Search engine optimization for your website is well worth your consideration. It can mean the difference between being found and being left behind.
In this article, we’ll look at restaurant SEO, and how you can position your restaurant’s website for the greatest success.
First, let’s define SEO.
Defining Search Engine Optimization
Marketers throw the term SEO around a lot, and indeed it is a complicated term with its many variations.
To simplify it, search engine optimization (SEO) is what you do to increase the quality and the quantity of traffic to your website that you earn through organic search engines like Google, Yahoo! and Bing.
When someone performs a search for Italian food, and let’s say you serve an Italian menu, you want to pop up on the first page of search results somewhere near the top.
If you show up on the first page, you’re doing something right when it comes to SEO.
The Need for Search Engine Optimization
Perhaps you’re wondering why you need to even worry about SEO.
It’s so important, especially for restaurants because they are the most searched for industry on the entire Internet.
It’s also worth noting that in one study, 75% of respondents said they chose a restaurant to eat at based on their search results.
While you can generate some website traffic through social media, Google, Bing and Yahoo! drive nearly all of the search traffic on the Internet.
It’s integral to the success of your restaurant that you build your website with these search engines in mind. If they can’t find your site or add your content to their plethora of information, you aren’t going to show up on the first page of Google.
It’s said that 91% of Internet searchers don’t go past page one. This is the most important reason why you need to worry about SEO.
Investing in SEO is worth your time and money. In our digital age, it can mean the success or the failure of your restaurant.
The Myths of SEO
Now that we’ve looked at why you need SEO for your restaurant, let’s define SEO further by tell you what it’s not.
- Myth #1: SEO is dead. Contrary to what some rumors say, SEO is not dead. In fact, that couldn’t be further from the truth. What is true, is that SEO has grown up. And, Google has loads of information dedicated to SEO on their website.
- Myth #2: SEO is just keywords. We just mentioned that SEO has matured over the last few years. This is especially true when it comes to keywords. It used to be that keyword density equaled good SEO. Yet, as search engine optimization changes, so do the strategies. While keywords are a component of SEO, they aren’t the main emphasis. Your content and its relevance to users is the number one focus.
- Myth #3: Bigger site, better SEO. When it comes to search engine rankings, quality is always preferred over quantity. Feel free to create as many website pages as you’d like, just make sure they are user-based and important for furthering your message.
- Myth #4: SEO is all about ranking #1. It seems most people’s goal is to get their restaurant ranked #1 on search engine results pages. While this is a great goal, it’s not the goal. The SEO goal to put in front of your marketing strategy is this: your SEO strategy should be about increasing traffic, engagement and conversions. Once you’ve done this, the goal of #1 is possible.
- Myth #5: Images don’t matter. Well, they do. The web is a visual place, and optimizing your images is an important one. You can do this through alt and title tags as well as captions and descriptions. Tie these in with your page’s keywords. This helps ensure your images are visible to search engines. It also pays dividends to use original images and not stock photos.
- Myth #6: Mobile doesn’t matter. Remember last year’s Mobilgeddon when thousands of people rushed to get a mobile-friendly website? Google has miles of content dedicated to the importance of optimizing a website for mobile. Google will give priority to your optimized website in mobile searches and penalize it if it’s not responsive. Google even says the following:
“On average, people check their phones more than 150 times a day, and more searches occur on mobile phones than computers. If a potential customer is on a phone, and the site isn’t easy to use, they’re five times more likely to leave. To avoid losing out in these crucial moments, you need a site that loads quickly and is easy to use on mobile screens.
- Myth #6: SEO is one and done. If only that were true. SEO is something your work on continuously. It’s a process that must be re-evaluated and monitored in order to improve. The digital world is constantly changing and evolving, so you have to stay on top of your SEO.
- Myth #7: Link building doesn’t work. You may have heard that link building is dead. It’s not, but like SEO, it has evolved. Design a link building strategy for your restaurant that’s centered around your content.
- Myth #8: Social media doesn’t count towards SEO. While social media isn’t a factor in your search engine results page ranking, it’s worth noting that it does affect your restaurant’s online presence. It’s one way to build your authority, and that may help search engines discover and index your site. It’s also another way to boost your content distribution which may contribute to link building and an increase in traffic to your website. While social media can’t boost your SEO, it can certainly help it.
- Myth #9: Guest blogging is worthless. Again, this isn’t true either. By guest blogging on big websites, you’ll develop your authority and build links back to your website. Create a strategy with a focus on delivering content that people want to read.
We’ve covered the myths, and it’s time to get into the details of just how to optimize your website for search engines.
Create a Sitemap
A sitemap is a blueprint of your website. Sitemaps show search engines how and where to find your pages. They give search engines like Google a map of your website structure.
