When you search for a restaurant online, you'll often receive a single answer — known as a Knowledge Card. This type of Google Search result will usually contain specific information about a restaurant including an image, along with the information (like the restaurant name, address, phone number, hours of operation, ratings, and reviews) that you need to make a decision about where to eat.
Sometimes, the answer will featured three different restaurant options. It will have some of the same information contained in the Knowledge Card about each business. It will also return a result with a Google map, showing you the location of each business. This type of Google search result is known as the Google Local Pack.
But how do those answers get there? How does a search engine know which answers best address your query? And more importantly, how do you get your restaurant to show up as the answer?
Each and every search engine, app, map, voice assistant and other AI services store these answers from a Knowledge Graph, which is a brain-like database that contains all the information intelligent services like Google, Bing, Siri, and Alexa know about the world — including what they know about your brand.
Google has specifically defined which factors it takes into account when determining the best answers for a search query. Let's break those down.
Here's how Google defines distance: "How far is each potential search result from the location term used in a search?"
If a user doesn't specify a location in their search, Google will calculate distance based on their location. It could be a city, neighborhood, zip code, or a point-of-interest (like a hotel, office, or house). So that means if you don't provide any location-defining terms in your search query, like Mississippi, Google will default to a "near me."
Relevance refers to how well an answer matches what someone is searching for. When you search, "best salad near me," it's probably because it's lunchtime and you're hungry. You want a salad. That's the relevant portion of the search.
There is nothing more important to local search than consistency. So search engines look for information about your brand and check to make sure that it's the same across the web. This gives them confidence that the information they provide to their users about your business is accurate. If the web crawlers see that your restaurant has its name (or its phone number, or its hours of operation) listed differently on its website than on its Yelp or Facebook page, they won't feel confident, and they'll score that business negatively for relevance.
Prominence refers to recent positive ratings and reviews. Essentially, Google is saying is that it ranks your business in the local pack based on the quantity and the quality of your reviews. So if you don't manage your reviews, you may not show up in the results at all.
Now that you know how answers get into the map pack, what can you do to get the phone out of your customers' hands and replace it with your fork?
Manage the public facts about your restaurant, as well as your reputation.
The numbers* don't lie, people searching for a restaurant have intent to eat and therefore spend money:
76% of consumers say they're more likely to choose a restaurant that gives them in-depth attribute information in search results.
On average, 63% of consumers eat at a restaurant within 24 hours of researching it online.73% of the time, people make a decision based off of a restaurant's website
70% of food-related searches are based on cuisine or food item, not a restaurant's name.
67% of diners consider three or more options before deciding where to eat
Facts like your address, hours of operation, and menu options all make up your digital knowledge, and they are crucial both to search engines and to potential customers. Search engines are looking for a signal of confidence from businesses, and there is no better way to establish that confidence than by making sure that the public facts about your business are accurate, up to date, and consistent across the many search engines, voice services, maps, apps, and other discovery services people are using to help them decide where to eat.
Restaurant brands that have added menus to their digital knowledge have seen a 28% increase in Google search impressions, year over year.**
The only way to show up in search during the moment of intent is to make sure that all the information about your brand (and about your menu, in particular) is correct and consistent across the many channels hungry consumers are using to search for their next meal.
*Yext Local Search Behavior Study, July 2017** Yext Proprietary Insights, 2018