Running a restaurant is difficult. You have to worry about customer service, ordering ingredients, payroll, taxes, benefits and…oh yea… you have to make great food. While your plate is already full (no pun intended) (I laughed) the last thing that you want to worry about is marketing. Unfortunately, having great food just doesn’t cut it (pun); marketing is a necessary evil.
While there are many different ways to market your site, Search Engine Optimization (or SEO for short) is one that is so important, but often overlooked. According to Wikipedia, SEO is “the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s “natural” or un-paid (“organic”) search results.” SEO is an online marketing tool to ensure that your website shows up toward the top of Google (and other search engines) when a potential customer searches for a keyword that is relevant to your business. There are several steps in the process and I’ll outline the major ones in this article. We’ll dive deeper once you are comfortable with the basic concepts.
Ranking #1 in Google for just anything isn’t good enough. For example, if you are a sushi spot in Philadelphia, you probably don’t want to rank #1 for “best lasagna in Philly.” You want to rank for terms like “sushi restaurant,” “best miso soup” or even “best sake in Philly.”To start, you would develop a list of 20-25 keywords that are important to your business and divide them into ad groups. (Maybe explain this concept) If you did this in Excel, your spreadsheet may look something like this:
Figure out different groupings of terms that make sense for your business and bulk up each grouping with individual terms. You can use Google’s keyword tool to do this as well.
Once you have developed and grouped a list of keywords, you’ll want to target these terms to a landing page. Think of a landing page as a page on your site that speaks to a different keyword grouping. Sticking with the sushi example, you’ll want to have a page on your site that discusses your sushi roll offerings.Try to include images of each dish along with explanations about what each one is. You may even want to incorporate video to show how your master sushi chefs prepare each roll.
By making this page as comprehensive as possible, you’ll send a strong signal to the search engines as to what this particular page is about. Coupled with some more of the best SEO practices, you’ll begin increasing your website’s ranking potential and drive more visitors to your restaurant.
Content is the gas that fuels any SEO campaign. By including your targeted keywords within the content of your sites, you’ll increase your ranking potential. The best place to do this is the menu. Want to rank for “Philadelphia sushi roll?” Make sure you have a corresponding HTML menu on your site. Also, be sure to include prices for transparency.
One important place to add content is your homepage. Typically, the homepage has the most SEO value and the highest ranking potential. You can leverage this power by including a few paragraphs about what your site is about. Here is where you would mention the most relevant keywords If you owned an Italian restaurant, you would mention the signature dishes along with the address. You would also add in images attractive dishes along with important restaurant staff
A great way to create even more site content (and also introduce other keywords) is on a blog. Many restaurants are utilizing the power of their blog to engage with customers and provide updates about food or service. You may want to speak about a New Year’s Eve special, or run a contest. A blog would be the perfect outlet.
Google works by sending “crawlers” out to different sites. These crawlers find content and bring it back to the servers. Within the server, Google uses an algorithm to parse the data and rank websites accordingly. Having killer content is great, but it won’t help if the search engines can’t find it. So, how can you make sure that Google can find your content?
The first thing that you should do is avoid sites that use a lot of Flash technology. While beautiful, these sites can sometimes serve as dead ends for the search engines. You should also make sure that you are not restricting access to your site within the robots.txt file. If you are using a WordPress template that you downloaded, or your site was designed by a friend, you should be fine, but missing the mark here can really limit your site’s SEO potential.
Also, be sure that all of your site’s links are working. Simply click through the site to make sure nothing is broken or use this tool to make life easier.
Gone are the days when it was just kids on Twitter talking about what they had for breakfast. Your potential clients are here and they are looking for recommendations on the next best thing. Check out this tweet:
What if your restaurant were to reach out and tweet something like “hey, we have some great sushi! We are also a Zagat rated restaurant (if that was true.)” I know that I’d feel extra special if a restaurant reached out to ask me that. Shoot, I would probably actually give it a shot.
This isn’t just limited to Twitter. Check out Instagram, Facebook and even Pinterest. Wherever your customers are hanging out, you’ll want to set up shop. Just don’t be creepy. Aim to help people, even if you don’t always recommend your food.
With a newsletter sign up form, you’ll be able to collect email addresses of people who opt in to hear about your stuff. Once a week, send out a newsletter with some pics of your best dishes. Send it out a little before lunch so people are nice and hungry. Maybe run a promotion for your most loyal customers so that they can enjoy a special or even discounted meal.
I recommend MailChimp and it’s 100% free up to 2,000 emails per month.
Link and Citation Building
Everything that I listed above can be easily done by a savvy webmaster. If your strategy is easy, anyone can do it. If anyone can do it, it’s not a competitive advantage. One competitive advantage is link and citation building.
A link is a clickable reference from one site to another. In the eyes of the search engines, it is seen as a vote of confidence from one site to another. If my site has more quality “votes” than your site, my site will rank better for the keywords that we share (assuming everything else is the same.)
You should definitely start with citation building, and a popular destination is Google Places. While Yelp is also just as viable, Places is a Google owned property, and I think that they would show that a little more love. Run a search for your brand name in Google and see what comes up. You will probably see that someone, somewhere has created this for you already. You will see something like this:
Click ‘Manage this page’ and Google will walk you through step-by-step. The steps are really straightforward. If you claim this location by phone, it takes about 20 seconds.
Link building, on another hand, is a different animal. It involves outreaching to different websites to convince them to link to you. Take a look at this site.
This article was written in 2013 and ranks on page one of Google for the term “best sushi restaurants in philly.” If I owned a sushi restaurant, I would reach out to this author and ask if they would be willing to do an updated 2014 version of this. I would even go as far as to offer them a free meal at my restaurant to prove that I deserve mention. If your food is dope, this would be a no brainer.
Lastly, we move to dreaded reputation management. You may be the new managemer of a restaurant that was run into the ground financially, or even one with a terrible PR mess on its hands. Or, you may have made your own mistake and you want to turn things around. The best place to turn in this case is Yelp.
While you can’t delete anything that has been written about your business, you do have the opportunity to engage with a disgruntled customer, and may be able to turn things around. Offer them a free meal to make a better impression. Maybe even just be human and apologize. We all make mistakes.
Also, encourage positive reviews. Once the customer pays the bill, add an insert to the receipt that says something like “Enjoy the meal? Share your experience with your friends on Yelp.” Enough great reviews will push negative reviews down and, before you know it, people can forget the past. Just be sure that you follow Yelp’s guidelines, you really don’t want to upset them.
Got any more questions? Want to let us handle some of the SEO for your restaurant? Feel free to reach out to us. We would love to help!