This guide will answer the questions:
- What is SEO? (Search Engine Optimization)
- Why is SEO important for restaurant websites?
- What you can do to improve your site’s search ranking
- Official search engine guidelines from Google, Bing and Yahoo
What is Search Engine Optimization?
Each of the three major search engines — Google, Bing, and Yahoo — use a secret formula for deciding which websites are favored in searches, and which are not. The idea behind these formulas is to limit spam and irrelevant links from coming up in results.
And for the most part, they work pretty well.
Search-engine optimization (SEO) means when you are designing your restaurant website, you make certain decisions to be sure it doesn’t appear to the search engines to be spam or irrelevant.
A well designed website that takes into consideration its SEO will tend to rank higher up in the search results — closer to the top.
Since most people click the first few results in search and ignore the rest, this is an important marketing strategy. Keep in mind that the results are organized based on the search terms entered. You can’t rank first for every search, unfortunately.
While the basics haven’t changed much in recent years the rules of SEO are always evolving. As the search engines get better at detecting spam and exploits used by scammers it becomes harder to trick the search algorithm.
Read More: Restaurant Target Marketing
Why is SEO important for your Restaurant Marketing Strategy?
80% of people check online before they visit a new restaurant. If someone searches for “family style Italian restaurants near me” and that’s the type of service you provide, you’d better believe that the quality of your restaurant’s SEO is going to affect whether you serve that person tonight or not.
If you fail to rank on the first page for the searches you want, paid links could put you on the front page without having to optimize your restaurant’s website. But most people ignore the ads.
The goal of search optimization is to put your restaurant’s listing on the first page of what are called the “organic” or unpaid search results. These are the ones that people trust the most.
The first thing you need to rank in search is a website. If you don’t have your own site then you can’t make the changes needed to control your SEO. When someone performs a search, Yelp and Facebook results may come up instead.
The fact is that you don’t have a say in what goes on on these pages and it puts you at a disadvantage. Other people get to control the message and the conversation.
Next, follow the simple SEO rules of design given by Google. Follow these rules from the first page you design all the way through your site. Don’t try to game the system. The search engines have a lot more experience with dirty tricks than you do.
If you get caught using old-school tricks like keyword stuffing and long strings of irrelevant or hidden text, your rankings will be penalized — perhaps permanently!
How to Damage Your Restaurant’s Search Ranking
The number one rule of SEO for restaurant marketing is:
Don’t try to game the system.
The search engine’s computers have become very smart about detecting tricks and will penalize your website’s ranking if you try to outsmart them.
For example, you can’t just copy “Italian Restaurant” 100 times at the bottom of your website and hope that will get you a top ranking in that category. While this worked in the past, it hasn’t been like that for many years.
You’ll need to work for a better ranking. But there is a way.
Focus your restaurant’s website on what’s relevant to your customers, and for those who are researching their next meal. This means putting yourself in their shoes and providing an experience that you’d want to have when looking for a restaurant to experience.
Read More: Restaurant Target Marketing
How to Have A Great Search Ranking
The most important ranking you need to focus on is local restaurant search results.
These are the people closest to you, and Google knows. They’re hungry and within driving distance. They’re the ones you need to target to be successful.
To rank well in local results, Google needs to know where you’re located, obviously. Make sure your phone number and physical address are on your restaurant’s website, either at the top or at the footer.
Google also needs to know what kind of cuisine you specialize in, and what kind of ambiance to expect. So use your web page to talk about your food, location, and amenities.
Use detail in your writing, thinking about some of the words people might string together for searches. For example,“outdoor cafe with fountain” or “happy hour till 7PM” will tell Google that your page is relevant when those searches are performed. Write about the restaurant’s history and your inspiration but keep your use of keywords natural and in the context of what you’re writing. It’s important that your use of keywords don’t look artificial or over-thought. Unnatural language will turn off your readers and damage your search ranking.
Another way to improve your local search results is by getting your website linked to from outside sources. Register your website anywhere online that has a directory, including Yelp, Facebook and Google Maps. If your local newspaper has an online dining guide register your restaurant there as well.
The idea is to have your restaurant’s address, phone number, website and menu listed on as many different platforms online as possible. When this information appears on many different websites, the search engines determine that it is accurate. Since the search engines like to provide accurate information in results, it will push your restaurant’s rankings up.
SEO Guidelines from Search Engines
Google doesn’t want people to write websites for search. They want websites to be designed for people first, then for search engines second. To accomplish this, Google is very secretive about what the exact rules really are. Especially when it comes to how it decides which sites are considered for the number one position.
They change their secret formula periodically to improve it so the rules can also change.
But they do have some guidelines you can follow to improve SEO for restaurant marketing.
When you visit the official guides provided by the search engines, you’ll notice that there are a few consistent pieces of advice:
- Don’t attempt to game the system.
- Create high-quality content free from typos.
- Get linked-to by other web pages.
Here are links to the official content guidelines for each of the major search engines:
Happy SEO-ing! This guide is part of a series on restaurant marketing provided by Rezku. Rezku is a restaurant management technology developer dedicated to providing affordable, efficient and effective systems to the restaurant industry. Find out more about our reservations systems and our iPad point of sale on our website.