Last Updated on February 9, 2020
Own a new restaurant and wondering how to go about marketing it? Or maybe you’ve already established your business but want to sort out search engine optimization (SEO). Either way, you’ve come to the right place! In this publication, I’ll be sharing some local SEO tips for restaurant companies that you can use to improve your organization’s local rank in search engines.
Today restaurant owners have more work to do when it comes to marketing their business, but this isn’t because word-of-mouth advertising no longer works. In fact, it’s still the primary driver of new customers to restaurants.
However, people have moved to digital platforms like online business directories and social media. Gone are the days when the majority of restaurant marketing involved mostly brochures, coupon distribution and the occasional TV commercials.
Since consumers now share their experiences online instead of just traditional word-of-mouth, restaurant companies have to change how they market themselves a little.
Consider this: You are on your way back from a business meeting, you’re a bit exhausted but also very hungry. You aren’t familiar with the neighbourhood that you’re currently passing through, so you pull out your smartphone and type “food near me” into a search engine like Google or Bing. You find a restaurant that’s about 300 meters from your location and decide to pay them a visit.
Does the above sound familiar? This is the cycle that plenty of consumers go through on a daily basis. It’s how many people find new products or services today. So it’s more imperative than ever before that restaurant companies establish their brands online!
Many foodservice operators know this but for plenty of them, the real question is how?
If you’ve been doing the same things that worked for years but stopped working as well as it did before, it can be a bit daunting to make any adjustments. Fortunately, this article will provide you with some valuable online advertising tips for restaurants.
The Meaning of SEO
SEO is the process of increasing a website’s traffic from organic search results or search engine results pages (SERPs). Google, Bing and Yahoo (which shares Bing’s results) are the three primary engines in North America. However, they’re other companies in the market too and more are emerging.
Over the years, consumers have come to increasingly rely on search engines for answers. From what to eat to school research to online dating and more, the Internet seems like a place where anything can be found.
Information is being digitized at a high rate and as this trend continues, SEO will undoubtedly become the most important marketing strategy of the digital age.
So how can restaurants use SEO to attract new customers?
Local Search Engine Optimization!
Since we know that people use search engines to find products by proximity, then the biggest opportunity for restaurants is local SEO. Think about it for a second… Considering that computing devices use geolocation, you can literally catch consumers at the exact time they’re looking for what you sell!
All you have to do is make it easy for them to find you and that’s a problem local SEO solves.
Similar to national targeting, local optimization uses tactics that help search engine algorithms (a form of artificial intelligence or AI for short) understand what your company is all about. But it’s hyper-focused on a few locations, rather than the whole country.
You’ll need a physical address but as a restaurant business owner, I’m certain that you already do.
Local SEO Tips For Restaurant Businesses
So here are some SEO tips for marketing your restaurant in the 21st century.
1. NAP (Name, Address, Phone) Consistency
If you’re going to list your business in a directory, make sure that you keep your name, address and phone numbers consistent! This is an important trust signal for search engines.
Essentially, if the information on your website matches with what’s on external sites, then the engines (or their algorithms) can be sure they’re giving users accurate info.
So when someone searches for “restaurants near me”, they can be confident that you belong on page one! Also, this is the most important factor when it comes to local search optimization.
It’s comparable to a popularity contest in that the business with the most citations (or NAP) will win. But search marketing is more complicated than that. There are other critical factors that help search engines decide who to rank at the top of a local map pack, which brings us to my next tip…
2. Getting Positive Reviews
Search engines are placing more emphasis on reviews and not just positive ones either. Negative feedback can be beneficial too.
Having a variety of customer reviews on your business listings is authoritative. You see, the bots or AI care about what others say about your business. And in a way, this is common sense, right?
If people like you, then the search engines should love you too. Reviews are one way they use to determine whether you’re good for users or not! What about negative feedback? How can that be a good thing?
Yes, negative reviews aren’t great but they can be managed in such a way that the damage is reduced significantly. The one thing businesses often fail to do that they MUST do is respond to negative feedback.
When an irate customer expresses their displeasure with your restaurant, you should see it as an opportunity to shine because it really is! But many companies choose to bury their heads in the sand.
In an event of such nature, you need to display your excellent customer service procedures such as apologizing and perhaps, offering them a discount. Remember that even the smallest of things can go a long way.
But here’s the truth…
Most consumers know that you can’t please everyone. So what they’re really looking for is your business acumen or emotional IQ. As long as you can show understanding and compassion, you can almost always turn a bad review into an asset!
