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How restaurants can drive foot traffic with their free Business Profile on Google

Key take-aways

Why are some restaurants easier to find online than others? Why do some earn steady streams of foot traffic while others get almost none? In today's world, much of it has to do with how they manage their online presence.

Often, restaurant searches occur just before potential customers plan to visit. In fact, Think With Google research shows that almost 60 percent of millennials start their search just an hour before they visit a restaurant. Business owners who want to capture these potential customers while they're deciding where to eat must curate their online presence. Here are five ways to do just that.

1. Complete and verify your free Business Profile on Google

2. Post mouthwatering photos

3. Engage with existing customers

4. Learn from online interactions

5. Update your profile frequently

Business Profile on Google

A product from Google My Business that lets you create and manage your Business Profile on Google so that people can see your business when carrying out search and Google Maps. Business Profile on Google is a free business listing that appears in search results.

The Google My Business restaurant listings that are seeing success from their profile, post appetising images that make users excited to dine at their venue and try new dishes from the menu.

1. Complete and verify your free Business Profile on Google

Have you ever searched Google or Google Maps and seen a business pop up with pictures and reviews? That's a free Business Profile on Google My Business, which is a free business listing that appears in Google Search and Google Maps. There are two persistent myths about these profiles: that business owners can't manage them, and that they cost money. Neither is true. In reality, every business gets a listing for free, and all you have to do to get started is claim or create yours on the Google My Business site and verify your business by post, email, phone call or the Google Search Console.

Businesses that fill out their profile are almost twice as likely to be considered reputable by users. When businesses claim their listing and provide as much information as possible, they make themselves more attractive to potential customers. In fact, profiles are 29 percent more likely to lead to a purchase once they're complete. This is because people look for signals that a business is real, active, and trustworthy when they're searching online.

Restaurants can also add their own URLs for specific actions, such as:

  • Placing an order
  • Reserving a table
  • Viewing menus

In some cases, links to certain booking and ordering services will appear automatically on your restaurant listing. You won’t be able to add, edit, or remove these links in Google My Business — instead, the third-party provider will update them automatically.

2. Post mouthwatering photos

Food is a visual experience and businesses can use this to their advantage. Some of the best Google My Business restaurant listings post appetising images that make users excited to dine at their venue and try new dishes from the menu. In fact, food businesses often treat the profile as a free online billboard and upload new photos whenever they have something worth sharing.

Simply having photos can help attract the attention of potential customers. Businesses that have photos receive 42 percent more requests for directions than those that don't. And the better those photos are, the more effective they'll be. If images are pixelated, grainy, or poorly lit, they may succeed at communicating what's on the menu. But if they're high quality, attractive, and aim to whet the appetite, they're far more likely to draw in potential customers.

3. Engage with existing customers

Food businesses thrive on repeat customers, and some of the restaurants doing well on Google My Business use the platform to encourage people to keep coming back. One important way to do this is by engaging directly with reviews that past customers have posted online. Users are notified whenever a business owner replies to their reviews, and most people really appreciate it when businesses say thank you for a positive review and reply constructively to any feedback points.

When it comes to negative reviews, restaurants that respond quickly and with empathy show existing and potential customers that they care. Sometimes simply taking the time to respond is enough to convince an unhappy user to give your business another chance. Even if it doesn't, your response shows future customers that you're engaged, authentic and attentive.

4. Learn from online interactions

Unlike a traditional billboard – which can't tell business owners whether or not it's working – Google My Business provides a dashboard with useful insights into what inspires prospective customers to visit. Business owners can log in to see where potential customers are located, what time they visited the page, the photos they engaged with, and which buttons they clicked on. It's also possible to see how many calls you've received through your listing.

Top performing restaurants on Google My Business use this information to make their profile more effective. They update their opening hours, regularly tweak their copy, add more photos, and respond to reviews. Online feedback is especially insightful because people often talk about the dishes they did or didn't like, and whether staff made a good impression. This is useful information for making wider business improvements.

5. Update your profile frequently

Once you've set up your Business Profile, you should return every month to make sure the information is still accurate. If you have time to update more frequently, posting promotional offers such as discounts and specials at regular intervals can help keep your audience engaged.

The owner of a bakery in Birmingham, for example, can use calendar events such as Easter, Christmas, or Mother's Day to create holiday-specific promotions. This helps the business stay top of mind with existing customers and reach new ones who are searching for gifts or ways to celebrate. Seasonal updates also provide a chance for business owners to review their profile and ensure that the photos, hours, and contact information that appear on their listing are still correct.

Claiming or creating your profile will help your restaurant make the most of its online presence. By following these tips, you can use your profile to its full potential and engage with new prospective customers who are looking for a dining venue just like yours.

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