1. Define your SEO and content strategies
  2. Dominate the local search
  3. Engage with customers on social media
  4. Encourage reviews and testimonials
  5. Create unique content
  6. Look at the content localization
  7. Apply basic on-page SEO best practices
  8. Think mobile first
  9. Implement the Restaurants schema markup
  10. Measure your efforts
  11. Summary

Many factors have put increasing pressure on restaurants to improve their online presence.

Whether it's disruptions due to the pandemic, increased competition, or changes in the importance of having a strong online presence, we know we need to improve our game.

Currently, improving visibility at the local level is essential for both personal eating and dining.

There are plenty of paid ads, affiliate services, and referral options out there to get traffic. However, as you move to the top of Google in organic search results and the Map Pack, these are effective and often less expensive ways to get the most relevant and direct traffic into customers.

In this column you will find 10 SEO tips for restaurants that will help you gain more visibility, traffic and customers.

1. Define your SEO and content strategies

Define your SEO strategy before jumping into a wide variety of tools, platforms, and engagement channels. This will help narrow down your competition significantly and provide you with a faster way to drive high quality traffic to your website.

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First, define the geographic area you want to own (where most of your customers are from, either because they live or work nearby, or are visiting).

Next, use a trusted keyword research tool like Moz Pro, SEMrush, or others to determine what keyword terms and phrases your target audience is using. (For more information on keyword research, see this Keyword Research Guide.)

There are a few different groupings of terms that you want to group and classify properly, and each of which has different levels of competition.

High level restaurant conditions

Terms such as "restaurants" and "Kansas City restaurants" are some of the most general variations that a searcher might use.

In the keyword research tools (each tool depends on the locality options) you can set your geographic focus on the area you have identified and both the generic term for itself ("restaurants") and the geographic modifier ("Kansas City restaurants ") Use. as well as other general variations on what your restaurant is about.

Niche-specific terms

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The next level relates to the specific categories your restaurant would fall into. Examples include "Mexican restaurants," "pizza," "romantic restaurants," and other unique features and types of cuisine.

If you're having trouble with certain categories or phrases that you should be using, check out Google Maps (the Google My Business listings), Yelp, and TripAdvisor.

Use the filter criteria in your region to see the general categories that they use.

Brand terms

It is not a given that brand searches will automatically take you to the top. Know how many people are searching for your restaurant by name and compare that to the high-ranking and niche search volume.

Make sure your website outperforms the directory and social websites in your area for your restaurant as the value of the people who come to your website will be higher and more trackable.

Once you are armed with search terms and volume data, you can narrow your focus to the specific terms that fit your restaurant at the high, category and brand level.

Covering this spectrum frees you to focus on what to measure and define.

2. Dominate the local search

In order to dive into local search, you first need to claim data, standardize it and optimize the entries for your restaurant in all important and relevant local search properties.

This includes a mix of search engine directories, social media websites, and industry-specific directory pages.

Moz Local and Yext are two tools that can help you better understand what directories and external data sources exist, and help ensure that they are updated.

Exact NAP data (name, address, telephone) that are consistent across all data sources are a crucial basic element of local search engine optimization.

Additionally, you can work on tweaking the information fields like the business description and business categories to match your focus terms identified in your keyword research.

Focus on the directories that are important. Start with Google My Business and then branch out to Yelp, TripAdvisor, Foursquare, CitySearch, various yellow pages, and other emerging niche review websites.

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All of these will work together to increase your visibility online.

3. Connect with customers on social media

Although the direct impact of social media on SEO has long been debated, we know that social media engagement can drive users to your website.

Social media can be an important touch point in the customer journey and show what customers can expect in your restaurant.

A strong social presence often correlates with a strong organic search presence, as content, engagement, and popularity align with the important SEO pillars of relevance and authority.

Develop a social media strategy and keep implementing it.

Make sure you get in touch with the followers and respond to inquiries promptly. The way you communicate online determines the perception of your overall customer service and approach.

Find your audience, engage them and get them to influence others on your behalf.

By interacting with fans and promoting content on social media that drive visitors to your main website, you will ultimately see an increase in visits from social networks.

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This then correlates with the benefits of the rest of your SEO efforts.