3. Get Listed On GMB, Yelp and Others
Big G and Yelp are both free tools with the option of paying to advertise your business. While not necessary, marketing on these platforms can be great for gaining local business.
But since 80 percent or more of search engine users ignore ads to click on organic listings, you’re better off focusing your resources on local SEO instead of paid advertising. Not all people trust marketing when looking for information on the web. Hence, why content marketing is so effective.
Going back to tip#1, where we discussed the importance of NAP consistency, you’ll need to have plenty of relevant ones. So again, don’t stop at the two directories that I just covered. There’s also Bing places, Yellow Pages, 411 etc.
Need more places to add your business listing? For a limited time, register your Canadian owned company at our business directory for FREE and we’ll send you a list of top local citation sources as thanks.
4. Add Structured Data to Your Web Pages
Structured data is information that’s added to HTML markup in order to provide search engine algorithms with more details about a given web page. Such as phone numbers, physical addresses, company name etc.
Officially, implementing any one of them on your site holds no direct SEO value… or at least… this is what we’ve been told. But if it were a ranking factor, it would make sense that it could influence search results, right? I mean, in theory, the more accurate data you provide, the better you should rank.
Consider the following scenario…
If website A & B sells cars and the former uses schema markup while the latter didn’t, who would rank higher? Well, if they both equally pass every other factor with flying colours, then the site with schema will probably win. And that’s because structured data removes some of the guesswork for bots!
Therefore, assuming you operate a restaurant in downtown Ottawa, specifying your physical location, phone number and company name will be a priority.
5. Local-focused Press Releases
Press releases are fantastically effective for generating brand awareness, buzz and acquiring media coverage. However, they also have two more important benefits for local SEO. These are citations and backlinks!
The local news can sometimes pick up a newsworthy press release and if you include a naked link to your site, meaning no anchor text, you’ll gain a link. But some media outlets will slap a ‘nofollow’ (a rel attribute of HTML) on your URL, thereby, negating most or all of its value for SEO. This is what the ‘nofollow’ attribute does.
But don’t let this discourage you because, despite this trend, the link is still useful for readers and can lead them to your landing page. It’s just something to be aware of.
Here’re some tips for increasing your success rate with local press releases.
- Put together a great copy or hire an expert copywriter. Specify who you are (company name), what you do and why people should care.
- Include your full address and phone number right before the end of your press release for a complete NAP or citation.
- Weave your web address in the body copy (preferred) or at the end of the publication. Remember that backlinks are a secondary benefit. So don’t concern yourself too much about the link.
- Add your most important keywords in your release. You should already know how consumers search for the products you offer and if not, do some keyword research.
- Build or include a news section on your website. This is where you should re-publish all your press releases and link back to the original copies. This will further increase exposure and the possibility that other sites will pick up your piece.
- Don’t publish anything that won’t be of interest to your target audience, journalists, bloggers or anyone that can help amplify your message!
- Diversify your distribution methods by using different press release companies. This way, your URL will most likely appear on several different websites over time.
6. Use Images in Your Business Listings But Take it a Step Further
Add a virtual tour to your company listings in directories like GMB that allow video content. And if you want to get fancy with it, shoot a 360-degree video tour of your restaurant and use that instead of a regular video shoot. It’s a more immersive experience.
7. Load Time & Mobile Experience
Make sure that your site loads fairly quickly and is mobile-friendly. For restaurants, the majority of eyeballs will come from mobile devices, usually people looking for food to eat.
This means that it’s important that your website has no loading issues, it’s navigable on mobile and aesthetically pleasing. When attempting to attract new business online, it’s imperative that you make user experience (UX) part of your strategy.
8. Fix Your Website’s Meta Titles & Descriptions
The first impression that people get on the SERPs is reading your meta title and description text. That’s what prospects will see in the result snippet. You’ve seen them before. Here’s an example from Bing search:
Your descriptions can be any length but search engines usually truncate them. So ideally, you want your most important text at the beginning. This is usually what you want consumers to know.
Keeping your description text between 150 – 300 characters is a good safe zone. Title length should be between 60 – 65 characters long.
9. Interlink Your Web Pages
This is something that many fail to really take advantage of but it’s a very effective SEO tactic. The way you link to your web pages is an indicator of what you want to rank for. At least (at a basic level), this is how search engine algorithms interpret it.
For instance, if you wanted your homepage to rank for a term like “Italian restaurant in London”, then you should use ‘Italian restaurant’ in your anchor text when linking to that page. But make sure it’s in different variations such as ‘Italian food service’ or ‘eat Italian food’.
The more internal links you have pointing to particular pages on your site, the more important they’ll eventually become to the bots. Neat, right?
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