Home Denver News Restaurant Local SEO: The Google Characteristics of America’s Top-Ranked Eateries

Restaurant Local SEO: The Google Characteristics of America’s Top-Ranked Eateries


Posted by MiriamEllis

“A chef needs to be a businessman, a supervisor and a great cook. To marry all three together is sometimes tough. ” – Wolfgang Puck

I like this quote. It makes me hear phones ringing in the regional search marketing service, with aspiring chefs and restaurateurs on the other end of the line, ready to attract experts aboard from the “occasionally difficult” quest for internet visibility.

Is your team ready for these clients? How comfortable do you feel talking restaurant Local SEO when such calls come in? When was the last time you took a survey of what’s really ranking in this sector?

Let me be your homework cook now, and I’ldquo & ll dice up;finest restaurant” neighborhood packs for major cities in all 50 US states. We’ll julienne Google Posts usage, rough chop DA, make chiffonade of reviews, owner answers, groups, and a host of other ingredients to ascertain which characteristics are shared by establishments winning this most superlative of neighborhood search phrases.

The finished dish should make us familiar with what it takes nowadays to be deemed “best” by diners and from Google, empowering your agency to answer those phones with the breezy confidence of Julia Child.


I looked in the 3 businesses in the neighborhood pack for “finest restaurants (town )” in a major city in each of the 50 states, examining 11 components for each entry, producing 4,950 data points. I did everything manually and set aside the food processor for this one. I wanted to avoid the influence of proximity, so I didn’t hunt for any city where I was physically located. The results, then, are exactly what a traveler would see while looking for top restaurants in destination cities.

Restaurant results

Now, let’s look at each of the 11 data points and see what we learn. Have a seat at the table!

Categories prove no barrier to entry

Which restaurant categories make up the percentage of pack entries for our hunt?

You might feel that a business trying to rank locally for “finest restaurants” would want to choose just “restaurant” as their chief Google class as a near match. Or, you might feel that since we’re looking at best restaurants, something like “fine dining restaurants” or the historically popular “French fries ” might top the charts.

What we’ve discovered is that restaurants of every category can make it . Fifty-one percent of the standing restaurants hailed from highly diverse categories, including Pacific Northwest Restaurant, Pacific Rim Restaurant, Organic, Southern, Polish, Lebanese, Eclectic and pretty much every imaginable designation. American Restaurant is winning out in bulk with 26 percent of their take, and an additional 7 percent for New American Restaurant. I find this an interesting commentary on the country ’s current gustatory aesthetic as it might indicate a shift away from what might be deemed fancy fare to comfortable, homier plates.

In general, however, we see the celebrated American “melting pot” perfectly represented when searchers seek the best restaurant in any given city. Your client’s food niche specialized, should prove no barrier to entry in the packs.

Costs don’t equal “best”

Do Google’for & ldquo; finest restaurants & rdquo; share a pricing structure s picks?

It’ll cost you more than $1000 per head to dine in Urasawa, the country ’s most expensive eatery, and one study estimates that the average cost of a restaurant meal in the US is $12.75. When we examine the purchase price attribute on Google listings, we find that the designation “best” is common for establishments with charges that fall somewhere in between the economical and the extravagant.

Fifty-eight percentage of the top ranked restaurants for our hunt have the $ designation and another 25 percent have the $$. We don’t know Google’s accurate financial value behind these symbols, but for context, a Taco Bell with its $1–$2 entrees would typically be marked as $, while the fabled French Laundry gets $$$$ with its $400–$500 plates. In our analysis, the least expensive and the costliest restaurants make up only a small percentage of what gets deemed “finest. ”

There isn’t much info out there about Google’s pricing designations, but it’s generally considered they stem in part from the attribute queries Google sends to searchers. So, this element of your clients’ listings is likely to be influenced by abstract public opinion. As an example, Californians’ conceptions of priciness might be quite different from North Dakotans’. But on the national average, mid-priced restaurants are likely to be deemed “finest. ”

Of anecdotal interest: The only locale where 3 top-ranked restaurants were designated at $$$ was NYC, while in Trenton, NJ, the #1 spot in the neighborhood pack belongs to Rozmaryn, serving Polish cuisine at $ prices. It’s intriguing to think about how regional economics may contribute to expectations, and your smartest restaurant clients will carefully study what their market can bear. Meanwhile, 7 of the 150 restaurants we surveyed had no pricing information at all, suggesting that Google’s lack of adequate information about this element doesn’t bar an establishment from standing.