4. Encourage reviews and testimonials

It is almost impossible to search for a restaurant and not see any reviews and ratings in the search results. That's because people click on higher star ratings.

Often viewed as part of a social media strategy, reviews are an engagement tactic. However, they also have a greater impact on your website traffic through search results pages.

By using structured data markup, you can show your star ratings in search results and provide another compelling reason for a user to click on your website compared to your competitors'.

If you have online reviews that don't reflect the quality of your restaurant, now develop a review strategy to get as many reviews as possible so you can improve your score before implementing the code that pushes the reviews into the SERPs .

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A higher star rating likely means a higher click-through rate on your website – and more foot traffic.

5. Create unique content

Having a single location makes your job a lot easier than the local or national chain with multiple locations.

However, you need to stand out from the competition by making sure your website has enough unique content.

Having plenty of engaging and helpful content on your website will serve you well if it is valuable to your prospects and customers. Building a strong brand leads to better rankings, higher brand recall, and greater brand affinity.

Note that not all content has to be copied in writing. You can showcase your menus, internal promotions, and more through video, photography, and graphics.

The search engines focus on context, not just the keywords on your website. By identifying new content and generating it regularly, you can also fill the pipeline with engaging material that will help you stand out from your competition.

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For example, if you have a niche restaurant, take that and stand out from the generic chain on the street.

Share information about the founders, the culture, and most importantly, the product. Provide details about your menu including sourcing ingredients, developing recipes, and the compelling reason your chicken marsala is the best in town.

6. Consider content localization

Again, single-location restaurants have an easier street. Based on the decisions you've made about your market area, make sure you give users and search engines enough clues and context to determine where your restaurant is and what area it serves.

Sometimes the search engines and visitors outside of the city do not fully understand the unofficial names of neighborhoods and areas.

By providing content that is community-bound and not just assuming everyone knows where you are, you can help everyone.

An example of this is a chain of 100 locations that started small and had a single paragraph for each location tailored to the business, local history, neighborhood, and community engagement.

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From there we could find other areas to scale, and it worked well to differentiate stores from one another.

7. Apply basic on-page SEO best practices

Without going into the details of all of the on-page and indexing optimization techniques, I encourage you not to skip or ignore on-page SEO best practices.

You need to index to make sure the search engines know you exist and on the page to make sure your content is properly classified.

You can spend a lot of time on a complete SEO strategy. However, if you are just starting out, I recommend setting the rest aside and starting with these two areas.

Check your robots.txt and XML sitemap to make sure your site is indexed properly now and in the future. Set up the Google Search Console to check for errors.

When using the on-page approach, make sure you have unique and keyword-specific page urls, title tags, meta description tags, headings, page copies, and image aging attributes.

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This sounds like a lot, but start with your most important pages like the home page, menu, info, and contact pages, and go from there when time allows.

8. Think mobile first

Mobile accounts for a high percentage of restaurant website visits. Google is now focusing on the mobile version of a website in order to understand its content.

Hopefully you've already built a responsive website or one that passes the required tests for cell phones.

However, this is just the beginning when it comes to mobile devices.

It's also important to think about page load speed, properly rendering, and delivering a great mobile user experience.

9. Implement the "Restaurants" schema markup

Another area where we can create the context for the search engines and target more users in the search results is through the use of structured data.

In the restaurant industry, implementing the Schema.org restaurant library is a must.

This task requires a developer, website platform, or content management system with the right plugins or built-in options.

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10. Measure your efforts

This could have been tip # 1, but I'm adding it here as the final tip for restaurant SEO as it's important throughout the process. There is something to do and implement with the previous nine tips.

Before getting into any aspect of optimization, however, make sure that these efforts are measurable.

When investing in your strategy, you want to know which aspects are working, which are not, and where your efforts have best (and are) leading to a return on investment.

Track visibility, engagement, and conversion metrics as deeply as possible to connect them to your business.

Additionally, you need to identify the right progress metrics tied to the goals so you know you are headed in the right direction.

Summary

If you want to make sure your restaurant is full day in and day out – or that you are maximizing your delivery and processing business – people need to be able to find you online.

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Once they find you, you need to quickly convince them with a great website experience and get them to act.

These 10 tips can help you achieve both of these goals.

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