Restaurant SEO: How to Rank Higher in Google Search and Maps
Customers used to discover great restaurants solely through word of mouth, but times are changing. The COVID-19 pandemic saw an unprecedented increase in online food and delivery orders, forcing many small restaurants to upgrade their online presence whether they wanted to or not.
Even post pandemic, it’s clear that online platforms are essential to fielding more inquiries, reservations, and delivery orders. Driving more customers to your restaurant involves beefing up your local online search presence.
What is the Difference between Local and National SEO?
The key difference between a national SEO strategy and a local one is the use of Google Maps. Local SEO requires optimizations to be made on your website in addition to optimizations made on your map listing, while national campaigns focus mostly on the brand’s website.
Ranking in local search results involves optimizing every section of search engine real estate, from maps to organic website listings. It’s another layer of SEO that might not be on a restaurant owner’s radar.
Let’s uncover the benefits of a sound restaurant SEO strategy and how it can transform your business.
The Benefits of SEO for Restauranteurs
The chief benefit of a strong local SEO strategy is exposure. Customers are making restaurant decisions using a tandem of Siri, Yelp, and Google Maps, making it paramount for every business to present themselves on multiple digital channels.
With customers weighing reviews across multiple platforms, it’s up to businesses to optimize their profiles for the highest SEO benefit.
Here’s the power of SEO for restaurants…
Building Brand Awareness
Restaurants that rank in their local market start becoming the talk of the town, literally. Brand awareness can be cultivated in a number of areas like social media marketing campaigns and paid advertising, but SEO gives restaurants a more evergreen pipeline of leads that can continue well beyond the initial optimization phase.
Depending on the size of the market and competition levels, a restaurant could attain top rankings in the map pack and in the organic search results and hold their position for a long period of time.
Boosting Online Orders and Reservations
A huge percentage of food orders happen online. Whether it’s through an app like DoorDash or Uber Eats, or directly through the restaurant’s website, customers are able to place their orders on any device more easily than ever before.
The food delivery industry has seen their revenue triple since 2015, largely due to COVID-19, and now more than 50% of Americans order food on a regular basis.
It’s not just food delivery that’s seen a boon, online reservations have also become increasingly popular. Reservations can be made directly from a restaurant’s Google Business profile, allowing online customers a quick and painless way to ensure they get a seat for dinner.
Online reservations are great for restaurants too. They free up staff from having to field reservation requests over the phone, allowing them more time to focus on other duties.
Increase Customer Engagement
With a website and Google Business profile that rank, your brand will become easier for customers to engage with from any location.
Customer engagement metrics on the website can be measured using Google Analytics. Here restaurant owners can view statistics like time on page, user flow, and bounce rate to see which pages are performing well or are underperforming.
On the Google Business profile side of things, you can easily check on phone call statistics, photo views, and more to make sure you’re getting the most exposure on local searches.
Increase Traffic to Your Website
The most obvious result of higher rankings is more traffic to your website. Whether you have a single location or multiple, SEO can drive people to the pages that are most relevant to them.
Restaurants can easily turn this traffic into paid customers by using high-quality photos, showing past 5-star reviews, and making it easy for customers to contact the establishment.
Restaurant SEO: The Basics
Setting your restaurant up for organic success starts with choosing the right keywords.
Keywords will not only determine your website optimizations, they will also guide optimizations across your social accounts and Google Business profile as well.
Like most local business SEO strategies, restaurant keywords should focus heavily on location. It starts with the title tag. Title tags are one of the most important on-page SEO signals, and they should always include a variation of your primary keyword.
Let’s say you’re a sushi restaurant in Dallas, TX. The title tag of your homepage should include something to the effect of “Sushi Restaurant Dallas, TX | [brand name].” If you have multiple restaurants, you will need to optimize additional pages for each location, i.e. “Sushi Restaurant Houston, TX | [brand name]”, etc.
Keywords matter for your Google Business profile too. Restaurants can optimize their profile using keywords in their business description, products/services section, and Google posts.
List Your Restaurant on Review Sites
Just about everyone reads reviews before choosing a new restaurant. Get your establishment listed across all major directories, i.e. Yelp and Foursquare, plus go the extra mile by looking up some even more specific local directories near you.
Chances are your town has some hyperlocal listing sites. Do some competitor analysis to see where other restaurants in your area are listed and pursue those links.
The more business citations and directory links you can acquire, the better Google will understand your brand. It’s been confirmed by Google that they make use of third party directories as a way to validate business data and cross-reference location details. To this end, it’s important to keep your business information up-to-date and synced across websites.
Reach Out to Other Businesses for Links
Link building is a critical component towards improving your overall SEO, and a great place to start is right in your local market.
Simply reach out to other local businesses and propose a link exchange. This provides SEO value for both parties and can quickly improve your rankings thanks to the hyper-relevance of the link. Start with business owners whom you know personally.
With more than half of the population on mobile devices, mobile-friendliness is essential for every website.
