Sunday, May 11, 2014

Restaurant Owners: Get in the Google+ Game

As a restaurant owner, you’re probably paying attention to review and networking sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Facebook, but restaurant brands are surprisingly absent from the Google+ landscape. As a graduate student in the Northwestern Medill IMC program, I have been researching social marketing trends, and why Google+ is the most important social network for your restaurants right now.
In Beyond Social: The Benefits to Google+ For Business, Alison Zeringue details how Google+ pages affect search visibility. Because this is Google we’re talking about, content posted to your Google+ page actually ranks in search results. Hashtags, key words, and +1’s on your posts become increasingly relevant in a regular Google search. 

Source: Chris Brogan

In addition, Google recently implemented the “Local Carousel” shown below. A specific list of keywords will trigger this Local Carousel result at the top of a Google search, with restaurant and cuisine terms occupying most of the list. Restaurant, Seafood, Steakhouses and Fine Dining are all examples of search terms that will populate a carousel. The Google+ carousel features restaurants with the highest number of quality reviews and puts your location front and center – just another reason to engage your audience through Google+.

Google's major efforts to increase the number of restaurant reviews is described by Sarah Perez in Google Launches City Experts Program To Encourage Higher Quality Google+ Local Reviews. In select US cities, Google has recognized City Experts who contribute 50 or more quality reviews to Google+. In an obvious attempt to take over “Yelpers", the City Experts program offers perks such as one-of-a-kind dinners, private events, interaction at the Google offices, and other freebies to participants. Each city has a local community manager (also a Google employee) who promotes the program to city-dwellers and engages reviewers through social media interactions, personal events, and speaking engagements. Google will be expanding the program to additional cities, but it is clear to see the growth of City Expert restaurants reviews now in Chicago, New York, Portland, and San Francisco.

Based on my assessment of these two articles, here are three recommendations to get you in the Google+ game:

1) Claim your listing
Google+ verifies ownership by sending a PIN number to the physical address or telephone number on file for your business. Request your PIN today.

2) Build out your page
Create a strategy for posting photos, video and information that will stand out to your customers, and use relevant key words and hashtags for people who might be searching for you on Google.

3) Engage customers
Respond to reviews, post specials, and solicit guests to follow and interact with you on Google+. The more that is happening on your page, the more likely you are to get top ranking in a Google search.

Google+ is rapidly developing and offering a larger audience than other review sites, not to mention increased search visibility.  Ensuring your Google+ page is monitored and actively engaging customers is essential to your social marketing efforts.

Rebecca Darmoc is a marketing director with 15 years of experience in campaign development and implementation. She is also a graduate student in Northwestern University’s Integrated Marketing Communications program studying digital, social and mobile marketing. Connect with Rebecca on Twitter @becdarmoc.

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