For most modern consumers, the first taste of a restaurant happens virtually. They find restaurants via Google or Yahoo or Yelp where they peruse the reviews and vainly search for menus. To extend the reach of your restaurant in the real world, you’ve got to extend the reach of your restaurant online. The key to success is ensuring your restaurant’s website is discoverable not only to humans but to search spiders crawling the web.
Have a Logical, Fast and Mobile-Friendly Website
While SEO is most-often associated with keywords and content, site design does play a role in searchability. The web crawlers that hunt down high quality content prefer sites with a logical link structure; they’re easier to search. A clean elegant foundation of code and organized link hierarchy, starts you off on the right foot in terms of discoverability.
Slow load times have a negative impact on the user experience and generally indicate something is amiss with your site. For these reasons, Google and other search engines show preference to sites with faster load times. Take steps such as compressing large files, reducing redirects, and improving server times to optimize your site’s performance.
Most potential diners are searching for their next meal on their phones, and Google began boosting the ranking of mobile-friendly sites in 2015 to reflect the shift in internet tendencies. Your website should look as good and function as efficiently on a small screen using data as on a large screen connected to wifi. In fact, designing a mobile-first website isn’t a bad idea for restaurateurs.
Create Unique Content
Google’s own “Steps to a Google-friendly Site” makes the case that original content should be a website owner’s number one priority:
Provide high-quality content on your pages, especially your homepage. This is the single most important thing to do. If your pages contain useful information, their content will attract many visitors and entice webmasters to link to your site.
What does this mean for restaurant owners? It means you should use your website as more than a sandwich board.
In a previous article on brand development [link to 2019-09 REDCAP Refine your restaurant's brand with these 3 questions], I challenged you to identify what your brand delivers beyond a perfectly prepared meal. Some restaurants provide a cozy shelter from the storm; others offer a taste of exotic lands. Your website’s content can recreate that experience online, enticing online visitors to become patrons with a standing reservation.
Beyond easy-to-read menus, an engaging About Us page, and other standard website fare, you can differentiate your restaurant through inventive online content that targets your ideal customers and creates a sense of online community. The hypothetical restaurants mentioned earlier might have fun with these imaginative content ideas:
Host a monthly, in-house interview with a local hero or celebrity, record it, and share it on your website. A conversation over food and drinks is a great way to showcase your restaurant’s atmosphere, and video is a highly shareable form of content.
Host a writing contest challenging diners to write a short story inspired by their favorite dish. All stories that meet guidelines are published on the restaurant website. This encourages entrants to share your URL and boosts natural links to your site.
Use Keywords that Best Describe Your Restaurant
Now, allow me to rein it back in again. While creative, interesting content is going to improve SEO, it’s still important that every page of your restaurant’s website clearly and accurately describes the food, atmosphere, and overall dining experience patrons can expect when they arrive.
What words would someone type if they were looking for a restaurant like yours? What craving are they hoping to satisfy? “Real Neapolitan pizza” or “vegan-friendly chimichangas”? Brainstorm a list of those words and phrases and make sure they’re used conversationally throughout your website in blog posts, menu items, and other informative content.
Get Listed on Google My Business
Adding your restaurant to Google My Business is an easy way to improve local discoverability. Include accurate, relevant business data and add a task to your calendar to review the data at least once a year to keep it up to date. You should verify your location and add photos to ensure customers can easily find your business in the real world.
Encourage Online Reviews
Consider sharing a Google My Business short URL on your website, in your email signature, or on your social media profiles. This easy discoverability optimization encourages customers to leave a review and view your Google business profile. Positive reviews help to build social proof and improve your restaurant’s ranking on search engines looking for “the best of.”
Get Help from a Professional
If I’m hungry for a real Neapolitan pizza or a vegan-friendly chimichanga, I’m going to look for the best restaurant in the area to satisfy my craving. The right chef will know exactly how to make the dish that makes my stomach growl. Likewise, if I’m looking to improve my online presence, I’m going to find someone who knows the best practices and most innovative techniques of the trade.
As a restauranteur, one of your most valuable skills is delegation, and digital marketing is an ideal area to outsource. A knowledgeable marketer can equip you with strategies and tools that practically automate your promotional efforts, reducing your overall costs and enhancing your successes without sacrificing your time.