Now more than ever, customers are searching online for restaurants to visit or order takeout. Google Maps optimization is one way you can make sure your restaurant shows in these local searches.
In fact, according to Google Trends, "restaurants near me" searches have increased 900% over the past 5 years and are starting to rise to record levels after a dip in early 2020.
Go ahead and search for "restaurants near me" in Google right now and you'll see the Google Maps listings of restaurants in your area. You may already have a Google Maps and Google My Business account for your restaurant, but how can you curate your listing to turn searchers into customers? Keep reading to learn tips and real-world examples from Monster Pho in Oakland.
Why your Google Maps listing is important
Google is the #1 most popular mapping app in the U.S. with over 154 million monthly active users. Google Maps serves as a homepage for local consumers to learn more about your business, your cuisine, your reviews, and your location. With all of this information, customers can decide whether to order from your restaurant.
Optimizing your Google Maps listing has significant benefits, including:
Boosting online visibility for your business
Appearing in more searches from nearby customers
Helping customers find where they can dine or order takeout from in their area
Providing customers more ways to engage with your brand through reviews
Ranking higher in the local "3-pack" — or Google's top three choices — for local searches like "ramen near me"
How to add your restaurant to Google Maps
If it's your first time setting up your Google Maps account, it's important to know that Google Maps and Google My Business are connected. All of the information you share in your Google My Business account will also appear on Google Maps and Google's Knowledge Graph, the column to the right of search results on Google.com. Follow Google's recommendations for setting up both.
Search for your business on Google Maps
First, search for your business on Google Maps. Even if you haven't claimed your business yet, Google encourages "Local Guides" to add businesses in their area so the app is up to date. They can also suggest edits to your listing. It's important that you claim your business so you can maintain control of your listing, ensuring customers see the most accurate information.
Add a place to Google Maps
If you don't see your business on Google Maps, you can easily add it. Click on the menu bar in the upper left, and then click "Add a missing place."
You will then be prompted to add the Business Name, Category, and Location. Make sure to be specific when selecting the "Food and Drink" category. You'll have plenty of options, from Barbecue Restaurant to Turkish Restaurant — and the more specific you are, the better your chances are of appearing in similar searches.
After adding a place, it will take Google a few days to verify it. You'll receive an email when the place is added, and you'll be able to claim your business.
Claim your business
If your business is on Google Maps, but not claimed yet, you will see "Claim this business" on the listing. Clicking this will direct you to create a Google My Business account so you can reply to reviews, update business information, and more.
Getting the basics right in your Google Maps listing
As soon as you've claimed your business, it's important to add these basic details to your Google Maps listing. Don't forget: the more information included on your listing, the more helpful it is for potential diners making a decision on where to eat.
Products and services
7 tips for optimizing your Google Maps listing
After adding the basics to your Google Maps listing, there are a few additional ways to optimize your page. Let's use Monster Pho as an example of an optimal Google Maps listing.
1. Add enticing photos (and encourage diners to upload their own)
Adding high-quality photos will help customers know more about your restaurant's atmosphere, food and drink, and seating arrangements. Google will automatically categorize these photos: see Menu, Food & Drink, and Vibe in the screenshot below.
You can also encourage diners to upload their own photos through table tents or word of mouth. In marketing terms, this is called user-generated content (UGC). Your best customers will tell your best stories.
2. Earn positive Google reviews
Restaurant customers on Google Maps will see your Google reviews first — even before TripAdvisor or Yelp reviews. Google will also automatically categorize these reviews by topic (see "to go" and "broth" below) and customers can sort reviews or search for specific terms. Google reviews may be the first thing that customers see when searching for your business, so make sure to garner positive reviews by simply asking for them from your existing customers via your email list or in-person. If you provide good food and good service, the good reviews will come.
Many restaurants have a love-hate relationship with reviews. A study from the Harvard Business Review found that a one-star rating increase on Yelp can increase a restaurant's revenue by 5-9%. That's why it's important to manage bad reviews as they come. Reply to every review — good and bad — and try to turn the bad reviews into good ones by offering to make it up to the customer. You could give them a discount on their next visit, and if they have a stellar experience, they may rescind or update their review.
3. Add top menu items to your listing
Did you know you can add menu items to your listing? Customers may upload photos of your menu for others to browse, and Google may pull out specific images that correspond with specific menu items.
You can also add categories and prices to your menu on Google. See Monster Pho's dessert menu below, including enticing menu descriptions that help customers understand what they can order.
4. Include local keywords on your listing
SEO, or search engine optimization, will help your restaurant rank higher in the search engine results pages, or SERPs. Including local keywords in the About section of your Google Maps listing will help your restaurant appear in more searches. Some examples of keywords in Monster Pho's listing are:
Beer & wine
To get ideas for your restaurant's local keywords, try searching for your restaurant on Google, then scrolling all the way down to the bottom to see Google's related searches. Cuisine (e.g. Vietnamese), restaurant type (e.g. fast casual), food offerings (e.g. ramen), and location (e.g. in Oakland) are all examples of important keywords to include both in your listing and on your website.
5. Publish updates to your Google Maps listing
You may post updates on your Facebook page or to your email list, but you can share information on your Google Maps listing as well. Restaurants use this space to share promotions and discounts, new menu items, upcoming events, and more. Think of it as another social media channel — without the comments. Updates will show on your Google Maps listing and your Google Knowledge Graph when customers are searching for your restaurant on Google.
Monster Pho uses Updates to let customers know when they've updated business hours, especially around the holidays. You can use Updates as a sort of "change log" to help you and your customers track your restaurant's updates like Monster Pho, or as a way to point customers to different menu items or promotions.
6. Embed Google Maps on your website
To help your business rise in local Google Maps searches, you could also embed a Google map in the "contact us" or "locations" section of your website. This strategy not only provides a resource for visitors looking to find your restaurant, but also signals to Google that you are optimizing your listing.
To embed a Google map on your website:
Find your business on Google Maps.
Select "Share," then choose the "Embed a map" tab.
Copy and paste the generated link onto your website.
Make sure your embedded Google map uses the same address as the information on your business. This strengthens your reliability to Google — while giving customers accurate information about your business.
7. Point any traffic to your online ordering site
92% of vaccinated dining customers plan to keep ordering online and just 8% plan to return to dining in a restaurant, according to Paytronix Systems Inc. report, "Delivering on Restaurant Rewards."
That's why it's important to optimize your Google Maps listing for customers looking to order delivery or takeout.
You can choose "Order Online" or "Order for Pickup" or "Reserve a Table" links in Google My Business. Link directly to your online ordering website to point customers to your most profitable solution. You can link directly to your DoorDash listing, or if you want to set up online ordering from your own website, DoorDash's Storefront has no monthly fees, commissions, activation fees, or per-order fees — just a credit card processing rate for taking orders.
Partners like DoorDash may advertise your listing as well to help drive customers to order from your business. If you'd like to remove your business from any advertising that DoorDash is doing on Google, reach out to merchant support and we will remove your listing — no questions asked.
Get found with an improved Google Maps ranking
Google Maps optimization makes it easier than ever for potential customers to connect with restaurants near them. When you take the time to optimize your listing, you are improving your restaurant's brand awareness and stimulating the local economy.
The next step? Optimizing your restaurant website. A restaurant website that is fast, easy to navigate, and mobile-friendly will rank higher in Google search results. Download The Ultimate Guide to Restaurant Website Marketing today to learn how to build restaurant websites that attract new customers and drive sales.