This is why your navigation is so important, because it’s part of your sitemap.
Make sure that you have a sitemap for your restaurant website to make it easy for search engines like Google to crawl your website pages and to improve your SEO.
Make Sure Your Site is Mobile-Friendly
No longer can you sit on the sidelines and say, “I’ll get to that later.”
Your site must be responsive to screen size (mobile-friendly) immediately. If it’s not currently mobile-friendly, put this task at the top of your to-do list.
Google will penalize your website in mobile searches if it isn’t mobile-friendly. More searches are made for restaurants on mobile phones than on any other device.
This is why it can’t wait. You will lose business if your website is not responsive.
Design Your Site for Crawlers
Websites with flash and text in images are pretty, right? Well, that very well may be, but sites that are all flash, or where the text is part of an image make it next to impossible for search engines to crawl.
Never, ever, list your menu items in a graphic or a pdf. Search engines like Google will only see the image, not what you have hidden inside of it.
Use text as simply that, text. Use your images to highlight your restaurant but don’t hide text inside.
Publish Your Menu on Your Website
To continue from above, make sure that you have your current menu published in text format on your website.
Digital, online searches for menus are right next to searches for restaurants, so having a menu page on your site helps with your organic sitelinks.
Additionally, if you take reservations, use a separate page for this so search engines can easily find the information for searchers.
Create Unique Title Tags
The first thing Internet searchers see on the search engine results pages is your title.
Be sure and create a unique title tag for each one of your pages. You shouldn’t name all of your pages by your restaurant name only. Here’s a good formula to follow:
Main keyword + second keyword + name
So, if you have an Italian restaurant, you might title your page, “Italian Restaurant-Lou’s Pasta-Boston.”
Keep your title under 70 characters, between 20-60 is optimal.
Again, each title tag for each of your website pages should be different with a single focus.
This is easily done with a WordPress plugin like Yoast SEO.
Like the title tag, your meta description is important. On the search engine results pages, your description shows right under the title tag. It backs up the title and tells the user what they’ll find on your landing page.
This description should be unique to each page and include your page title inside. Keep it to one-two sentences and at 150-160 characters.
Highlight Your Address
Remember how we said most restaurant searches are on mobile phones? One of the top things people are looking for is your address and phone number.
This should show up at the very top of your website. The user experience is important here, and you don’t want your website visitors to have to go on a long search for your information.
Search engines like Google like to use your restaurant’s address in search results, too.
Tips: Make it super easy for your website visitors to find it by putting it in a clear, distinct spot on your homepage, adding a contact page and putting it in your footer. Also, add a map to your site’s contact page to make your restaurant even easier to find.
We aren’t talking keyword stuffing.
You want to provide high-quality information that is relevant to your customers. Choose keywords that you know your customers are searching for.
Use the Google Keyword Planner to fine tune your keywords.
Name Your Pages
You’ve probably landed on a website before where the address looked something like this: www.lousitalianrestaurant.com/1300?rf
That doesn’t tell your website visitors anything, and it certainly doesn’t tell the search engines anything of importance. Give your pages proper names, so they look like this: www.lousitalianrestaurant.com/menu
Your users and the search engines will be happy.
Create a Google My Business Page
As the biggest search engine, you do want to make Google happy. Creating a Google business page is one way to do it.
This page complements your website by giving your restaurant a public identity and presence on Google. This information shows up in the right-hand column in Google searches. Landing in this sidebar is a bonus for your restaurant.
The information you provide on Google My Business ensures your restaurant shows up on:
- Google Search
- Google Maps
You also want to encourage your customers to leave you a review on your Google page because that is a definite boost to your search engine rankings.
In addition to your business listing, you want to make sure to completely fill out your Google+ page. Include photos of your interior and exterior, your menu and your restaurant.
Bottom line – participate in Google ventures to boost your SEO.
Not only do you want customer reviews on your Google Business page, but you want them on your website.
Industry experts say that customer reviews play a huge role in your organic search results.
Reviews increase your customer’s trust and Google’s.
When choosing which restaurants to highlight in the top three positions on a search engine results page, they’re going to list the most relevant restaurants. Google uses your customer ratings to determine which restaurant lands up top.
Plus, when your restaurant has good reviews, you’re more likely to get more clicks to your website. Google likes this, too.
One of the most influential tools in your digital marketing arsenal is search engine optimization (SEO).
Use it correctly, and you can vastly improve your website traffic while at the same time generating more brand awareness and ultimately, sales.
Your restaurant website needs strong SEO to improve your visibility in searches which in turn increases your local foot traffic.
Plan your SEO strategy so you can maximize your search engine results for more customers and better profits.