Search engine optimization, or SEO, is revolutionizing how all sorts of businesses market their products or services. Essentially SEO is the practice of adjusting your website content so you can rank as high as possible in the listing for search results—in the case of restaurants, when people are looking for a place to eat. But is SEO useful for a business that has traditionally depended on word of mouth and foot traffic, like restaurants? Many restaurant owners are surprised to learn that their business is one of the kinds that can benefit most from restaurant SEO.
Here are a few considerations to help you decide whether your current SEO strategy is helpful and how your restaurant can utilize SEO more effectively.
SEO is the process by which content is written and organized on a platform so that it is more likely to appear in search results. Most SEO efforts are focused on Google, but these efforts can also be effective for other search engines.
SEO is relevant to your restaurant’s website, but it also works on social media pages and in Google Business listings. There are almost countless elements to SEO, some of which are more important than others. SEO works a little differently on different platforms. It's not necessary to perfect every aspect of SEO to get high rankings in search results, but the more SEO is accomplished, the more likely you are to rank well for important keywords and generate more business as a result.
Google knows when someone is searching for a local destination. If someone searches “how to make a burger” they'll get results from websites all over the world.
However, if someone searches “best burgers nearby” they'll get results tailored to their location. If you can optimize your content for ”best burgers nearby,” you only have to compete with other nearby burger places to get the customer’s attention.
SEO, in and of itself, may not contribute to the loyalty your customers feel toward your brand, but the measures required to get good SEO, like content creation and website organization, do. In order to optimize content, you'll need to create content.
Done properly, that content doesn't just attract search engines. It also offers useful information while creating a tone and personality for your website which may make customers more likely to engage and feel an affinity for your restaurant.
Customers who are looking for a quick bite to eat aren't going to take a lot of time to call a restaurant or scroll through a website and find out whether online orders or take-out options are available. However, if you handle SEO properly, a search engine will suggest your restaurant when customers nearby search for takeout or online ordering options.
Many customers won't even bother calling your restaurant. They may just place an online order, which is a quick source of revenue.
This is a longtime goal that most restaurants may not be thinking about when they first devise an SEO strategy. That's said, it's worth considering. Owning a single restaurant means that you'll likely always be struggling to establish wealth.
However, establishing a retail line or developing a string of franchises makes it much more likely that your brand will go beyond the success of an individual restaurant. SEO is a powerful tool for making these kinds of advances for your business. By becoming a respected voice in the community in your area of expertise, you set the stage for further advancement down the road.
You've got a lot to do already in the everyday management of your business, so you may be reluctant to take on SEO yourself. Many restaurant owners outsource the task to people who know what they're doing in this area.
However, there are some advantages to taking some responsibility for your own SEO strategy. There's a lot to learn about your business and your customers by researching SEO. Here are a few tips for improving restaurant SEO that any business owner can practice.
There are so many tools for keyword research, like AHRefs, Google Keyword Planner, and SEMRush, that many small-business owners, including restaurant owners, can quickly become overwhelmed. However, keyword research doesn't have to be expensive or complicated.
Think about what makes your restaurant unique and start there. Use Google's related questions and search results to inspire new ideas. It's best to start with where you are and what you do. “X restaurant in X” is an obvious keyword to target. Think about the type of food you serve and how a potential customer may search for it online. Here are just a few of the keywords that would be worth looking into for a burger restaurant:
Once you have some keywords in mind, do a search on them. Make sure that you allow Google to know your location, just as it will know the location of your customers. See what results populate. It's likely that the top results will be your top competitors.
This is a great place to do more keyword research. Whether you want to use a keyword research tool or search through a site manually, look for the kind of words and phrases that are frequently used by your competition. This is also a great opportunity to see what kind of marketing tactics your competition is using.
It’s important for restaurants to create and optimize content in three key places: website, social media, and Google listing. Don't have all of those platforms? Don't worry. You can build content over time. You may be surprised to learn that a website isn’t the most important place to start anyway. Here’s where and how to optimize your content.
You may or may not have a website or social media, but you almost certainly have a Google listing, whether you want to or not. Google automatically creates listings for any businesses that it knows exist. Furthermore, it allows reviews for these business listings.
Failing to claim your Google listing can set you up for a lot of bad reviews that you didn’t even know were there. Claim your Google listing and fill it up with as much content and keywords as possible. Take this opportunity to respond to any existing reviews, positive or negative. Keep in mind that reviews may also be indexed for Google search results, so throw some keywords into your responses as well.
Like with the Google listing, you're limited in how much content you can put into your description and other information on social media. You'll be able to fill out SEO in social media later as you make posts and interact with customer comments and questions. For now, simply fill out as much content and keywords as you can. Be sure to use hashtags and other labeling systems as much as possible, since social media relies on these as much or more so than on keywords.
Finally, it's time to turn your attention to your website. There is practically no limit on how much SEO content you can put onto your website. The first step is to fill out your about page, homepage, and any other essential landing pages that need to be on your site. Next, you can begin filling out a blog. Tags and categories are helpful on your blog in addition to keywords for SEO.
As you’re integrating keywords, keep in mind that if the keyword is a question, the answer works for SEO as well. Instead of putting into your content, “Where to get burgers in CITY?” try, “Get burgers in CITY at RESTAURANT.” Also, keep in mind that you don't need to reinvent the wheel for all of your content. The same content can be used in your “about the business” information on your Google listing, social media pages, and website. Blog posts can easily be shortened into social media posts.
Produce content on your website and on social media regularly. Most restaurants already publish on their social media pages to highlight specials or tempt patrons to visit. It really only takes a little bit of extra thought to optimize this content. Ideally, your restaurant will publish a blog post every week and a social media post a couple times a week, but this isn't realistic for all restaurants. As long as posts are consistent and regular, it's likely your SEO will continue to improve.
Good restaurant SEO is a powerful marketing strategy for any restaurant. Few marketing techniques other than SEO can drive traffic when they're first employed and continue doing so for years into the future. A good SEO strategy can even propel your restaurant to greater business success with retail sales or franchise opportunities down the road.
Too often, restaurants overlook the power of SEO, but while other restaurants are scrambling to get attention with foot traffic, word of mouth, and other traditional marketing techniques, you can see your restaurant launch ahead, thanks to SEO.