Every day, potential customers are searching in Google for what you offer. They’re not browsing. They’re hungry, and they’ll order from one of the first restaurants that appears in the search results.
So how can your restaurant’s website compete with all the other local restaurants for visibility on Google’s first page of results (without paying for ads)?
With search engine optimization!
Now before you waste time (or your budget) on random website updates just so you feel you’re “doing SEO”, we’ll get you on the right track with priority SEO tactics for restaurants that get results in 2019.
The world of SEO is vast. There aren’t just a few steps to take, and then you’re all set. Optimizing a website to outperform the competition is a detailed, nuanced, ongoing process.
Let’s take a look at a couple of key concepts of SEO.
Optimizing your website to rank well in search engines is only half of the equation. It’s also essential to build the authority of your website by getting other sites to vouch for you. Both of these strategies work together to send Google the right signals needed to rank well.
This post focuses on some “on-page” optimization techniques, which includes technical and creative updates you can make to your website’s content and code.
Off-page SEO involves building links and citations (mentions of your business) from relevant, reputable sites, maintaining a Google My Business listing, and getting reviews on your business’ online listings (like Yelp).
To learn more about these and other off-page SEO strategies, check out our guide to local SEO for restaurants.
When someone searches in Google Search for a place to eat or order from, they will typically discover your restaurant's website in one of three featured areas of a search results page:
Investing in ads is a different beast altogether, so we’re looking at the website optimization techniques that will boost your restaurant’s ranking in the “Local Pack” and organic results.
Whether you’re planning on building a new website, or you’ve got a website that you want to update, the same optimization techniques can be applied. Sometimes you (or your tech-savvy friend) will need to get under the hood, so to speak, and tinker with code or design. But some of these tips are immediately actionable, and can help your SEO efforts as soon as you apply them.
Thanks to tools like Wix and Squarespace, anyone can affordably build a decent-looking website. These platforms often include SEO features, like being able to customize meta tags or built-in schema implementation.
Depending on the competition, that might be enough to rank well. But all website builder platforms will have their limitations, where some advanced SEO tasks would not be possible to implement. The more control you have over the code of your site, the more you can tweak it for Google’s liking. This might be necessary in a competitive location.
It’s also really easy to throw money at a web design company or freelancer, and you wouldn’t necessarily end up with a website that ranks well (or that you love, for that matter). At the same time, you could spend a bunch on an SEO company or freelancer, and they might not get you great results, either.
Regardless of how your site gets built or updated, the SEO strategies we’ll be covering will be important considerations for getting visibility in Google’s first page of results in 2019.
Without further ado…
Now that we've explored some SEO and web design basics, let's look at what you can do to make sure your restaurant's website is search engine-friendly.
This is by far the most critical message of all.
Spiders are great at quickly crawling the web, but they can only read text in HTML - the language of the web. So you need to make sure that your menu item names and descriptions are in a text tag (e.g. the paragraph tag, <p>) that can be read by spiders (and website visitors!), even if all images were broken and scripts stopped working.
BONUS TIP: add heading tags (e.g. h2) to your menu categories, or to menu item names, if appropriate.
Once you’ve updated your menu, you can let Google know ASAP by using the URL Inspection Tool where you're able to request indexing of your updated web page. You’ll need a Google Search Console account (it’s free).
Also make sure that your images of menu items are included in the HTML as <img> elements.
Speaking of images…
You know what the second largest search engine is, after Google Search? It’s kind of a trick question, but the answer is Google Image Search!
According to a recent study, 69% of all web searches take place on Google Search, while another 21% of searches take place within Google Image Search! (Talk about a monopoly).
This is a huge opportunity for restaurants because they can provide optimized visual results for hungry Google users!
In the example above, restaurants that offer kosher sandwiches in Chicago can have images of their food appear within the first row of results. These images link to the web page where the images live.
The main two optimizing strategies for images are keyword placement and size adjustment. The more you can tell Google’s web crawlers about an image (through keywords it understands), the more likely Google will show it as a relevant result. Meanwhile, large images will make a web page load slowly, which annoys users, and negatively affects your ranking (because Google knows it annoys users).
Determine your target keyword, which would be a short clear description of the menu item, with a local modifier (e.g. kosher sandwich chicago).
Add your target keyword to:
Optimize the image by:
Smaller images are crucial for mobile viewing. Large images aren’t necessary, and they take even longer to load on a mobile device.
