In our modern world of digital marketing, restaurant owners have a lot of potential to grow their businesses through cost-effective, scalable methods. No longer does a restaurant owner need to squander his or her marketing budget to appear in TV or radio ads, or in billboards or magazines, in order to get attention.
At the same time, it’s really easy to waste time and money through digital marketing efforts, too. More often than not, when investing in online ads, being active on social media, or sending out a monthly newsletter, the return isn’t there. All that effort doesn’t lead to desired results.
One of the most dependable ways to drive traffic to your website is by optimizing for local online searches. But like other digital marketing strategies, you can spend lots of hours and/or your budget trying to rank higher in Google, only to find that your website remains buried in the third page of search results, never to be found.
Sorry, you’re gonna have to do more than that, Kevin.
There are many steps you can take towards getting more local visibility in Google Search, and we walk you through some of the most important strategies. You can tackle most of these tactics on your own, but for more advanced techniques, you may need to enlist the help of a digital marketer or savvy tech person.
Search engine optimization (SEO) involves making updates to your website (on-page optimization), and taking specific actions throughout the web to boost your brand's authority (off-page optimization), in an effort to elevate your website’s ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs).
There are different areas of focus within the umbrella of SEO. For example:
When it comes to most restaurants, optimizing a website so local customers can find it is essential. Local SEO is an ideal place to direct some of your marketing efforts, because you’re reaching people when they’re actively searching for what you offer, rather than interrupting their online experience, like with an ad that appears in their social newsfeed or on a website they’re browsing.
Let’s say someone searches in Google for “bbq restaurant new york city”. Here is what they might see:
There aren’t simply 10 blue links to choose from, like in the early days of Google. In the example above, the first result “above the fold” (the area of the screen that is visible when a page loads) is a Google Ad, and then there is the “Local Pack” (which also features an ad). Finally, the organic results appear, where the first few options will often be authoritative websites that provide lists for a broad search query like “bbq restaurant new york city” or “restaurants near me”.
When optimizing for local search, your restaurant can appear in either the “Local Pack” or the organic results, and there are different strategies (with some crossover tactics) to have visibility in these areas of the SERP.
Every local restaurant in your niche is vying for those same coveted ranking positions. So how can you possibly get your restaurant’s website to appear?
We’ve got you covered. Read on!
The name of this game is tweaking your website content so it screams to Google "This website is local!" This includes updating the content visitors see on the web pages, as well as optimizing some of the site's code, too.
It’s necessary to begin by addressing some technical aspects of your website. Without some fundamental technical setup in place, all of your quality content won’t matter when Google is serving up results.
For Google to show any of the pages of your website in a SERP, it needs to first discover the content, and add it to its massive index of web pages. Google sends bots known as web crawlers (also known as spiders) across the web, following links to every page they can find.
So you need to make sure the content on your page can be found by these crawlers, and that it is readable by these bots. Otherwise, your awesome pages won’t be available for customers when they search.
Google’s main goal is to satisfy visitors who use its search engine, and one of the ways Google achieves this is by providing secure websites in its search results. This means websites that have the https protocol before their domain address (e.g. https://www.ehungry.com) will enjoy a boost in the rankings. Google knows that users feel more comfortable when they are visiting a secure website, especially when they need to provide personal data.
Another ranking boost comes from having a site that is mobile-friendly. Again, Google knows that its users want a good experience when visiting a website, and since search traffic from mobile devices is often greater than desktop traffic, the search engine surfaces web pages that will provide a good mobile experience.
One way that you can better communicate the local signals of your website to Google is by implementing structured data, also referred to as schema markup. This means you’d “mark up” (i.e. add code snippets to) your web pages using a defined language to help Google better understand the text and images in your content.
To optimize for local traffic, you can use local business schema markup, specifically for restaurants, to ensure Google knows about your restaurant’s precise location and hours of operation.
Schema markup can also lead to Google presenting relevant details about your restaurant right in the search results, known as “rich snippets”. This a huge opportunity for a restaurant website. With the right markup, you can allow a user to browse your menu, make a reservation or place an order right from the SERP!