Less than 5 stars is no reason to despair

Is perfection a necessity for “best”?

Negative reviews are the stuff of indigestion for restaurateurs, and I’m sincerely hoping this study will provide some welcome relief. The average star rating of this 150 “best” restaurants we surveyed is 4.5. Read that again: 4.5. And the amount of in our analysis joints that are ideal? Exactly zero. Time for your agency to devote a minute doing breathing.

The maximum score for any restaurant in our data set is 4.8, and just three establishments rated so highly. The lowest is sitting in 4.1. Every company falls somewhere in-between. These evaluations stem from customer reviews, as well as the 4.5 average demonstrates that perfection is just not necessary to function as “finest. ”

Breaking down a single dining spot with 73 reviews, a 4.6 star rating was achieved with fifty-six 5-star reviews, four 4-star reviews, three 3-star reviews, two 2-star reviews, and three 1-star reviews. 23 percent of diners in this little review set had a less-than-ideal experience, but the restaurant remains achieving top rankings. Practically speaking for your clients, the odd night when the pho was gummy and the paella was burnt can be tossed onto the compost pile of forgivable mistakes.

Review counts thing, but differ

How many reviews do the best restaurants have?

It’s folk wisdom that any company looking to acquire local positions needs to compete on native Google review counts. I concur with that, but was struck by the great variation in review counts across the nation and within given packs. Consider:

The greatest number of reviews in our analysis was earned by Hattie B’s Hot Chicken in Nashville, TN, coming in at a whopping 4,537! Meanwhile, Park Heights Restaurant in Tupelo, MS is handling a 3-pack ranking with just 72 reviews, the cheapest in our data set.35 percent of “best”-rated restaurants have between 100–499 reviews and another 31 percent have between 500–999 reviews. Taken together that’s 66 percent of contenders having yet to break 1,000 reviews.A restaurant with less than 100 reviews has just a 1 percent chance of ranking for this type of search.

Anecdotally, I don’t know how much information you may need to analyze to have the ability to find a truly reliable pattern regarding winning review counts. Consider the city of Dallas, where the #1 spot has 3,365 review, but spots #2 and #3 each have just over 300. Compare that to Tallahassee, where a company with 590 reviews is coming in at #1 above a rival with twice that many. Everybody standing in Boise has well over 1,000 reviews, but nobody in Bangor is even breaking into the 200s.

The takeaways from this data point is the national average review count is 893 for our “best” hunt, but that there is no average magic threshold you can tell a restaurant customer they have to cross to get in the pack. Totals vary so much from city to city your best plan of action is to study the client’s marketplace and strongly advocate whole review management without making any promise that hitting 1,000 reviews will ensure them beating out that mysterious competitor who is sweeping up with just 400 pieces of consumer opinion. Remember, no ranking factor stands in isolation.

Best restaurants rsquo aren & ;t greatest at owner responses

How many of America’s leading chophouses have replied to reviews in the last 60 days?

With a hat tip to Jason Brown in the Local Search Forum for this particular example of a memorable owner response to a negative review, I’m sorry to say I have some disappointing news. Only 29 percent of the restaurants rated best in all 50 states had responded to their reviews in the 60 days leading up to my analysis. There were tributes of lavish praise, cries for comprehension, and seething opinions from diners, but less than one-third of owners appeared to be paying the slightest bit of attention.