Speaking of mobile viewing…
Since so much of a restaurant’s website traffic will come from mobile devices like smartphones (often outpacing traffic from desktop and laptop computers), your website needs to be optimized for mobile viewing. You can achieve this through a responsive website, where your design adapts to the screen size of each visitor's device or computer. It would also be possible to create a mobile version of your site, but that’s a lot harder to maintain and execute properly.
Potential customers who are searching for a local restaurant to visit or to place an online order expect a mobile-friendly experience, or they’ll immediately bounce. This affects people on the go, as well as at those at home who will often search from their handy phone instead of a desktop computer.
Again, Google prioritizes the user’s experience, so sites that aren’t mobile-friendly don’t perform as well in search results. Not only that, but Google will rank websites in desktop searches based on the quality of a mobile version of a website! In other words, design for mobile first, or don’t expect to appear in any SERP, desktop or mobile.
You can check if your website is mobile-friendly with this free Google tool.
Steps you can take to be more mobile-friendly:
Speaking of user experience...
Once users discover your site, you’re only halfway there. How can you convert these visitors to become customers? Especially for all the money and effort you’re putting into getting traffic, you’ll want to make sure the least amount of folks slip through the cracks without ordering or reserving a table.
As far as the SEO benefit of creating a user-friendly experience, Google is paying attention to how users behave once they visit a website from search results. If the user doesn’t seem to get value from a website, Google will consider the website less worthy of high ranking.
How does Google judge whether a user had a poor experience? Here are three of the most important engagement metrics:
This is the percentage of users that return to the SERP after visiting just one page of a website. If the content and design of a web page is not engaging enough to keep the visitor moving through a site, Google will take notice.
While it’s possible a visitor will land on a home page and then call a restaurant without visiting more pages, a user would typically visit additional pages to browse a menu, place an order, etc.
Once a visitor decides to go beyond a single page view, how many more pages are they visiting? Google might correlate more page views with content that is satisfying a user’s interest.
More page views aren't always better, as your visitor might not be able to efficiently find what they want due to poor website navigation or layout. However, Google can use other user behavior data along with this metric to make assumptions about a user's experience with a website.
If you’ve got a clean layout of menu categories and items, strategically interlinked, you’ll encourage a user to easily move through your website to discover your content.
Again, if a visitor is just looking for a restaurant’s contact information, they won’t spend too much time on the web page. However, the more time he spends looking at what a restaurant has to offer, the stronger signals he sends to Google that the website is user-friendly and relevant.
This is where both quantity and quality of content play a role. It’s not necessary to add random content just to lengthen the amount of words on the page, but if you’re able to be more descriptive and offer more useful info, you’ll not only keep your visitors on the site longer, but you’ll also be targeting more keywords.
In Google Analytics! This is a free platform where you can learn about where your website visitors originate, and what they do on your site.
Learn more about leveraging Google Analytics to grow your restaurant business.
People are busy, and don’t have patience for websites that load slowly. With each additional second that your web page takes to load, a bunch of your visitors will abandon the page, which also means lost revenue. Check out these eye-opening stats on how loading time affects your bottom line.
Google also offers a free tool where you can check your page speed. Usually, the main issue you’ll have will be the size of your images, so don’t be too concerned with all the technical suggestions for improvements that Google provides.
Learn more about what makes a restaurant user-friendly with our guide to designing a restaurant website that converts.
If you don’t offer online ordering for your restaurant yet… why not?! Imagine all the extra revenue you can make when your hungry customers are able to easily place their order on their own, whenever they want.
More than just being another convenient option for customers to order from you, offering online ordering also gets you more visibility in search engines. When potential customers search for restaurants that offer your kind of cuisine AND online ordering (e.g. “order chinese food online near me”), don’t you want your restaurant’s website to appear?
Our core service is providing an easy-to-set up, affordable platform for restaurants to take orders online. But we didn’t stop there. We knew that restaurants would be relying on us to put their brand’s best foot forward online, so we made sure to design an online ordering site that fulfills the best practices we mention above.
Some steps we’ve taken to ensure your eHungry ordering site is ready to compete for organic traffic in 2019:
You can try to get all these design aspects included in your website on your own, using a website builder or a web designer.
Or, you can partner with eHungry to build an attractive, branded restaurant site that is optimized for search engines and customers. Since you can create unlimited customizable pages, you can easily use the eHungry platform to host your full website, that takes online orders!
You can also integrate our online ordering software with your main website, and even set it up on your own domain.
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