Google has a bunch of ways to decide whether a web page should appear for a particular query (e.g. “bbq restaurant new york city”). One of the main (and pretty obvious) ways Google considers a page is relevant to a query is the presence of words and phrases on the web pages that match the query.
In the early days of SEO, this meant you could stuff the main keyword you wanted to rank for throughout your content to get some SERP visibility. Google is much smarter now, and will actually penalize sites that over-optimize in this way.
At the same time, it’s still important to strategically place keywords throughout your content, so Google knows your web pages will satisfy the searcher.
But these keywords need to appear naturally in your content, and with variation. In addition to including the exact keyword you’re targeting (i.e. “BBQ Restaurant in New York City”), you can also sprinkle in somewhat similar variations (e.g. “Discover the best barbecue food in NYC”) and phrases that are semantically related (e.g. “Looking for the perfect Manhattan date night?”).
Note that Google ranks individual web pages, not websites. This means you might have different pages of your website that are more optimized for certain queries, and they might appear in the results above or instead of the home page.
This is where restaurant websites can increase their opportunities to appear for the variety of ways their potential customers search in Google. For example, a customer might search for “bbq restaurants in boston”, or they might search for “bbq sandwiches in boston”. If you’ve got a page on your website dedicated to your BBQ sandwiches, Google could potentially serve up that page for the “sandwiches” query, instead of your (or a competitor’s) home page.
BONUS TIP: If you have multiple locations, you should have a separate page on your website optimized for each location. These location pages act as landing pages for local traffic, and are necessary to send stronger local signals to Google for each location, while being hosted on the same domain.
Your content will probably naturally include the main keywords you want to rank for, such as the type of cuisine you offer and your menu items, but there are some specific places in the content that your keywords should appear.
First, determine what the main keyword should be for each page. This would be the most common way that someone would find the page when searching in Google. For example, “BBQ sandwiches in boston”.
One way to uncover additional keywords you could include in your content is by searching in Google yourself, and looking at the related keywords Google offers at the bottom of the SERP.
If your sandwich includes chicken, or if you offer catering, it would be worth mentioning these details on this page to optimize further.
For the main keyword you’re targeting, try to naturally fit it (or a close variation) in these places:
Nerdy Note: While a keyword in the meta description isn't a direct ranking factor, the keyword may appear in bold text. This formatting feature, along with confirmation to the user that their query is relevant, can encourage the click. And a higher click-through rate from the SERP is an indirect ranking factor. 🤓
For more information on how you’d update these page elements, you can check out this article about on-page keyword targeting.
Your goal is to provide Google with strong local signals so the search engine is confident that your restaurant’s site would be an ideal search result for local users. Besides listing your address, what other geo-targeted content can you include in your site?
Here are some ideas to optimize content for local SEO:
This is your opportunity to talk about your restaurant’s connection to your location through your unique story. How has it influenced your menu? How have you made a local impact?
Like we mentioned above, more content means more opportunities to target keywords that your potential customers are using. This means creating posts that address long-tail keywords (queries that are more specific, like "dairy and gluten free dessert options in chicago”) or pain points (e.g. “kid-friendly restaurants open on thanksgiving in chicago”). Another benefit to blog posts is interlinking with your main pages, which builds a stronger website architecture that Google can reward with better rankings.
If enough people are searching for places to eat in particular neighbourhoods in your city, you can optimize pages for each neighbourhood. You might be the only restaurant in town that has a page dedicated to a neighbourhood!
Just be careful not to create duplicate content, which can result in a Google penalty. You can easily avoid this by describing each neighbourhood and special details about each restaurant location. This will create rich, unique content that will genuinely represent a neighbourhood online!
These are a good idea to add for social proof, but they can also function as a local optimization tactic. It’s another way for your location to get some natural mentions.
You could list some local activities or events that tourists or residents would enjoy before or after dining at your restaurant.
Now that you know some of the steps you can take to make sure your website is set up to compete locally, let’s look at what you should be doing elsewhere online to boost your optimization efforts for local traffic.
