Location, location, location! It’s a familiar refrain in the real estate industry. Physical real estate, that is.
But there’s a new kind of real estate in town: digital real estate. The Google search engine results page (SERP), to be exact.
It’s a nice place. Good schools, high walkability scores, morning birdsong, you've mastered the swot analysis for restaurant. If you want your restaurant in the high-value real estate of Google’s top-10 results, it’s all about making two things painfully clear to Google:
What Is Local SEO?
Local SEO is the practice of gaining visibility in a search engine’s local results. Here’s what local results look like for the search giant burrito chicago:
There’s a map with restaurant locations pinned. There’s a list of local restaurants below the map, with all the information a potential diner needs.
This is opposed to non-local SEO results. Check out the results for what is a burrito:
No map. No list of restaurants. Nothing local at all.
Google knows that giant burrito chicago is a search meant to find a local restaurant. So local SEO results are displayed. It also knows that the intent behind what is a burrito is not to find a burrito locally. So, no local SEO results are displayed.
Restaurant SEO: SEO Strategy for Restaurants
As a restaurant, your audience is the folks who want to spend money locally. They’re looking for a local restaurant. Therefore, your primary concern is local SEO.
Restaurant SEO is all about optimizing your website and online presence to make your business discoverable in those local SEO results pictures above. Below we lay out a relatively simple restaurant SEO strategy for restaurant operations.
Local SEO for Restaurants: SEO for Restaurant Websites
Your number one priority is getting in the local SEO results. Here’s how to give your restaurant the best chance.
Optimize Your Google My Business Listing
This is the big one. About 90% of searches are done through Google. If you only focused on Google for your restaurant SEO strategy, no one could fault you. In fact, it’s what most people do. And it’s why we’ll mostly be covering Google in this post.
According to Google:
“Google My Business is a free and easy-to-use tool for businesses and organizations to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. To help customers find your business, and to tell them your story, you can verify your business and edit your business information.”
It’s basically a one-stop shop for optimizing your business’s presence in Google’s search results. Note, though, that Google My Business (GMB henceforth) is meant to complement your existing website. Not replace it.
First, list your business on GMB. To make your GMB listing really pop, first add custom images of your restaurant.
Then, include the same name, address, and phone number in your GMB listing that you use across all other online properties and platforms. And in the same format. It cannot be stressed enough: your name, address, and phone number should be identical across the internet.
Google prefers to be very confident in the accuracy of information before it shows it to its users. If your address is the same everywhere Google finds it, it’ll know it’s got the right address. And it’ll happily surface it to searchers.
Finally, ask customers for reviews. Encourage customers to leave reviews. Enter them in a sweepstakes. Give them some future discount. Here’s are two stats that from Status Labs that prove how important reviews are:
- The average consumer reads a whopping 10 reviews before feeling able to trust a business.
- 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
You can also look into the benefits of eCommerce SEO to get an idea of just what SEO can do for a business. But do whatever you can do to get customers to leave honest reviews. If you’ve got a good business, the customer satisfaction will soon outweigh any moderate or bad reviews.
And the great part about reviews is that not only do people love reading them, but Google loves them, too. Once a restaurant starts accumulating reviews, their local SEO results tend to improve. Once your GMB page is optimized, focus on Bing, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and any other sites that feature a profile of your business.
Facebook Places is another crucial component of off-page SEO. That is, ways you can increase your business’s search visibility outside of your business’s website. You can read more about off-page SEO for eCommerce to familiarize yourself with it.
While Facebook isn’t a search engine, it has a search engine. And lots of people are on Facebook. 2.7 billion monthly active users, to be precise. There are roughly 7.6 billion people on the planet.
What’s more, Facebook has the unique ability to rank really high for virtually all keywords. That’s because they have a ton of site authority.
That means Google trusts Facebook and rewards them on the results page with higher rankings. So, if done right, your Facebook page may rank on the first page of Google instead of your actual website. So, hitching your wagon to Facebook Places isn't a bad idea.
First, create a Facebook page for your business and customize it so that Facebook knows it’s a business and a Place. You can add categories, hours, address, and more. Be sure to choose specific categories, i.e. italian restaurant instead of restaurant.
