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Bellingham, WA area Restaurant Reviews

Search Google for “restaurants 98225″ and you expect to find reviews of restaurants in and around Bellingham, Washington. There is a major university here, at least one Zagat rated restaurant on the waterfront (as if that meant anything), and many local cuisine options including some really good ones like Craig Miller’s Slow Food restaurant on Lummi Island. But Google says bellingham.areaconnect.com/restaurants is the best answer. Too bad Google doesn’t know that areaconnect doesn’t have a single listing for Bellingham. Neither does Citysearch. In fact, enter Bellingham Washington into the Citysearch form and it says it couldn’t find anything in Bellingham and then it redirects to a “national” Citysearch page with not a single restaurant listing. That’s really funny, especially because Google knows that Citysearch has this listing in Bellingham at: http://sanjuanislands.citysearch.com/profile/10823109/bellingham_wa/stanello_s_restaurant.html

The first page of Google results is all BigDirectory, and from this consumer’s perspective none of them are any good. You can look for yourself and try and pick a place to dine. So could Google’s Quality Engineers. As every SEO looking at what should have been a very competitive SERP will recognize, Google has turned the knob way down on supressing empty, overly templatic directories, and permitted subdomain and keyword spam to rule the SERPs once again. Completely useless SERPs, and a complete waste of time for the user.

Go onto page two to find Judy’s Book. Look mom, ONE restaurant review! Now I agree with Google there, Judy belongs buried on page two but relatively speaking, at least it had one restaurant review in Bellingham. Want to find Craig Millers restaurant on Lummi as per my recommendation (it’s a 20 minute drive from Bellingham)? Don’t bother with Judy, even though Google now thinks she’s a good answer (page 1). Not one listing for Lummi Island.

Now for the ugly part. Apologies to Matt Cutts, but we have to compare to Yahoo!

Well, restaurants.com is first and actually not a bad result. Second is chowbaby (right zip code, wrong state – that Bellingham is in Massachusetts::?). It’s also a broken page. But # 6 is good (local directory) and I found what I needed. Not perfect, but not nearly as bad IMHO.

Dear Google, I love you and want you to be your very best because it is good for all of us when you are, but honestly, what’s up with the SERPs? For every ounce of attention you spend scaring SEO-minded webmasters and denouncing the “dark side” of SEO, couldn’t you fix problems like these that drive people to try those desperate tactics?

It’s also a bit wierd that Yahoo!, the company that has cannibalized it’s own SERPs for affiliate income, ranks on page one of Google for restaurant and travel searches. Didn’t we learn anything from Coke vs. Pepsi? Every dollar you give to your competitor is at least two dollars in their pocket.

Attention all small business owners and web masters in Bellingham, Washington: You need an SEO, and you have one nearby :-)

Update: It is August 2008 and Google still fails the comparison test for restaurant listings in Bellingham. Microsoft’s Live search  is consistently more useful than Yahoo! or Google for this topic, but Google continues to favor older business directories and especially the ones that favor National and regional food chains. It seems Google is ranking individual restaurants for “restaurant reviews” when those restaurants are located in Bellingham. In other words, it seems Google is passing anchor text relevance to the actual restaurants, ranking the restaurant instead of ranking the site that published the review. That’s pretty silly.

Update: My how things have changed at Google. The first page of restaurant review website links is now full of local and directories, except the tenth spot seems to be available for new things people might click. So for a real user in Bellingham looking for restaurant reviews, less choice and more commercials.

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6 Responses to “Bellingham, WA area Restaurant Reviews”

  1. Mike Says:

    What a great post. Clearly Google is leaving the door open for the opportunistic local marketer. If I owned a restaurant in Bellingham and knew anything about PPC or internet marketing I could dominate my niche.

    John responds: Mike, there are plenty of local resources and restaurant websites but they are not shown by Google.  The Bellingham market is not strong enough to support the effort that would outrank Citypages and the like in the current Google. The point here is that Google’s putting the search relevance in the wrong place, based on a scale that doesn’t apply to the local markets; not that there is no competition. When Google doesn’t deliver a satisfying user experience, the locals get the message that Google is not a good resource for local information, and they stop using the Internet for that.

    Boulder has a small town mentality. But the web works very well for Boulder. Ditto for many smaller cities. But it seems it is not Google that makes Google work for local, but the efforts of the local business community. Get it? Google NEEDS the SEO community to help it provide relevant results, and encourage adoption. Google can’t succeed without us.

  2. Mike Says:

    Odd, I left a nice comment about your post and it was removed. Maybe because I placed my link to it? It was not spam btw.

    Editor’s Note: Blame Akismet, Mike. I pulled it back out. Thanks for commenting. One of these days Akismet will improve the feedback mechanisms, but in the mean time some users will find the community interactions less satisfactory. I agree it sucks to not see the reply posted…we are sooooo spoiled.

  3. Mike Says:

    “When Google doesn’t deliver a satisfying user experience, the locals get the message that Google is not a good resource for local information, and they stop using the Internet for that.”

    Totally agree, this is my point about opportunities. I direct my clients to geo-targeted AdWords campaigns. Google opens the door by not offering a comprehensive local view for most searches. I don’t believe they want local front and center. Their national advertisers are simply more important to the bottom line. Fortunately those with knowledge of SEO or SEM can take advantage. Tremendous opportunities here.

  4. Bellinghamster Says:

    Bellingham does have some good places to eat, but they are not easy to find. See the Bellingham WA Restaurant Reviews.

  5. Britt Says:

    There are excellent local resources – Bellingham Washington (not Massachusetts)is a very local community and my family doesn’t use Google much for the reason you say. We don’t need to know where the nearest highway restaurant is or how good its burgers were. Bellinghameats.com looks good without fuss, very current and local. Yelp is full of tourist comments. Anything else you need to search individual restaurants.

  6. Anders Says:

    Thanks for the highlight of the “slow food” place but it’s no where to be found. Classic problem and why we need good local review blogs, not national IT companies publishing old directory data.

    Facebook is taking over for this, and it’s not public. I think that’s why Google is no good for restaurant reviews.

    BellinghamEats.com is not very updated either, but from reading it I can see it really is a local person and she’s probably just as busy as everyone else. Bellingham has a downtown area with restaurants, but also spreads out with some of the best places to eat not in downtown. The lettered streets neighborhood has a great coffee shop. The Fountain District has the best “diner” also known as Diamond Jim’s Grill (it used to be the best southern BBQ place within a hundred miles). There’s a website for the BellinghamDiner.com on the “main drag” in town, but it doesn’t look open anymore.

    I like The Fork for the same reason BellinghamEats.com likes it… it’s run like a foodie restaurant. Menu changes but not completely, local ingredients but not completely, and far enough out of the way that the people are there because they wanted to go there.

    I left a message asking for more reviews, but in a nice way :-)