By Greg McGuire
Favorite Places On Google” is a new feature that provides maps, directions, reviews, and photos of 100,000 businesses across the U.S. Many of these businesses are restaurants, and that’s significant because eventually users will be able to post reviews and other information about your restaurant and have it display on Google.
You’re probably thinking: “Great, this sounds like Yelp, Zagat, or a hundred other websites that try to get me to pay to get listed online.”
Well, naturally Favorite Places is done the Google way. There’s no paying to play, which makes it certainly cheaper than sites like Yelp. And Favorite Places is on the cutting edge of technology – Google has already mailed out decals with a scannable barcode on it to the first group of businesses. Mobile device users can immediately access deals and information about that business when they scan the barcode, and will even be able to post a review directly on site.
What makes the Favorite Places concept more democratic than other restaurant directory sites is that it pulls from multiple sources. You can access reviews from Zagat, photos from UrbanSpoon, and search results from Google. This dilutes the biases that tend to plague other restaurant review sites, because those sites pull from only one source – their own.
So how do you get your site listed on Google’s Favorite Places? It won’t happen overnight. Google identifies popular local businesses by analyzing who’s searching for what on their site. The most popular searches in geographic areas get designated as Favorite Places.
But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do. You can help the process along by adding information about your restaurant in the Google Local Business Center. After you “unlock” your business listing by providing key information, your restaurant’s ready for consideration for Favorite Places.
So how is this going to change restaurant marketing? By democratizing the process that sites like Yelp and UrbanSpoon have started. Taking away payments and diversifying information sources means the most popular restaurants in a given area will be featured, and they will be able to take advantage of that through the decal system.
Favorite Places also gives restaurant owners a free place to create an online presence that can have a real effect on business. And being able to engage customers through the decal barcode will definitely change the way restaurants target their customers.
Google plans to send out more waves of decals to Favorite Places in 2010. If you’re one of the lucky restaurants that gets a decal, consider yourself lucky, and immediately start thinking about how to take advantage of it. If not, start thinking about how to get that decal in the mail. The future of restaurant marketing is upon us.
Greg McGuire blogs about the foodservice industry at The Back Burner, which is written by the employees of Tundra Specialties, a company specializing in restaurant supplies and food service equipment.