Crucially, you can also:
- Add a short description
- Enable check-in
- Allow ratings and reviews
Make sure you list your restaurant as a Place by adding all the basic information. If you list your restaurant in the Local Business category (be sure to do so), you’ll be able to list.
By leaning into all the options and features Facebook offers, you can provide a whole new side of local SEO through Facebook. If you’ve got Facebook and GMB totally optimized, you’re honestly farther ahead than many of your competitors.
So you’ve got the location part down. Your address is identical everywhere it’s listed on the internet. The next piece is showing Google what type of restaurant you are with the keywords you choose to place on your website.
Restaurant SEO Keywords: Best Keywords For Restaurants
The keywords you use on your actual restaurant website are the other piece of the puzzle. Make it abundantly clear to Google your types of menu, concept, and value props. Then it will, in turn, surface your website fully confident that it meets the intent of searchers.
Google wants to play matchmaker. You have to help Google help you. Here are the basics of eCommerce keyword research to help. The principles are the same.
But, in general, you must be aware of a few different types of keywords:
- Broad head terms. These are terms like restaurants near me and bars chicago. These are typically the most difficult terms to rank for because they’re the most searched. That means lots of bars and restaurants are competing for them.
- Concept-based terms. These are more-specific keywords that related directly to your bar or restaurant concept. Things like "pizza chicago", "dive bars near me", and "best mexican appetizers."
- Branded terms. Let’s say your business is named Taco Explosion. Branded terms would be taco explosion delivery, taco explosion menu, etc.
Your keyword strategy should include all three. Here’s how to find them:
How to Find Keywords for Restaurants
The easiest way to find keywords is with an SEO tool like SEMrush. But if you’re looking to do your keyword research for free, no worries. Try the steps below.
Choose some keywords from your three groups above. We’ll call these your seed keywords. For this example, we’ll take one seed keyword, tacos chicago.
We’re going to use Google’s autocomplete and searches-related-to functions to uncover some more relevant keywords.
Look at how the geography of the search term is being narrowed down by Google. If your business is on the south side, you should target tacos chicago south side. If your business is in the city center, you should target tacos chicago loop.
And on and on. Put all potential keywords in Google’s autocomplete and see what pops up. These are all based on actual searches.
Google Searches Related to
More keyword ideas! Are your tacos fried? Are they cheap? Are they the best and in the suburbs? Great, because there are specific search terms you can target for people looking for that stuff.
Don’t stop there, though. Take the keyword ideas from the searches-related-to function and search those and get more keywords from the searches-related-to function.
You want a healthy dose of broad and specific keywords on your website and across all the platforms you list your restaurant’s information.
Google, amazingly, makes its keyword data available to people for free with these two features. It’s a good way to reduce costs in a restaurant. Take advantage of it.
Restaurant Website Description
The content you put on your restaurant website should use these keywords. What type of content should you have on your website? Three kinds.
The first is an About Us page. Here you can tell the restaurant’s story in a crisp, clear, and easy-to-read format. Try to use your keywords naturally. Don’t stuff them in and create some Searchenstein’s Monster of content.
Use them organically in sentences like a regular human would do. Google likes content that’s easy to read for humans because humans like that type of content.
Next is a few sentences on your homepage. Here you can use your keywords a little more explicitly. The sentence should exist to entice people who are searching those keywords, after all.
For example, Taco Explosion’s paragraph could be:
Hands down, the best tacos in the Chicago suburbs. From birria tacos to fried tacos, explode with us into taco paradise.
And finally, you should have your keywords in your meta information. Meta WHAT?
Read on. (Incidentally, if you want to create long-form content, check out this great post on SEO content for eCommerce.)
Restaurant SEO Tips
Mind the Meta Information
Meta information consists of two things on your website: your meta title and your meta description.
A meta title is the title of your webpage that shows up search engine results pages and in browser tabs. You can set your meta title in your content management system (CMS). Your CMS is what you log into to edit your website. Aim for a title that’s 50-60 characters long.
Here’s Pizza Hut’s meta title in the browser tab:
And here it is on the search engine results page:
See how it’s chock full of tasty keywords? Pizza delivery, pizza carryout, coupons, etc. No doubt this is the result of keyword research. They’re doing it right.
