Not too long ago, the restaurant storefront and menu helped to attract customers, but now an online presence is more important than ever. The battle for visibility is no longer in your street presence but in web search results. So how do you optimize your online presence and dominate local search results? These five tips should help you implement a solid SEO strategy.
1. Claim Your Google My Business Listing
One of the first things to do when you want to improve your online presence locally is to create a Google My Business listing.
To do this, nothing could be easier: just go to the Google My Business website and create your account. Make sure you've prepared various key information:
The address of your business
Pictures of your establishment
A phone number
Social media (if any)
If you are using a third-party tool to manage your bookings, you can also add it to your listing so that users can directly book a table from the search results.
Finally, you can also add which options your restaurant is currently offering: Dine-in; Take-out; Delivery. This is really helpful to let your customers know what options are available in your establishment in real time based on the new covid measures. And of course you can update this later as the situation changes.
2. Optimize Your Content Strategy and Use Local Keywords
A content strategy is at the center of most SEO optimizations. In order for your website to be visible in search results, it is essential that it respects two main factors:
That it meets the search intentions of your website visitors
That it uses the right keywords, or vocabulary, that your visitors use to search
The first step is knowing your visitors. You will need to define the audience you want to target. What is the average age range of your customers? What city do they live in? What are their interests? Once you have a picture of your target audience, it's easier to use the right tone and deliver content that meets their expectations.
After that, you need to define the keywords you want to target, always in line with your target audience. You can use the free Google Keyword Planner tool to give you an idea of the keywords that are relevant. Don't forget to target mainly local keywords: that's where your customers are!
One good piece of advice is also to opt for "long tail" keywords. These are very specific searches that are often relatively long and may be composed of several words. There may be fewer searches for them per month, but there are also fewer competitors whose websites are a perfect response to what the searcher is really looking for. Here's a good example:
Classic keyword: denver burger
Long tail keyword: denver burger gluten-free options
Don't forget to get organized and measure the effectiveness of your content.
It is essential to create an editorial calendar. Even if you only manage a small amount of content, it allows you to anticipate and have a clear view of your different projects. And Google tends to rank websites better when they offer regular, fresh content.
To measure your content strategy's effectiveness, you can use Google Analytics to monitor KPIs such as the number of sessions, bounce rate or time spent on a page.
3. Implement the Basic SEO Best Practices
It is necessary to implement some SEO best practices in order to build a stable foundation for making your website easy to find and optimizing your rankings in search engines.
Title SEO and Meta Description
Every page and blog article on your website should have an SEO title and a meta description. This is the title and short description that will be displayed in the search results.
Consequently, it is important that they are as clear and concise as possible and that they contain the keywords that you are trying to target. If they don't, Google may rewrite them for you, and there's no guarantee of the results.
A Schema markup is a piece of code that you can add to your website in order to increase your chances to get a “rich snippet” in the search results. A rich snippet has more visibility than other search results.
Not only does this ensure that you give the right information to search engines, but it also makes people more likely to read and interact with your listing and allows you to optimize your search results for voice search by providing information in a way machines can understand.
Creating your own Schema markup can be tricky but you can use this schema.org generator tool to help you. You just have to enter the main information of your establishment and the tool will provide you with the code snippet to add to your website. You can get help from a developer to place the snippet in the right place in the code of your site. Some website platforms also have plugins that will do this for you.
4. Encourage Reviews
Encouraging your customers to leave reviews can only be beneficial to your establishment. Google has never made it clear that sites with the most positive reviews are more likely to end up at the top of search results, but it doesn't seem illogical to assume that Google wants to provide the best possible experience for its users. An establishment with good reviews would therefore potentially have a better chance of getting better rankings.
In addition, it is possible for users to sort search results for local businesses based on their number of stars in Google. Your diners will probably click on "4+ stars" rather than "2+ stars" so it is crucial for you to get the highest possible score.
Keep in mind that 92 percent of Internet users read reviews for local businesses. It is important to read and respond to each review, especially if they are negative! Reviews can be left on Google but also on listings that often have a significant weight in local search results such as Yelp or TripAdvisor. Remember to have your eyes everywhere and to monitor all your reviews.
5. Spread the Word in Local Listings
The importance of reviews in local listings brings us directly to our last point. Setting up your Google My Business profile and doing the points mentioned just before greatly increases your chances of appearing in search results.
However, when searching for a local restaurant, there are other websites that almost always appear at the top of the search results: listings with content created by people who have visited the restaurants such as TripAdvisor or Yelp.
Creating your listing on these sites and providing correct information is another way to keep control over your brand online. This is important because your brand's image is your online storefront!
There are guides to improve your rankings on these platforms, but the most important thing is to make sure your information is up to date and to get as many positive reviews as possible.
If there are other local restaurant listings in your area, it's a good idea to contact them and add your restaurant as well.
Measuring the Results
You now have all the keys to improve the visibility of your restaurant online! You know how to create your Google My Business Listing, how to get a content strategy based on relevant keywords and how to implement the basic SEO best practices. But you're also aware of how to get more visibility through reviews and local listings.
Following these few steps establishes the best groundwork for implementing a solid SEO strategy later on. And don't forget to ask your guests how they heard about you or whether they've visited your site, and to monitor new visitors to your website in order to get an idea of how your online presence draws your in-person diners.