On the one hand, this indicates that review responsiveness is not a prerequisite for ranking for our desired search term, but allow ’s go a step further. In my view, whatever time restaurant owners could be gaining back via unresponsiveness is completely offset by what they stand to lose if they make a habit of overlooking complaints. Review neglect has been cited as a possible cause of business closure. As my friends David Mihm and Mike Blumenthal always say:“Your brand is its testimonials ” and mastering the customer service ecosystem is the surest way to build a restaurant brand that lasts.

For your clients, I would look at any local pack with reviews as representative of a weakness. Algorithmically, rsquo & your customer;s active management of the owner response function could turn into a power others lack. However, I’ll even go beyond that: Restaurants ignoring how large sections of customer service have moved on the internet are showing a deficit of commitment to the long haul. It’s true that some eateries are famous for thriving despite offhand treatment of patrons, but in the average city, a superior commitment to responsiveness could increase many restaurants’ repeat business, earnings and rankings.

Critic reviews nice but not essential

I’ve always wanted to research critic reviews for restaurants, as Google gives them a great deal of screen space in the listings:

How many times were critic reviews cited in the Google listings of America’s best restaurants and how does an establishment earn this type of publicity?

With 57 appearances, Lonely Planet is the major source of professional reviews for our search term, together with Zagat and 10Best making strong showings, too. It’s worth noting that 70/150 businesses I investigated surfaced no critic reviews whatsoever. They’re certainly not a requirement for being considered “best”, but most restaurants will benefit in the press. Unfortunately, there aren’t many possibilities for prompting a professional review. To wit:

Lonely Planet — Founded in 1972, Lonely Planet is a travel guide publisher headquartered in Australia. Critic reviews like this one are written for their site and guidebooks simultaneously. You can submit a business for review consideration via this form, but the company makes no guarantees about inclusion.

Zagat — Founded in 1979, Zagat began as a vehicle for aggregating diner reviews. It was purchased by Google in 2011 and sold off to The Infatuation in 2018. Restaurants can’t request Zagat reviews. Instead, the company conducts its own surveys and selects businesses to be rated and reviewed, like this.

10Best — Owned by USA Today Travel Media Group, 10Best employs neighborhood writers/travelers to review restaurants and other destinations. A review can not be requested by restaurants.

The Infatuation — Founded in 2009 and headquartered in NY, The Infatuation employs diner-writers to create reviews like this one based on multiple anonymous dining experiences which are subsequently published via their program. The also have a SMS-based restaurant recommendation system. They do not accept request from restaurants hoping to be reviewed.

AFAR — Founded in 2009, AFAR is a travel book with a website, magazine, and program which publishes reviews like this one. There is absolutely no form for requesting a review.

Michelin — Founded as a tire company in 1889 in France, Michelin’s subsidiary ViaMichelin is an electronic mapping service which houses the reviews Google is pulling. In my study, Chicago, NYC and San Francisco were the only three cities which yielded Michelin reviews like this one and one article states that just 165 US restaurants have qualified for a coveted star rating. The company provides this manual to dining establishments.

As you can see, the surest way to earn a professional review is to become notable enough on the dining scene to acquire the unsolicited notice of a critic. 

Google Posts barely get a seat at restaurant tables that are best

How many picks for best restaurants are using the Google Posts microblogging feature?

As it turns out, just a meager 16 percent of America’s “best” restaurants in my survey have made any use of Google Posts. In actuality, most of the usage I saw rsquo wasn &;t even current. I had to click on the “view previous articles on Google” link to surface previous attempts. This statistic is a lot worse than what Ben Fisher found when he took a broader look at Google Posts utilization and found that 42 percent of local businesses had experimented with the feature at some point.

For whatever reason, this attribute that is powerful is being largely neglected by the eateries in my study, and this knowledge could encompass a competitive edge for your restaurant clients.

Do you have a restaurateur who is attempting to move up the ranks? There is some evidence that devoting a couple of minutes a week to this kind of microblogging can help them get a leg up on lazier competitions.

