USAToday’s Expert – ‘Get your business on the Internet’

USAToday’s Steve Strauss comments on small business’ need to have a website:

A few days ago on a busy school night, my wife called and asked me to pick up some dinner on the way home. She mentioned a restaurant we like, even though we don’t get to it often, and asked me to look up their menu online so we could figure out what to get.

Yet try as I might, I couldn’t find their website. It finally dawned on me that they did not have one. But since we had not been there in quite a while and could not remember everything on their menu, we decided to get dinner from another place.

This is only one anecdotal case in point (a rather high profile one).  The key points to remember from his comment are:

1.  Make sure your information is up on the web –  if not on your own website, put it up on one of the many restaurant listing sites out there (see my previous post for a list).

2.  Make sure your information shows up in the search engines’ search results – whether it’s your own website or on a third-party website.

Restaurant Owner engages User Reviews online – New York Times article

The New York Times’ Frank Bruni covers how the owner of La Sirene in NYC, Didier Pawlicki, has engaged with user reviewers right online – as well as in his restaurant. It’s a great read on how to make positive use of online reviews and online word-of-mouth — plus a little bit of good old fashioned luck at being picked up by the NYT’s noted food critic!

You can see his conversations with reviewers on Citysearch here. (Note that I believe you must be a paid sponsor on Citysearch to respond to reviews.)

If you want to see what kind of reviews are out there on your own restaurant, my company, BooRah, has a free service to track your online restaurant reviews.

Get your menu on the Internet…

The Coyle Hospitality Group conducted a survey of 2,437 diners to find out what drove them into restaurants. Not suprisingly, word of mouth:

When those surveyed were asked what influenced them most to dine at a particular restaurant, word of mouth still reigned supreme. It was followed by user reviews, then professional reviews, and finally newspapers. This tells us that diners begin researching based on other diners’ experiences. Whether they are friends, acquaintances or simply others who have dined at the restaurant in question, people are looking for real-life experience to base their dining decisions on – either in person or on the web.

For the restaurant’s website, having an online menu was the single most important item:

Two-thirds of those surveyed felt that menus played a very important role.

They also recommended being aware of which third-party sites have your restaurant listed, and to carefully monitor them.

You can do these things for free on BooRah…. read more on our blog here.

How to get your restaurant listed on search engines and restaurant sites

Every day a half of a million people eat out at restaurants in the US, and with Internet usage as prevalent as it is, it’s important that you make sure you are present wherever people look for restaurants — you better be sure your restaurant can be found online.

With all of the search, cityguide, social networking, yellowpage, and other sites available online, how do you make sure you’re listed? I’m compiling a list here of all of the restaurant-oriented or general local search sites that allow you to update business profile information — there’s a lot of them. Most of these sites allow you to update or add basic listings and some information for FREE.

Search Engines

Google – You can add, edit, or delete local business information via Google’s Local Business Center. Once you’ve done this, your business will show up on Google Maps – and sometimes in the main Google search results (see previous post). This service is free once you create or login to a Google account, although Google can also sell you sponsored listings.

Yahoo – Yahoo has a very robust set of listings, reviews, and ratings for local services and businesses, including restaurants. As a restaurant owner, you can add relevant information like hours of operation, specialties, cuisines, a short description, etc. This basic information is free with your Yahoo account, although their login site will try to get you to sign up for sponsored listings as well. Yahoo’s Local Listings site is here.

Windows Live Local – This is Microsoft’s local search site. You can check your listing and edit or add listings through the Windows Live Local “Local Listing Center” here. You’ll be asked to sign up or login with your Windows Live ID.

Ask City – Currently they don’t have an online method to update listings – but they source many of their listings from InfoUSA and from Citysearch (see below).

AOL Local Search – Currently they don’t have an online method to update listings, but they source many of their listings from InfoUSA and YellowPages.com (see below).

Local.com – Local.com is a search site dedicated to finding local businesses. You can update or add your restaurant on Local.com here.

Cityguides/Review Guides

– Citysearch – Citysearch is the grandaddy of Internet city guides; be sure they have your correct restaurant information. Search for your business on www.citysearch.com, then click on the “Have Updated Info? Suggest a correction” link. They also pull some information from InfoUSA (see below).

– Metromix – Metromix is a relatively new cityguide on a national level, having started in Chicago. They currently cover 9 markets in the US. You can submit your restaurant listing for consideration by their editors here (free account required).

