1. What Matters Most is What You Think. We collect data from blogs, rating sites, review sites and more across the Internet to assemble our surveys of online opinion. If one of your favorite Sausalito places didn’t score highly on the chart, ignore the chart.
Personal note: A couple of our favorite places to eat in Sausalito have never fared well in newspaper, magazine and blog reviews and on ratings sites. We don’t care how anyone else feels, and we still keep eating at those favorite spots regardless of their ranking in our own surveys. You can also check out our list of “secret” places that are popular with locals.
2. Look at the Score, Not the Rank. We routinely see many restaurants clustered in the mid to high 80’s and low 90’s on their score. The top one may be ranked #6 and the bottom may be ranked #18, but their scores are so close you should think of them as having similar ratings.
3. A Point or Two is No Big Deal. If a restaurant went up or down a point or two on a given chart from one survey to another it’s not that big a change, and small seasonal variations are routine. Sometimes those small point changes produce big changes in rank, which takes us back to Point 2 above: if the score change was small don’t pay attention to a big change in ranking.
4. New Restaurants Take Time to Find Their Place. In the eight years we’ve done the surveys we’ve seen that most new restaurants break into the lists with lower scores. The good ones then gradually improve until after about a year or two (sometimes even longer) they’ve found their true level. Don’t rush to judgment if a new establishment is ranked towards the bottom of the list.
5. Over the eight years we’ve done these surveys the minimum score needed to make the Top 30 has risen from 60 points to as high as 82. This is a very competitive market, with over 65 places to eat in a town that gets over 1,000,000 visitors a year. Regardless of their ranking on the chart, most of the places we cover are considered by diners to be good places to eat. The quality standard necessary to stay in business after the 2008 Recession has risen, and several weaker restaurants have closed and been replaced by higher-scoring operations.
6. What Mood are You In? The right-hand column of the chart indicates each restaurant’s cuisine. This should be more important to you than subtle differences in scores.
7. Don’t Just Follow the Crowds. Places with high “Heat” scores get the most attention on the Net, but not all great local restaurants get “discovered” online. A number of places that are very popular with local residents have low Heat scores since out-of-town visitors don’t know about them. Great delis and cafes have much lower Heat scores than the big full-service restaurants. So get out and try those undiscovered places that sound promising and may be hidden gems!
8. “Do you guys have protections against phony online entries and ratings?” Yes, though we do not discuss details of how we identify them. This is less of an issue now than it was five years ago, since many online organizations like ourselves work to weed out the false entries in sites that accept user comments.
9. No rating system is perfect except following your own personal opinion. That’s why we keep coming back to, “Look at the ratings, but follow your own opinions rather than anyone else’s.”
10. The “Heat” column refers to how well known and talked-about a restaurant is online, which correlates to some degree with popularity. The big places downtown are far more likely to rank highly here because they get tremendous numbers of walk-in visitors.
Business Owners: How to Influence Social Media Rankings
We monitor a wide variety of pages on the web: blogs, restaurant rating sites, travel sites, online forums and more. Here are some suggestions on how you can improve the rankings for your business with any social media outlet.
- Train your team to try to make every single customer happy, even the rude ones. In today’s social-media-driven world one unhappy visitor can create a lot of ripples that take time to subside. Many visitors will not tell you anything was wrong and then go home and write terrible things about your business on a website. It’s not fair, but it’s the way the world now works.
- Study which online reviewers and websites have favorably reviewed restaurants or hotels that you think have parallels to your place. Look at what kinds of things produce negative reviews and correct those same issues at your business before they show up as negative public comments.
- Work with the local press to encourage them to review your restaurant or hotel.
- If your regular customers have their own websites suggest that they write online about why they love your place, or do a Facebook post in praise of your cuisine or hospitality.
- Encourage your customers to write, comment or vote about your establishment anywhere on the Web that they normally travel.
Our technology collects data from a wide variety of sources, so the odds are great that if you carry out these kinds of steps we’ll pick it up in our research.