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The Top 5 Review Sites Restaurant Owners Should Watch

1. Yelp

Yelp homepage

Yelp is the undisputed king of business review sites, and also the most controversial. It publishes crowd-sourced reviews about local businesses, and runs an online reservation service SeatMe and food delivery service Eat24. The company small businesses to respond to reviews responsibly, hosts social events for reviewers, and provides data about businesses, such as health inspection scores.

Yelp reviews are including in Bing search results, and many times the Yelp business listing will rank higher than the business itself. Unless you have an very loyal customer base (or are a large chain), Yelp must be paid attention to.

2. Google

Google reviews

Google allows those with a Google account to post reviews about businesses, and also pulls in reputable professional reviews, such as Zagat. Google search uses a visitor's location (based on IP, and allowing of your location in browser), to serve up local results for your business. When searching, a customer is given a list of locations for that business that includes location information, a link to the business's website, and a very prominent link to Google reviews for that business. A search for "bbq austin" yields a handy summary. See photo above.

3. TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor's main audience is vacationers, helping them find the best hotels and local attractions. Reviews are from fellow travelers. TripAdvisor attracts customers who are temporarily visiting an area and are more likely to want to advise other visitors on the best experiences and also places to avoid.

TripAdvisor's restaurant section is extremely useful for pinpointing the top restaurants in a given town. The site pulls the top choices from all the reviews and delivers a top 10 list to help customers find the best local dining spots.

4. Angie's List

Angie's list homepage

Angie's List isn't a place restaurant owners should concern themselves with, but we wanted to include it to explain why.

Yelp doesn't help when it comes to finding a contractor to remodel your kitchen or a service to paint your home. Angie's List's purpose it to help consumers find the best contractor to do a job. Membership is required to read reviews but plans start as low as between $3 and $4 a month.

Angie's List is ideal for consumers who regularly hire out services such as home renovations or landscaping. The monthly fee may not be worth it for those who rarely need those services.

Angie's List was under fire a few years ago, when there was a large influx of reviews that businesses claimed were fake, but it has since reigned them in.

5. YP (formerly Yellow Pages) homepage, rebranded itself as in 2009. They are a smaller player, but their reviews feature prominently in Google's search results for a given locale.

YP's CEO announced last year that the company hoped to challenge Yelp's business. Many of the businesses on YP have a lower number of reviews than competing sites, making it more difficult to get a comprehensive read on what customer opinion. The company is working hard to get the word out about its services, as well as boosting its mobile-friendliness.

Honorable Mention

Seattle-born Urbanspoon would have made the list, but it will be off the radar very soon. Their fate has been in question since their acquisition by Zomato. It was announced recently that the Urbanspoon app (remember "shake to find a restaurant"?) will be shutting down its app.

What have your experiences been with these review sites? Let us know by commenting below.

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