– Yelp – The popular social networking and review site Yelp accepts information updates or additions from all of their users – search for your restaurant at www.yelp.com and click on the “Edit Business Info” link. Be sure to check the “Are you the business owner?” box next to the “submit” button on the update information form.

– InsiderPages – Although InsiderPages is now owned by Citysearch, you should check your restaurant listing on their site as well. You can sign up as a business owner here.

– WCities – Wcities is an editorially-oriented cityguide. You can submit edits or adds to their listings by selecting the appropriate topic from the pull-down list here.

Dedicated Restaurant Guides

– BooRah – BooRah is a restaurant review guide, pulling & summarizing reviews from other review sources across the web. Go to www.boorah.com and search for your restaurant, then click on the “Update Restaurant Info” link. You can also upload photos, menus, write a short description, and even track reviews on your restaurant for free by clicking on the “Are you the restaurant owner or manager? Click here to get involved” link. (Free signup) Disclosure – I work for BooRah.

– Restaurants.com – Restaurants.com is a restaurant listing site. You can add/edit your information here. They require you to display an “advertisement” for them on your restaurant website if you register, otherwise you can simply submit changes as a user.

– Dine.com – Has restaurant listings and reviews from their users. You can setup a “free website” on there site by registering here. They allow you to upload photos and menus for free, as well.

– Menupages – Has a comprehensive set of restaurant menus, with many restaurants in their 8 metro areas. You can get instructions to submit your menu for listing here.

– AllMenus – Another restaurant menu site; they claim to have over a quarter million menus listed. Search for your restaurant at www.allmenus.com, then click on the “Incorrect information” link to correct your listing or menu (they’ve collected most of these menus on their own!). You can also upload photos.

– UrbanSpoon – A restaurant listings and reviews site, featuring selected reviews pulled from other sources. Search for your restaurant at www.urbanspoon.com, then click on the “Edit restaurant info” link; be sure to check the “Do you own or manage this restaurant?” box at the bottom of the form.

Online Yellowpages Sites

– Superpages.com – Superpages is an online yellowpages site. You can review, edit or add your business listing here. Basic listings are free; they have many upsell options.

– Yellowpages.com – Yellowpages.com is an online yellowpages site. You can edit or add your business listing here (login required) by clicking on the “Get a FREE listing” link. They also have many upsell options.

– DexKnows.com – DexKnows.com is an online yellowpages site, primarily serving the Qwest phone company region. Search for your restaurant at www.dexknows.com and click on the “Business owners: Make updates to your business profile” link.

– MojoPages – Mojopages is a reviews-driven local business site that has some restaurant listings and reviews. You can add or update your restaurant listing for free here.

 – Yellowbot – Yellowbot is an online yellowpage site. You can update your listing by searching for your restaurant at www.yellowbot.com, then click on the “Submit a correction” link at the bottom (free login required).

Data Aggregators/Providers

– LocalEze – LocalEze is a data aggregator that provides business listings information to other online sites. You can add, edit, or delete your restaurant information here.

– Acxiom – Acxiom is a data aggregator that provides business listings information to other online sites. I couldn’t find an online method to update their listings – let me know if you find one.

– InfoUSA – InfoUSA is a data aggregator that provides business listings information to other online sites. You can add or update your restaurant listing at www.infousa.com – click on the “Update my Listing” link at the very bottom of the page.

– iBegin – iBegin is a data aggregator that provides business listings information to other online sites. You can add or update your restaurant listing here (free login required).

Using Google Maps to increase restaurant visibility

David Harris, owner of Al Jano’s Italian Restaurant in Atlanta shares his experiences using Google maps to gain visibility against the major chains (Dominos, Papa John’s) in the competitive “Pizza” category. You can read more here.

One suggestion for you David, and for all restaurant owners who have a website – include your complete business address in the footer of every single page on your website. Makes it easier for search engines to associate your website to their local listings data (and easier for us out-of-town browsers, as well)

Market your restaurant on the Internet…

This is a blog where I’ll share ideas, insights, experiences, and results that restaurant owners and other small business owners have used to build exposure to their restaurant online. We’ll cover search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), websites, landing pages, social networking, and any other tools local restaurants use to generate traffic, buzz, and new customers. Please feel free to contribute, and provide feedback.

Disclosure: I’m employed by BooRah (www.boorah.com) – you can read about our free restaurant promotion tools at our blog – blog.boorah.com