Next is the meta description. This is also a field you can set in your CMS. In the above screenshot, it’s the text:
“DELIVERY & CARRYOUT LOCATIONS ARE OPEN! Order pizza online from a store near you. View our full menu, nutritional information, store locations, and …”
That’s the meta description. It shows up beneath the clickable link on the search engine results page. Its purpose is to get people to click the link above it. The better your meta description is, the more people click your link, and the more confident Google is that your website is the right one to surface for a particular keyword.
Don’t Forget the User Experience
More and more, the SEO performance of websites is based on user experience data. For example, how long do the visitors who visit your page stay on your page? How many things on your page do visitors interact with? How far down do they scroll?
Google considers all of these when ranking pages. Google is in the business of satisfying customers, just like anyone else. And they don’t want to recommend unsatisfying, unimpressive websites.
That’s why your website should:
- Have a copious number of photos. Include your dining room, food items, executive chef, restaurant manager and servers, and your menu. People are visual animals and the more visual elements on a website, the better the user experience.
- Link to a version of your menu that’s not just a photo. Having a published ADA-compliant HTML QR code menu is a great option. That way it’s accessible by both search engines and assistive technology.
- Be mobile responsive. This means your website is optimally viewed on both a mobile device and a desktop computer. Most modern website makers (Wix, Squarespace, WordPress), have decent mobile responsiveness out of the box. In practice, a mobile responsive website will have its words and visual elements scale for optimal readability based on the size of the screen.
Use Social Media
Social media doesn’t directly impact SEO, but it does impact traffic and visibility. And those impact your performance on the results page.
Embrace Technical SEO
Here’s a comprehensive post about eCommerce technical SEO which is a great introduction to technical SEO, in general. The two primary takeaways for technical SEO for restaurants is running a technical SEO audit and implementing structured data markup.
Run a Technical Audit
This is a task you need an SEO tool like SEMrush for. You’ll be able to input your URL and crawl the website finding any potential SEO errors or areas of opportunity.
A good technical audit will uncover:
- 404 errors. This means the server wasn’t able to retrieve content for the page. In other words, the link’s borked. The page doesn’t exist.
- URLs without HTTPS. The “S” stands for secure. This is the required protocol for websites now, and Google does not like surfacing HTTP pages. To get HTTPS pages, you have to make sure you have an updated and accurate SSL certificate.
- Any XML sitemap issues. All sites have an XML sitemap. They help Google navigate your website as it crawls it, trying to figure out its meaning. All XML sitemaps should be formatted as XML documents, follow all listed XML rules, and include every current web page on the site. Then that XML sitemap is submitted to Google Search Console. all current web pages on your site.
- Duplicate content. If any of your pages repeat the same content, Google doesn't like it. A good technical audit will uncover any instances of duplicate content on your website.
- Meta information issues. Remember the meta title and meta description from above? They have recommended maximum character counts, 60 and 160 respectively. An audit will show you meta information character length, too.
There’s a whole heck of a lot more a technical audit can uncover, but these are the big ones to look out for.
Using Structured Data Markup
The idea behind SEO is to help Google understand your website’s content. Only then will Google readily surface your website. It wants to be sure it’s providing the right content to its users. That’s why developers use something called Schema to help with that.
Schema is a standardized vocabulary and taxonomy for labeling parts of websites. By including certain words in the code of your website, you’re telling Google exactly what a certain element or piece of content is.
Let’s take reviews, for example. You may have reviews on your website. Google may be able to deduce that they are, in fact, reviews. But Google can do it a whole lot faster (and be a whole lot more confident in its deduction) if you mark the reviews section with a Review Schema tag.
There are a lot of useful Schema tags a restaurant can use to help Google. Tags that make it clear the business is a restaurant, accepts reservations, serves a certain type of cuisine, has a published menu on the website, etc. Using Schema tags is a relatively advanced SEO method and it’s best left to developers.
There you have it. You can go off and get started with your restaurant SEO now. It’s not an obvious part of bar profitability, but it’s a big one. It slots in nicely next to a bar inventory management system like BinWise Pro. Both give you a leg up on your competitors, and you need as many legs up as you can get in this business.