This is hands down the most important step you can take, if you haven’t already.
Having a Google My Business listing is required for you to appear in the “Local Pack”, as well as in Google Maps. The “Local Pack” is comprised of Google My Business listings, and these listings will link to a restaurant’s website.
Since the “Local Pack” appears above the organic search results, it’s usually how users discover a restaurant in Google. The “Local Pack” is particularly user-friendly for mobile users as it includes useful visual features like a star rating, an image, location info, and whether the restaurant is currently open.
With a Google My Business listing, local businesses allow users to easily click/tap buttons to call, get directions, or visit the website - right from the Google listing. But restaurants will really benefit from specific features that allow Google searchers to complete actions directly from the listing (and bypass a website visit), like:
It’s free to set up a listing, and then you’ll be able to update all of the pertinent details - images, contact info, location info, and where to send customers to order online or reserve a table.
(By the way, if your restaurant doesn't offer online ordering yet, we can help!)
To get started with Google My Business, head here.
Learn more about getting set up and optimizing Google My Business for your restaurant with our 3-part guide to Google My Business for restaurants.
BONUS TIP: While Google is the dominant player in the search space, traffic from Bing can’t be ignored. For the potential customers who do search for restaurants on Bing, you should cover your bases and create a free Bing Places for Business listing, too.
The more Google can verify that your restaurant is indeed located where your website and Google My Business listing say it’s located, the more Google will be willing to show your website or listing for local searches.
By listing your restaurant’s name, address and phone number (NAP) on reputable sites across the web, you’re providing Google with concrete evidence that your restaurant is a valid local business.
These mentions of your business, also known as citations, must have consistent NAP information. If Google is confused by a restaurant’s conflicting addresses listed online, for example, it won’t present the restaurant’s website or Google listing to its users, so as not to confuse them, either.
Here are some important platforms online where you can create a free listing for your restaurant:
Besides the ranking boost that comes from citations, you would also benefit from the potential customers those resources send to you.
Another way to let Google know that people vouch for your restaurant is through quality inbound links. Google is interested in providing search results featuring restaurants that can be trusted, and one way the search giant determines a brand is trustworthy is if other reputable sites are linking to them.
Not all incoming links will provide the same quality signals. Some links will have more of a positive effect on a ranking, while others can even have a negative effect.
A good rule of thumb when prospecting for links is asking yourself, “Is this a trustworthy site?” and “Would visitors actually follow this link?”. Also, the more relevant the source website is, the better. For example, getting a link to your hosted event from a local events website, or from a guest post you provide to a food blog, will have a natural connection to your business.
Some other options for getting links to benefit your local SEO:
What better way to show Google, and your potential customers, how great your restaurant is, than with positive reviews from your patrons?
Getting reviews on your Google My Business listing is a big ranking factor for your position in the “Local Pack” and Google Maps. Positive reviews on your listing also increase the likelihood of someone clicking through to your website, or placing an order directly from your listing.
Getting reviews on your listings on the sites mentioned above, like Yelp and Facebook, will also send signals to Google that independent people vouch for your business. Plus, these reviews can also appear in the “Reviews from the web” section of your knowledge panel. This valuable SERP feature can either appear when someone is searching for your restaurant or (if you’re really optimized/lucky) for a local restaurant in general.
Note that it's against Yelp's guidelines to solicit reviews for your Yelp listing.
As you can see, there’s a lot you can be doing to increase your local ranking! Just chip away at it one strategy at a time, and you’ll gradually start to see improved performance in search results.
While we can’t help you with the off-page tactics, most of the on-page local SEO strategies mentioned above are built-in to eHungry’s platform! That’s right - mobile-friendly responsive ordering sites, with templates that generate the necessary local schema and keyword targeting - it’s all part of the package.
Best of all, you’re able to take orders online! For all that work you’re doing to help people find your site, now you can let them order right from your website (or your Google listing)! Take online orders with our easy-to-set up and affordable software, and you’re laughing to the bank!
Learn more about all the amazing features of eHungry's affordable and easy-to-use software, and start growing your restaurant business today!
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