on a free – and powerful – social marketing tool. Getting started is simple. Make a recognizable and relevant username, then start snapping away with your smartphone. Feel free to share the password with trusted staff members (especially those who have an eye for excellent photography and user generated content).

Post your Instagram handle (or name) in your business and let visitors know you will be sharing exclusive sales and promotions. This will encourage customers to follow and tag you in posts.

You can even run contests for customers who promote hashtags of your choosing. Fun hashtags like #KeepYourBodyInTune or #HotHair can help drive off-peak traffic.

Finally, send direct messages containing special offers to Instagram celebrities. Be sure to entice them to post a photo from within your business or with one of your branded products. How can you find said Instagram superstars? Search localized hashtags , like #sfdogwalker or #pureyoganyc, and look for users with large followings, like this silly pup.

3. Get familiar with Yelp

If consumers aren’t immediately turning to Yelp to search a local business, they will. Google has bowed to this user-generated content king, so they’re definitely worth taking notice.

Yelp is one of the highest-ranking sites in the entire country out of 430,000 according to Alexa. This means Yelp gets more traffic than consumer-focused giants like Buzzfeed, Disney and Macy’s.

The volume of searches including the word The volume of searches including the word “Yelp” have continued to trend up since 2006.

Step one: claim and update your free business account. Post photos, edit hours and basic info, and set up weekly email alerts to track user activity.

Step two: take a deep breath, grab a box of tissues and read through your reviews. Yelp is gives the customers responsible for keeping your business afloat a voice. Here’s what you need to know about reviews:

  • Never, ever incentivize your customers to post reviews. And don’t try to post reviews yourself. Yelp is sure to make this a waste of your time and energy. Yelp’s algorithm often removes rave reviews from users with no prior activity.
  • Take negative reviews as constructive criticism, looking for areas of improvement. Thank reviewers for their feedback and invite them to come back to fix the wrongs. If you go out of your way to provide an exceptional experience, the customer is likely to take note. Turn a squeaky wheel into a life-time client.
  • Use Yelp check-in offers to entice customers to visit you rather than the competition. Check-in offers are a free feature, available to anyone with a Yelp business account. Offer discounts to first time visitors to your business. Give a free class to a customer who checks-in to a gym class 4 times next month. Providing a little extra love will never hurt your chances of a positive review.

4. Google-Wha?

Chances are pretty high that you have never heard of Google+ (or “Google plus”). Chances are also pretty high that your customers haven’t, either – but that they have likely used it to find you.

Immediate, local searches (often referred to as “nearby search”) are becoming increasingly popular. In fact, they’ve increased 34x in the past few years.

Google saw this trend and conquered, improving the way search results are displayed in the local “3-pack” and giving users a great search experience with local options, location & map view, reviews, hours and links to list of services.

Google Maps Google Maps

The good news? Your local Google business listing is another free tool you should take advantage of. The better news? We break down how to claim your free G+ listing in our free eguide.

5. Get social!

These are the last social media and/or listing sites I’m going to write about, I promise! But it includes another free tool tip, so listen up. Facebook has 1.44 billion users worldwide, with 70% of American adult users visiting daily. Twitter has 302 million users, and although small(er), still mighty.

You’re busy running your business – who has time to tweet? You do, if you are smart about it. SinglePlatform posts announcements, specials, and events immediately or schedules them on a recurring basis. Singleplatform can also publish your menus on listings like Yelp and Google. So no matter where customers are finding you, they can find your specials, too.

Don’t forget about photos! Studies shows that photos on Facebook drive 120% more engagement. And tweets that include photos get more retweets and favorites. Here’s the last free tool in this section: Facebook and Twitter each have their own reporting built into their business pages. Check out your Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics each month to see which posts are getting the most love. You will start to learn what works for your audience so you consistently improve your strategy.

6. Reward loyalty

It is actually pretty easy. Even if you do this digitally, you don’t need to sink tons of money into a custom app to rival the big guys. One-size-fits-all options like LevelUp allow users to pay on their phones and be rewarded for spending regularly with your business, and are easily integrated into your regular system.

Serving mostly old school customers? No problem. Punch cards are still an affordable and effective option if you’ve got a grab-and-go concept or referral promotion.

Collect email addresses by incentivizing customers with a coupon or to be entered into a drawing. Bonus: asking for written feedback is a free way to help avoid negative online reviews!

7. Referral programs are key

Your customers are awesome. What’s the best way to get more like-minded, awesome people through the door? Incentivize regulars to bring in friends with a referral program! If you’re a gym or yoga studio, offer visitors free guest passes for classes. If you’re a salon or spa, reward repeat clientele discounted services for referrals.

11. Keep building on what you learn

Rome wasn’t build in a day, and neither was anyone’s marketing expertise. Your first post or reward program may not be an instant hit. Keep experimenting to see what works best for your audience. After all, social media marketing is a muscle!

And listen to your customers to learn what information they want, and how they want to receive it.

As always, please don’t forget we are here to help improve your online presence, post your specials everywhere that matters, and engage with your customers. (Shameless Plug).

