Growing its search presence is something that every restaurant owner should have a basic understanding of and strive to accomplish every day. It is mission critical that a business put its best foot forward when presenting themselves not only to potential patrons, but also to the search engines driving the consumer queries.
Google, Bing, and Yahoo make up the three top Search Engines that any business really needs to be worried about when looking at their internet marketing strategies. Google holds steady as the top search engine in the U.S making up a whopping 67% of the market, Bing’s market share hovers around 17.9%, and Yahoo brings up the rear at about 11.3%. So what does this mean? It means while a restaurant should make every effort to satisfy human visitors, it is equally important to satisfy the needs of crawling search engines who deliver those hungry customers to a restaurant’s doorstep.
Like most small business owners, those running a restaurant look very closely at their budgets and have to make every dollar count in order to succeed. Most restaurant owners do not have thousands of dollars to throw around on marketing strategies but still need to get their business in front of potential customers looking for a great meal and great service.
Here are some great low cost ways you can grow a digital footprint.
Keep your website as fresh as your food
Updated, relevant, and original content is a huge step in cementing your web presence. Now I know that coming up with content ideas and executing them can seem daunting but trust me, restaurant owners and their staff have more to say than they know. Have weekly brainstorming sessions with the entire staff and asking everyone to come up with one content idea regarding food, the food industry or anything even remotely related to the food niche will make it fun for the staff and should yield some pretty cool ideas. Remember, the more uniquely valuable content a business generates and shares, the more authoritative that business becomes within its space.
Use that content to post on places such as the restaurants blog, its website, industry publications, local news sites and any and every website that adds value to consumers and the community. If a restaurant is struggling to find content ideas, they can start by looking at their traditional marketing that had been done in the recent past. Many businesses don’t even realize they are sitting on a bunch of offline content that can be re-purposed. Another way is to look online at Q & A sites, review sites, and forums to see what consumers are asking about or interested in and then build content around those items. Creative ideas are all around us, all we need to do is pay attention.
Location, location, location!
Don’t be afraid to become the local city expert. Make sure the company’s website mentions the location with content pages that inform people about the local region, its hot spots, family friendly places, and whatever else is relevant to anyone making their way through that given city. The restaurant will find they are getting traffic from people who may not be making a reservation now but could be sharing or bookmarking the site and that is just as important as a one off dinner. Remember, the ultimate goal is to create long term loyal customers instead of one time diners.
Use Your URL’s to Your Advantage
A URL is essentially a websites address. so “www.joesbarandgrill.com” is the URL for that restaurant. The main url is always the same but all of a restaurant’s internal pages, meaning any page other than the home page, should have unique, relevant structures that are descriptive and allow the viewer to create a mental picture of what they might encounter when they click that link. Having organized URL’s is very important. One example would be if a page is about hosting rehearsal dinners in Chicago than the URL should read like this: “www.joesbarandgrill/chicago-rehearsal-dinners”.
Find a targeted key term for every page of the website and make sure the URL structure, the title tags, and the content reflects the chosen term for that page. Then when someone searches for “Chicago rehearsal dinners” that page is deemed to be completely relevant and will be a leading candidate to be served up to the searcher. If one is wondering how to determine which keywords each page should target they can start by making a list of every term they think a person might search for in their local market that is relevant to their business and start matching them to corresponding pages on the website. For broad pages such as “Contact”, the targeted key term can be what are called “branded terms”. Basically a branded term is the business name or variation of. So the URL for the contact page would be “www.joesbarandgrill.com/contact-joes-bar-grill”
Title Tags and Meta descriptions
Search engines display your website title in their search results, so aim to have relevant details like the location, kind of food served (like gourmet hamburgers) and the kind of restaurant (for instance, seafood restaurant) in the title of your website. Think of your search listing as you would a traditional ad, where you would want a relevant title and a description that has a hook and is enticing to the reader. Title tags should be no more than 70 characters and meta descriptions should be no more than 170 characters. Make sure that the title tags for each page include the targeted key term, location, and business name written in an organic way that sounds natural. So, if Joe’s Bar and Grill is located in Portland, Oregon and wants to be found for the key term “Portland Steakhouse” the right and wrong ways they would write their title tag is as follows:
No – “Portland Steakhouse | Portland Oregon | Joe’s Bar & Grill
The above title tag is outdated, screams of laziness, will be overlooked by search engines, and be deemed less relevant than other sites who appear to be trying.
