Yelp has the reputation for being the review site that matters most to restaurants, but a recent study by Brightlocal suggests that a sea change is coming. Specifically, Google Business listings are gaining new reviews much faster than any other review site including Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook and Foursquare. In fact, Google appears to outpacing Yelp by almost 200%.

Are restaurants impacted by this trend?

It appears so. Here are examples of different restaurant types and their ratio of Google to Yelp reviews in 2017:

Name Type Ratio of Google to Yelp reviews
Primanti Brothers Fast Food 4.4X more Google than Yelp
4 River Smokehouse Fast Casual 4.8X more Google than Yelp
Margarita’s Casual 5X more Google than Yelp
Firebirds Woodfire Grill Premium Casual 2.6X more Google than Yelp

Will the rise of Google reviews continue?

Probably yes, because the ways that Google has been generating reviews are sustainable.

Google Maps is the default navigation and local search app for millions/billions of consumers whether they use an Android powered phone or iPhone. And Google Maps now prompts this huge user base leave to reviews.

 Once a user searches for and visits a location, Google Maps can trigger a review request based on the GPS coordinates of the phone. This makes writing a review easy. Other review sites need people to open up a separate app or site, find the place of business and then write a review.

Google also controls what shows up at the top of search results, and *surprise* it’s often Google Maps for local searches.  Not only does more search traffic get routed to Google Maps, but because of how much screen real estate it covers, other review sites get pushed further down the page, where the click volume and traffic is much, much less.

Can managers and owners start ignoring other review sites and focus on Google?

As of now, this isn’t an “OR” question.  It’s an “AND” question.  In other words, you should be paying attention to Google reviews AND other review sites. Note that this may change if the growth in Google reviews continues at its current trajectory.

But one significant advantage that other review sites maintain over Google is the more detailed content of its reviews. An analysis of reviews for local businesses showed that Google reviews are about 150 characters on average – the length of a Tweet – whereas Facebook and TripAdvisor reviews are 300 and 450 characters in length, respectively.

If there is better content, i.e. more helpful reviews, on other sites, then consumers will continue using those (although Google should be able to improve the quality of their reviews with some simple tweaking to their review filtering algorithms).

How should restaurants respond to the changing review landscape?

You should add or claim your Google My Business listings if you have not already.  As the admin for those listings or profiles, you can update all information and then maintain it to ensure it is accurate: hours of operation, business categories, etc. You can also add photos and logos, too, which can drive more business.

According to Google, businesses with photos get 42% more requests for driving directions and 35% more clicks to their websites than businesses without photos.

Once you have claimed your Google listing, you can also respond to those reviews as the business owner. If you are unclear about why responding matters, here’s an explanation about how replying to reviews has a financial impact.

TLDR (Too Long Didn’t Read)

  • Google My Business reviews are going gangbusters for multiple industries, including dining.
  • You probably shouldn’t ignore other reviews sites just yet.
  • Make sure you claim your Google My Business listings and reply to new reviews.