Google Posts are a natural match for restaurants because they always have something to tout, some appetizing food shot to share, some new menu item to observe. As the local SEO on the job, you should be advocating an embrace of the element for its valuable screen real estate in the Google Business Profile, neighborhood market, and maybe even in neighborhood packs.

Waiter, there’s some Q&A in my soup

What is the typical number of queries top restaurants are receiving in their Google Business Profiles?

Commander’s Palace in New Orleans is absolutely stealing the show in my survey with 56 questions asked via the Q&A characteristic of the Google Business Profile. Only four restaurants had zero inquiries. The average number of queries throughout the board was eight.

As I began studying the data, I decided not to re-do this earlier study of mine to discover the number of questions were actually receiving responses from owners, because I was winding up with the same story. Time and again, answers were being left up resulting in consumer relations like these:

Takeaway: As I said in a previous article, Greg Gifford found that 40 percent of his clientele ’ Google Questions were leads. To leave up those leads to the vagaries of the public, including a variety of wags and jokesters, is to leave money on the table. If a possible guest is asking about dietary restrictions, dress codes, gift cards, average prices, parking availability, or ADA compliance, can your restaurant clients really afford to permit a public “maybe” to be the only answer given?

I’d suggest a dedication to answering questions promptly could increase reservations, cumulatively build the kind of reputation that builds positions, and perhaps even directly affect rankings because of being a sign of activity.

A moderate PA & DA gets you

What is the typical Page Authority and Domain Authority of restaurants ranking as “best’?

Looking at both the landing page that Google listings are pointing to and the overall authority of every restaurant’s domain, I found that:

The typical PA is 36, with a high of 56 and a low of zero being represented by a single restaurant with no website link and one restaurant seeming to have no site at all.The typical DA is 41, with a high of 88, 1 business lacking a website link while actually having a DA of 56 and another one having no apparent website at all. The connected DA I saw was 6. PA/DA do not = rankings. Within the 50 local packs I surveyed, 32 of them exhibited the #1 restaurant having a decrease DA than the establishments sitting at #2 or #3. In one extreme case, a restaurant with a DA of 7 was outranking a site with a DA of 32, and there were the two businesses with the missing site link or missing site. However, for the most part, knowing the range of PA/DA in a bunch you’re targeting will help you create a baseline for competing.

While bunch DA/PA differs considerably from city to city, the average numbers we’ve discovered shouldn’t be out-of-reach for established businesses. If your client’s restaurant is brand new, it’s going to take some serious work to get up market averages, of course.

Local Search Ranking Factors 2019 found that DA was the 9th most important neighborhood pack ranking sign, with PA sitting at factor #20. As soon as you’ve established a range of DA/PA for a local SERP you’re attempting to move a customer up into, your very best bet for making improvements will include improving content so that it earns links and powering up your outreach for local links and linktations.

Google’s Local Finder “rdquo & net results; reveal where to focus management

Which sites does Google trust enough to mention as references for restaurants?

That trust is limited to a handful of sources, as it turns out:

As the above pie chart shows:

The restaurant’s site was listed as a reference for 99 percent of the candidates in our survey. More evidence that you still need a website in 2019, for the very excellent reason that it feeds data to Google.Yelp is highly reliable at 76 percent and TripAdvisor is going strong at 43 percent. Your customer is probably already aware of the need to handle their reviews on both of these platforms. Be sure you’re also checking them for fundamental data accuracy.OpenTable and Facebook are each getting a little slice of Google trust, too.

Not shown in the above chart are 13 restaurants which had a web reference from a source, like the Des Moines Register or Dallas Eater. A couple of very famous establishments, like Brennan’s in New Orleans, surfaced their Wikipedia page, although they didn’t do this consistently. I noticed Wikipedia pages then disappearing the following day and appearing one day for a reference. I was left wondering why.

For me, the core takeaway from this factor is that if Google is highlighting your client’s listing on a given stage as a trusted web result, your agency should go over those pages using a fine-toothed comb, checking for accuracy, action, and completeness. These are citations Google is telling you are of vital importance.

