The Most Impactful Restaurant Review Directories (According to Google Data)

March 20th, 2012 by Search Influence Alumni

Entrance to a restaurant in France

We all know that online reviews are important because more and more potential customers are consulting them before they make a purchase decision; simultaneously, reviews are all over the place and popping up in web search results. Sometimes, even when someone searches for your business name, a review site is the first result. It makes sense, then, that you would need to manage your presence on these sites — but where to start?

For those with limited resources who can’t find the time to manage all your listings (or if you’re just curious like me) I gathered a list of the most impactful restaurant review sites based on real data that I stole from Google observed in Google search results, rather than arbitrarily deeming one more important than the other.

I decided the most impactful sites would be the ones that rank the highest on average, and show up the most often, in restaurant-related searches. To figure this out, I gathered a list of 583 keywords composed of [restaurant + city name] like [antoine’s new orleans] and [del fina san francisco] for restaurants in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, New Orleans, New York and San Francisco. Then I used Advanced Web Ranking to run searches of these keywords in Google and record the information.

In the chart below, the Average Rank column indicates how a particular domain was ranked, on average, for the 583 restaurant searches. (To see the full list of keywords and stats, check out the Google doc here). As you can see, Yelp is far and away the highest ranking, and therefore the most impactful.

Domain Average Rank 3.3 5.3 7.1 7.2 8.1 8.3
zagat 9.7 11.4 12.4 13.3 13.7 13.9


Yelp’s dominance isn’t only revealed in how high it ranks in the SERPs for these queries, but also in its share of the searches. A Yelp link was present in the top 20 results for 97% of these searches! The closest competitors are Urban Spoon (87%), Trip Advisor (77%), and City Search (73%). After Zagat at 66%, there is a huge drop off. See the chart below.

Domain % Share of Searches 97 87 77 73 66 43 38 36 26 25 18 18


What all of this really means is that if you don’t know where to start, you should probably just start with Yelp, Open Table and Urban Spoon. Or, if you have a chain of restaurants that need immediate attention, start with Yelp, Urban Spoon and Trip Advisor, since those sites seem to have a presence on most SERPs.

How high a review site ranks matters because it has the power to reach your customers before you do. I’ve blogged about this in the past: you need to tell your story in your words so that others don’t end up doing it for you because that can get ugly. Of course, the best way to do this is by having such a great product that no one can complain, but there’s always going to be the guy who gets really, really pissed when you don’t have black napkins.

About the Data

Please note that this is an extremely small set of keywords, and these are probably not statistically significant figures, since our sample is extremely small compared to all of the possible local restaurant searches in the United States (although, I still think the findings are meaningful, since the difference between Yelp and most of the other sites is consistently large). Also, as you can see on the Google doc, those aren’t live calculations, I did them in Excel and didn’t have time to convert them to doc formulas. Lastly, know that, of course there can be some bad data in here (perhaps a certain keyword didn’t turn up restaurant results, and therefore skewed the results). Feel free to point out any mistakes with my assumptions, data and calculations. Most of all, please chip in if you have a list of restaurant names and let me know which city they’re in, and I’ll update the information accordingly, as it was a lot more difficult to find a raw list of restaurant names than I thought it would be. Don’t forget to share you comments below!