Restaurateurs: Pay attention to food photography

Why diners are photographing their food

For many, food is a form of entertainment, similar to a sporting event or a Broadway play; consumers want to share their culinary experiences and follow those of others. Today, with a quick click of a button, diners can capture delicious photographs of their dishes and even better, share them with 500+ of their closest friends on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. Whether it’s a bowl of Momofuku ramen or a $5 breakfast sandwich, modern diners are reaching for their iPhones before their forks.

food photo via iphone food photo via iphone

Why your restaurant should be on Instagram

With 130 million active users per month and over 45 million photo uploads per day, Instagram has become the fastest growing major social network in the world. Even better, #food is the 24th most frequently used hashtag.

Food photography, more specifically “foodgramming,” has become a nationwide obsession that is redefining the way we eat. Consumers are turning to instagram to both share and explore within the culinary world. Thanks to Instagram’s location map feature, grammers can even tag their photos to the restaurant they are dining with. Foodgramming is easy, free of charge, and if done properly, could be the perfect way to get people talking about your restaurant.

Food followers are prospective customers

Consumers are not only sharing their culinary photography, they’re also following it. When it comes to making food decisions, visuals have become equally, if not more important than descriptions or reviews. 60% of local searchers give more consideration to businesses that display photos online. From deciding which restaurant to dine with, to picking out a dish on the menu, modern diners are turning to food bloggers and restaurants on social media for inspiration.

How to use food photos as a marketing tool

For restaurateurs, this food photo fad is huge. Food photography trends are offering a whole new realm of marketing opportunities for businesses in the restaurant industry. In response, more restaurants are featuring professional food photography on their websites, business listings, and social media platforms.

7 restaurants that are dominating Instagram & website photography:

A fresh photo with a pop of color, Piora of NYC makes food photography look easy. A fresh photo with a pop of color, Piora of NYC makes food photography look easy.

  1. The Progress- San Francisco
  2. Artichoke Pizza-NYC
  3. Burger Batch– Richmond
  4. Chalk Point Kitchen-NYC
  5. Ledlow- Los Angeles
  6. Piora- NYC
  7. Verve Coffee- Santa Cruz

Why Irish pubs need an online presence

My bar search, sans smartphone

At roughly 5:00 PM yesterday, I received a text from an old college buddy I don’t see nearly enough. We’d been talking about meeting up for months now, and finally we had a night where both our calendars collided. We agreed to meet near Penn Station and see where the night took us from there.

I met him at O’Reilly’s Pub on 31st and 6th, and this place was perfect: tons of TV’s, a rooftop, and a great pint of Guinness.   Being that I work in the industry of helping restaurants attract new customers, I had to ask my friend Vince, “How did you decide on this place?” He said, “Pretty simple… I was on Yelp looking for Irish pubs because I know that’s what you like. I saw the name O’Reilly’s and it was the obvious choice since our dear friend Colin’s last name is O’Reilly.” Worked for me.   Little did we know, we were starting a wild goose chase for our next pint of Guinness.

Starting our search smartphone-free

For the rest of the night, we agreed to put our phones away and let bars find us rather than searching online. We had no particular reason for doing this, other than to be fun and adventurous. This was definitely not the most effective way for finding a great experience. The criteria we used for deciding the right place was based on name and atmosphere alone.   We figured this would be easy since there are roughly 1 zillion bars in NYC.

As we walked down 6th Avenue expecting to have a ton of options, we were sorely disappointed. Unfortunately, all we found were retail stores, nine Starbucks and a Fresh Market. Feeling let down, we cut over to 7th Avenue around 19th Street, hoping for better luck. We found a place that wasn’t exactly what we were looking for… but at that point, we were willing to settle for a cold Bud light anywhere. Most of the guys in there had sports jackets on, and being that it was 90 degrees… and the fact that I do not own a sports jacket, we were feeling out of place. Vince and I waited for about 5 minutes for the bartender to come over to take our order. He never came. Vince turned to me and said, “this is a buyer’s market… let’s keep looking for another place.”

Seventeen blocks later, we finally found our spot

guinness_small

Venturing back out, we kept walking down 7th Avenue.   At the corner of 14th and 7th, we found a Guinness sign outside of a pub named Flannery’s Bar. Exactly what we were looking for, this place was perfect. We each ordered a pint of Guinness, and played darts for about an hour. After walking for 17 blocks (equivalent to about one mile), we had finally discovered a place that was the perfect fit for us.

Although we had a great time people watching our way down 6th and 7th Avenue looking for the right bar, I learned one important thing. The Internet makes life so much more convenient. Had I been using my iPhone like usual, I would have found tons of Irish pubs within two blocks of our original location. The Triple Crown is on 29th and 7th, Stout NYC and Blarney Rock are both on 33rd in-between 6th and 7th (just to name a few). You can find exactly what you are looking for, right nearby, online, even if it’s something super simple. Vince and I were only looking for a pub where we could sit on a barstool, watch the Yankee game, sip a Guinness, and tell stories from college. The internet is the easiest, most efficient way to find exactly what you want, exactly when you want it.

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