Case Study: NYC Restaurant Uses Automation Tools to Update Search Listings

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Merchant: Paola’s Restaurant
Location: New York, New York
Platforms: Yext, Constant Contact, OpenTable, Facebook, Yelp, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter
Bottom Line: Small businesses are running limited-time campaigns on multiple digital channels, and then focusing their budgets on the platforms that deliver the greatest results.

Paola’s Restaurant has been in business for 32 years, but when chef Paola Bottero moved her restaurant to a larger location seven years ago, it wasn’t just her business cards and menus that needed to be updated. Most of the restaurant’s search results now showed the wrong address and outdated photos, and updated data wasn’t being pushed across all the channels that customers use to search for businesses online.

When her own attempts to fix the situation failed, Bottero decided to hire outside help. She outsourced the role of director of marketing to Wendy Weinstein Karp four years ago. Karp turned to Yext looking for an automated method to update the restaurant’s hours, location, menus, photos, and social media links.

“With Yext, we have been able to push out the correct data to 70-plus search result sites, and constantly optimize and update imagery, menu information, and other branding details,” Karp says. “It solved the ‘Where did they go’ issue for Paola’s when the location changed.”

In addition to working with Yext, Paola’s Restaurant also uses a mix of digital marketing channels that includes the email marketing platform Constant Contact, the reservation system OpenTable, the review site Yelp, and social channels like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

“[We] have to use OpenTable. At the high end, you are conspicuous in your absence,” Bottero says. “OpenTable is very much considered a marketing assist for us. The opportunities abound to promote holiday menus, do outbound marketing, capture and add to your database via opt-in, and of course, it’s a user review vehicle.”

Customer reviews on OpenTable are very valuable for Paola’s Restaurant. Bottero says she’s also used the platform’s promotional day-parting programs to bring in diners at off-peak times.

“It is a reservation system, but it’s equal parts marketing tool,” Bottero says. “People still call for reservations, and we have many regular walk-ins, but we must be on OpenTable.”

Yelp reviews are also an important tool for customer acquisition. Bottero recently completed a five-month campaign with Yelp to elevate the restaurant’s results in search and show up more often at the moment of decision.

“It definitely works to direct more people searching to your Yelp profile page. We had about 600 engagements per month prior, and it raised that about 30%. So that’s over a $1 per additional person view—who may or not be a customer eventually,” Bottero says.

Despite the success, Bottero is taking a break from Yelp and will compare her metrics before and after the campaign.

“The entry campaigns start at $350 per month, and go up from there depending on how many clicks you are after,” Bottero says. “It’s an amazing tool, but we have a limited budget, so we move it around.”

In the meantime, Bottero plans to continue working on email marketing, which has proven to be a successful channel for Paola’s Restaurant. She sends four or five seasonal email newsletters through Constant Contact each year, with open rates that often exceed 40%.

“We seem to have found the right mix of news, menu items, and themes that resonate with the customer,” Bottero says. “Also, we have a nice web matched email template that extends our brand. People click the links and definitely navigate back to our website from the e-mail.”

Digital channels have slowly taken up a larger share of Bottero’s marketing budget since she started working with Karp four years ago. Although the restaurant still makes use of some traditional media, Karp now estimates that the mix is 65% digital vs. 35% print.

“Over time, we are increasing our presence in additional channels and trying the paid versions of social media platforms to see what works for us,” Karp says. “We mix it up and keep at it with a variety of tools.”

In addition to working with Karp, who serves as the restaurant’s outsourced director of marketing and handles everything related to marketing and PR, Bottero also works with a digital ad agency called Blue Iceberg. The agency created the website for Paola’s Restaurant and handles updates when they are needed. It also creates advertising pieces and handles the graphic design for collateral material, such as menus, awnings, and to-go bags.

For a New York City business looking to grow and engage customers, this type of multi-layered approach to marketing has become the norm. Both Bottero and Karp believe the costs associated with paid channels like Yext, OpenTable, Facebook, and Yelp are made up for by the value they provide.

“What is the value of the time it would take to go in, one by one, and claim pages and update content on individual search engine results pages? Figure it is at least 30 minutes to claim a page and update a search engine. Multiply that by 70, and it’s worth a lot,” says Karp. “These days, customers expect information online to be dynamic … You must be there when people click a link, and they do it more and more with mobile at the moment of decision making.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

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Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.