Let's say you are fortunate enough that a potential guest knows your establishment's name. Maybe a friend told them about you or they overheard you mentioned in a conversation. Or maybe they're looking for your type of establishment while visiting your city. What do you think is the percentage of lodging and restaurants that come up correctly in an online search - 90%, 75%, 50%? With lodging it may be above 75% (hotel chains help bump this number up), but you should find that percentage totally unacceptable. With restaurants I'm willing to bet it's even lower; significantly lower. Sadly for too many, the first thing that comes up is the inspection record. Wouldn't you agree most people who see a result of "food safety" would assume violation without even reviewing it? You can be certain that most are not going to look for the report. They simply move on. How sad is that?
Actually, registering your business with the state (or equivalent) does put you out there - somewhat. Meaning if you aren't participating actively it could be outdated or "clinical" information. Appearing as pictured below, under real estate for sale (even if it's the prior owner's Ad from years ago) or under codes and permits or under city inspections (you get the idea), is unappealing. Worse yet, this place (I've changed the name and location) appeared in all three. It's not as uncommon as you think. If you find yourself practically invisible on the web, in only a few unflattering search results, get busy updating local and global sites.*
If you are out there somewhat successfully, don't slack off. Remember how you show up is equally as important as showing up. Ask yourself, When potential guests do find you online are they getting good, relevant information? If the answer is, I don't know, you better hope the endorsement from their friend was solid or they'll likely move on. I've done my homework and I'm astounded by the lack of maintenance of businesses on the web. If you are found and you're not managing your online presence, you're likely to be perceived as lacking significance or not worth a look. The area code changed in this city about 5 years ago and many restaurants still have the old one online. Callers will likely get a "not in service" or, worse, another business when trying to call you. Would you be surprised to find that your old area code appears? If you haven't been doing maintenance, you shouldn't be. Are your links and resources up to date; name spelling, type of facility, location, phone number, hours (if applicable), etc.?
The absolute simplest thing you can do to get guests is Claim Yourself! Google yourself then update your information everywhere you're found. Ignore any of this and you're letting "others" control what is perceived about your business.
* Check here Google and MapQuest for submitting correct location info, like longitude and latitude on the actual map. I found this online checklist from Locally Type for links to do it yourself listing useful, but there are also pay sites that will do it all for you like Yext. On websites like Zagat submit your restaurant for review. There's a help section to walk you through the process. And, of course, on our website, TravelVision, you can claim yourself or if not found simply sign up. We're a great place to start or complete excellent representation and control of your presence online.