It’s become so important that Google has implemented a “mobile usability” score into its Google Search Console tool. Slow mobile load times translate to a poorer user experience (UX), meaning that your website visitors will be less likely to stay on your site and even less likely to become paid customers.
Restaurant SEO Tips
Following the basics will get your infrastructure where it needs to be to start ranking, but here are a few simple tips to take things to the next level.
Optimize Location Pages
Any page that is used to represent a location should include every relevant location detail. This includes address, local phone number, store hours, and a directions link (this takes customers to the Google Maps’ directions area where they can see how to get to your business).
Location pages should be the primary “website” link from your Google Business profile. For a single location business, this is probably your homepage. If you have multiple locations, you would need to link to the corresponding location pages.
Use Restaurant Schema Markup
Schema markup is one of the best ways to articulate key details about your organization and location to Google. There are many types of markup available for use, but in this case you’ll go with Restaurant schema.
Markup is a section of code that fits within the HTML on a webpage and can be easily located by Googlebot. Once implemented, you can validate the code for free using a schema validation tool.
There is an endless amount of information you can share via schema markup, but the best use case for a restaurant is to share their name, address, phone number, hours, and menu.
In fact, Menu schema allows restaurants to list their entire menu for each meal. Google might even reward you by listing this menu out when people search for “[restaurant name] + menu.”
Utilize an Online Ordering System
The pandemic made online ordering essential for every food establishment. A robust online ordering system ensures customers can reach you from anywhere, and place orders in minutes.
It’s never been easier to put a system in place. You can utilize a plugin, or have a developer build a proprietary ordering system, but the key is usability. It’s important to test your online ordering system to ensure that customers are able to successfully buy from you.
It’s a little bit like ecommerce. Cart abandonments lead to incomplete orders which are no good for the bottom line.
Content marketing is a useful SEO strategy in just about every industry, including food. Restaurants can lean on it to announce their latest offers, specials, and events in their local community.
From an SEO standpoint, there’s potential for ranking for things like food advice terms. I.E., a post about “10 healthiest ingredients in pizza.”
Effective blogging has a lot to do with frequency. Creating new content on a monthly or weekly basis will keep your site fresh and more favorable to ranking in Google.
Google Maps and Business Profiles for Restaurants
The Google Business profile is gold for a local business. Thanks to a bevy of features, you can utilize this space to share several important details to help customers make better decisions.
Google has made a concerted effort to make Business profiles akin to visiting the business’s website, and here are some of the ways you can take advantage of it.
Dine In, Take Out, No Contact Delivery
Share whether your establishment is open for dine in, take out, and whether you offer no contact delivery (a hold over from COVID).
Google lets you show customers what service options are available to them based on their needs.
Menu and Reservation Links
Add links to your restaurant menu so prospective customers can see what you offer. You can also allow them to make reservations directly from your Business profile, which is probably the fastest way to get customers in the door.
Respond to Reviews
Collecting lots of positive reviews is important, but it’s equally important for business owners to respond to these reviews. Google weighs engagement and gives credit to businesses that address customer feedback, whether good or bad.
Questions & Answers
The questions and answers section is another great spot for customer engagement with the brand. Customers can ask routine questions about store hours, special menu options, seating/accessibility, and anything else that may influence their decision.
Either the business owner or a third party individual can answer these questions to provide more context for future customers.
Add High-Quality Photos
There is a visual component to Google Business profiles. High-quality photos of your storefront, staff, and glamor shots of your menu items will entice hungry customers.
Google lets you categorize photos as well into specific types. You can set a cover photo (the main photo people see on your business profile) and you can post videos as well.
Optimizing Your Restaurant for Local SEO Success
Ranking higher in local search involves optimizing a number of web properties, not just the business website. From Google Maps to social profiles, all information must be thorough and consistent across the board.
But once your website and Google Business profiles align, local rankings are fairly easy to come by. You have less competition than in the national sphere, and it typically requires fewer pages of content to rank.
By following these SEO basics and tips for improvement, your profile should be well-positioned to move towards the top of SERPs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is SEO important for restaurants?
With so many customers finding restaurants online, especially on mobile devices, SEO is a necessary tactic for rising atop search engine results pages (SERPs). The beauty of SEO is that it applies to both the website and Google Business profile. Ranking both means you have multiple opportunities to show up for valuable keywords.
How do I get influencers to share my restaurant?
Using influencers to share information about your restaurant is a great way to gain exposure in tandem with your SEO efforts. You can perform simple Google searches for “food bloggers” to find people who might be interested in writing about your business, or you can search social networks like LinkedIn or Facebook to find local writers.
What are some other ways to get your restaurant noticed?
Both new and old restaurants can benefit from press releases. Digital press releases will create excellent brand exposure and proliferate a number of links pointing to your website.
Why focus on restaurant SEO?
Restaurant SEO is cost-effective and can position brands for long-term success in their local area. Once all the pieces are in place, establishments can start ushering in a pipeline of digital customers.
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