Yes – “Joe’s Bar and Grill a Premiere Portland Oregon Steakhouse ”
Now this Title Tag is one that would roll off the tongue of anyone telling their friends about Joe’s Bar and Grill. It mentions all of the important information necessary to please the search engines while painting a complete picture to the reader.
Remember, each page of a website should have a unique title tag and meta description. This is a simple, free step that can go a long way in search dominance.
Target Keywords Sparingly
Each page of a restaurant’s website should target only one to two keywords max and those keywords should be relevant to the content on that page. Work the keywords into the content in a way that naturally fits. A good rule of thumb is if a way to fit targeted keywords into the page naturally cannot be found, then stop and find some new keywords. Having a valuable, user friendly page with relevant niche content is more important than any one key term.
External and internal links
Connect all of the site’s inner pages with one another as often as possible where it makes sense. Internal linking is a point looked at by search engines and if done correctly, adds relevancy to the website and value to the reader. Each page of the website should have no more than 2 internal links. The goal is to not look spammy to a visitor and if links are everywhere it won’t give off a sense of trustworthiness. The rule here is to link to another page of the website that makes sense within the confines of the content.
So, if Joe’s Bar and Grill has a page about its history and a section of the content describes how its menu was created, it would be a relevant thought to add a link to their actual menu page. This scenario adds value to the user and makes sense to search engines. Don’t just add a link for the sake of adding one as this approach will ultimately hurt the website in the long run. Just live by this rule: if it naturally should be there then add it, if it has to be thought about then it probably doesn’t belong there.
Make the most of your images
Bad presentation can definitely lead to missed opportunities, and this is applicable for both brick-and-mortar and online businesses. Make the most of your images by displaying big, full-color images of the food you offer in your restaurant. Search engine traffic from image search is highly significant. To ensure that your restaurant gets the visibility it deserves, add alt-tags to every single image you have on your website. Most of the times you can do this with the help of HTML code, while other CMS systems like WordPress allow you to add them automatically.
Provide Rich Data with Snippets
Rich snippets are a kind of markup that you could add to your web page to provide search engines with additional information. These rich snippets are displayed in search engine result pages. An example of a rich snippet may be the contact details and a map marker. Other rich snippets applicable for a restaurant business include a photograph of a head chef or even a list of working hours.
Google plus local listings
An entire eBook can be written on making use of Google Plus for local businesses, but as an initial step, you should register and claim your custom Google Plus URL and corresponding local business page. Google Plus allows a restaurant to share video clips, blog posts, photos, links and even coupons with clients. Remember, if a client really loves a business and posts a review, the review is going to be shared throughout the Google ecosystem.
Claim Your local listings
Claiming local listings is incredibly important for the local success of any restaurant. Start with the majors, Google Places, Yelp, Yahoo Local, Bing Local, City Search and even Google Maps and Bing Maps. Make sure each listing has a consistent name, address and phone number or otherwise referred to as a NAP Format as well as the same description of the business, same email address and same contact name on each site. Having consistency everywhere a business is listed adds to the restaurants trustworthiness while inconsistent information will put a dark cloud over the establishment.
Enable Social Media sharing
It is now incredibly easy to connect a site to Youtube, Facebook and many other social media platforms. Not only does this provide the consumer with other means to learn about the restaurant, but search engines utilize this social media information in their ranking algorithms. Also make sure your social icons are prevalent on your website, preferably in the header and footer. There are two types of functions your social icons should allow, one that takes the visitor directly to your social network and one that allows the visitor to share, like, or tweet the website information without leaving the page.
Also, try to have a stream of your latest posts or tweets visible on the home page. So if you’re a local bakery and you’re tweeting the moment the bread comes out of your oven, make sure that your tweet is displayed on your website. If you’re a coffee shop and you’re utilizing Facebook to market events, make sure that users can find this information on your website. These are the indications users look for while evaluating a restaurant online.
The last piece of the puzzle in this guide would be to build an online presence using online restaurant directories and review sites. With the addition of your restaurant to websites like Urbanspoon and Yelp, not only you can ensure that relevant information is published on your profile – you may also benefit from the authority that these websites have developed in the major search engine rankings. Most restaurant review platforms will give you a link back to your original website, and even if the link is no-follow, it lends trustworthiness to your main website.
Summing it all up
More than anything else, work for the reader. It is important to consider search engine optimization aspects when creating content for your website, but if it is not relevant to a human visitor or is filled with irrelevant keywords and backlinks, people will not stay for long to read what your restaurant actually offers. While the information shared in this post can lead to some impressive and instant results, it’s important to understand that SEO and web-based marketing is really a deep topic with several layers, so always keep reading and growing to keep yourself updated.