A couple of ingredients that are random

As I was undertaking this study, there were a few things I noted down but didn’t formally analyze consider this tapas:

Menu implementation is all over the place. While many restaurants are linking directly to their own site via Google’s offered menu link, some are using different services like Single Platform, and far too many have no menu link at all.Reservation platforms like Open Table are making a strong showing, but a lot of restaurants are drawing a blank on this Google listing field, too. Many, but far from all, of the restaurants “best” attribute Google’s “book a table” function which stems from partnerships with platforms like Open Table and RESY. Order links are pointing to multiple sources including DoorDash, Postmates, GrubHub, Seamless, and in some cases, the restaurant’s own site (smart!) . But, oftentimes, no use has been made of the function. Photos were present for every single restaurant that is best-ranked. Their quality varied, but they’re clearly a “given” within this industry.Independently-owned restaurants are the clear winners for my search term. With the notable exception of an Olive Garden branch in Parkersburg, WV, and a Cracker Barrel in Bismarck, ND, the top competitors were either single-location or little multi-location brands. For the most part, neither Google nor the dining public associate big chains with “best”.Honorable mentions visit Bida Manda Laotian Bar & Grill for what looks like a gorgeous and unusual restaurant ranking #1 in Raleigh, NC and to Kermit’s Outlaw Kitchen of Tupelo, MS for the most memorable title in my data set. From simply spending time with restaurant 15, you can find a good deal of creative inspiration.
A final garnish to our understanding of the data

I Would like to note two things as we near the end of our study:

Rankings that are local emerge in the situation of Google’s opinionated algorithms + public opinion and behavior. Doing Local SEO for restaurants means handling a ton of unique ingredients: site SEO, link building, review management, GBP signals, etc.. We can’t offer clients a generic “rdquo & formula; for winning across the board. This analysis has helped us understand averages so that we can walk in the restaurant space feeling comfortable with the business. In practice, we’ll have to find the true competitors in every marketplace to shape our strategy for each special client. And that brings us to a decent news.As I said at the outset of the survey, I specifically avoided proximity as a consequence by hunting as a traveler to other destinations would. I investigated one local pack for every major town I “seen with ”. The glad tidings are that, for many of your restaurant clients, there is going to be more than 1 opportunity to rank for a search like “finest restaurants (town )”. Unless the eatery is in a town, Google is going to whip up a selection of local packs based on the searcher&rsquo. So, that’s something hopeful to share.
What have we heard about restaurant nearby SEO?

A brief TL;DR you can share easily with your clients:

While the US reveals a predictable leaning towards American restaurants, any category can be a contender. Be bold!Mid-priced restaurants are considered ” finest & ldquo; to a larger degree than the most expensive or least expensive choices. Price for your market. While you’ll probably need at least 100 native Google reviews to split in these packs, well over half of opponents have yet to break the 1,000 mark.An average 71 percent of opponents are demonstrating a glaring weakness by neglecting to respond to reviews – so get in there and start embracing consumer service to differentiate your restaurant!A little over half of your opponents have earned critic reviews. If you don’t have any, rsquo & there;s little you can do to earn them outside becoming well enough known for professional reviewers to visit you. Meanwhile, don’t sweat it.About three-quarters of your opponents are completely ignoring Google Posts; gain the advantage by getting active.Potential guests are asking nearly every competitor questions, and so many restaurants are departing leads on the table by allowing random folks to answer. Embrace fast responses to Q&A to stand out in the crowd.With few exceptions, devotion to genuine connection earning efforts can grow your PA/DA to aggressive levels.Pay attention to some stage Google is citing as a source to be sure the information published there’s a complete and accurate.The present management of other Google Business Profile features like Menus, Reservations and Ordering paints a veritable smorgasbord of suppliers and an image of prevalent neglect. If you need to improve visibility, explore every profile field that Google is giving you.

A question for you: Do you market restaurants? Would you be willing to share a local SEO tactic ? We’d love to hear about your sauce in the comments below.

Wishing you for working in the restaurant SEO space, with tasty wins ahead!

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