Since restaurants are one of the few businesses these days that do not operate primarily through e-commerce, they often overlook the importance of their website and SEO practices. However, on Google, the query “food near me” is one of the most popular – and 84% of people have admitted to entering in this search.
Furthermore, only 48% of these queries were for specific business locations, which means that over half of these hungry consumers were simply looking for any restaurant that would strike their fancy.
In order to drive in more customers, restaurant owners must be keenly aware of their website’s SEO and online presence. Unfortunately, this is something that is often placed on the back burner (excuse the pun).
SEO for restaurants is a critical piece of the success puzzle. You need to be showing up on the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs) when local customers search for “restaurants near me”.
So, how can you ensure that your restaurant is achieving a significant online presence?
For as many good local SEO practices as there are for restaurants, there are plenty of mistakes that can often impede your ability to rank highly on Google searches – some can even wreak havoc on it!
Curious what they are?
Let’s dive in.
1. Failing to Answer The Basic Questions
Google is designed to determine which webpage results will best match up to a searcher’s intent. They use complex algorithms and natural language processing to figure out what information will provide the best answer.
When it comes to restaurant searches, most people are going to be looking for information that will help them decide whether or not they want to dine at that establishment. According to the National Restaurant Association’s report, the most common pieces of information customers search for are directions and hours of operation.
Uberall’s report (via Search Engine Land) found that over half of all local searches are for special discounts that businesses in the area are offering. So, if a restaurant is running a special or offers deals for Happy Hour, they could attract more local customers.
Unfortunately, many restaurants never think to publish this information online or keep it updated, which could lose them many customers who are looking for local deals.
In order to avoid this mistake, keep your restaurant’s website refreshed and updated with all of this information. This can help you jump to the top of the SERPs – like this restaurant whose website mentions “happy hour.”
2. Leaving Reviews on Yelp
The same study from the National Restaurant Association also found that 58% of online restaurant searches were specifically looking for customer reviews. And, of course, one of the most common places that people go to find and leave feedback is the restaurant review site Yelp.
Many restaurant owners fear checking Yelp too often because disgruntled customers are apt to leave complaints and negative reviews that can hurt their business. Ignoring these bad reviews can actually hurt your company’s reputation – and may even influence its SEO as well.
According to Chatmeter’s study, the quantity, velocity, and diversity of online reviews play rather significant roles in Google’s local ranking factors.
On Google My Business’s support page, the search engine states that “high-quality, positive reviews from your customers will improve your business’s visibility.”
But what is truly interesting to note is that Google also checks to see whether or not a business responds to reviews.
Therefore, taking the time to reply to both positive and negative reviews can help your restaurant’s SEO.
89% of people check to read the company’s responses to reviews – and about one-third of customers will actually rewrite a negative review if the company takes the time to respond and offer condolences.
3. Not Promoting External Links
Link building is another major factor that can affect your Google rankings. Having a good number of inbound links from external sites can improve your own website’s credibility. Therefore, giving Google a reason to boost your website on the SERPs.
But again, this is something that many restaurant marketing teams fail to capitalize on.
Now, the keyword here is credible.
Just because someone mentions your restaurant on their Twitter or Facebook does not make it necessarily a credible link (although this can be great for social proofing and user-generated content).
However, if your restaurant is mentioned in online blogs or other restaurant-related publications like a food magazine, these are more credible links. But rather than just leaving things to chance and hoping that a local magazine publishes a piece mentioning your restaurant, there are several ways that you can take things into your own hands.
First of all, go ahead and ask.
Reach out to local and national publications like food blogs and magazines to let them know why they should feature you on their own websites.
For example, does your restaurant have some truly unique items? Maybe the décor is out of this world or you are debuting a new specialty menu. These subjects will be of interest to their audience and give their writers a starting point for an article. Keep in mind, going this route will likely cost you a pretty penny.
If you know some talented writers or work with a marketing agency, you could also consider submitting guest content to be published on behalf of your name.
And finally, if your restaurant is mentioned by another publication or on a website, promote it! Share the links on your social platforms and any other content outlet you have. This can help to increase traffic through these external links and boost your own ranking signals.
4. Forgetting to Update GMB and Yelp Listings
In order to answer the most common restaurant-related queries, Google will often rely on GMB (Google My Business) accounts to pull information like hours, address, and phone numbers.
An unfortunate mistake that many restaurants are guilty of here is failing to keep this information up-to-date – especially with last-minute changes, such as holiday hours. Be sure to refresh your GMB regularly if you change anything in regards to basic contact or business information.
You should also be sure that your GMB is updated with the correct content, such as cuisine types, discounts, and specials, etc. You can even upload menus to your GMB account so that searchers can easily browse through your selection.
Uploading this can also help you boost food and beverage keyword presence to drive in more organic traffic.
5. Failing to Create a Mobile-friendly Website
More Google searches are now made on mobile devices than desktops. In the food and beverage industry, 72% of searches are coming from smartphones. If your restaurant’s website is not optimized for the smaller screen, there is little doubt that you will lose potential customers.
Even though customers may not be buying directly through your website like they would an e-commerce store, the mobile experience still matters. Studies have found that nearly 60% of people claimed they would not recommend a business if their website had a poor mobile design.
Your website needs to make a good impression with customers before they walk through the door. Since most customers form their impression through a mobile device these days, you need to make sure that the experience is optimized.
Make sure that both versions have a similar look and feel to keep the branding consistent. Also, your mobile website should offer the same features, but be organized in a way that makes it easier for users to interact on a small touch screen.
Here is an example here of a restaurant website that is clearly not optimized for mobile.
Compare their desktop version:
To their mobile:
As you can see, their mobile version is essentially just a list of options and the overall design is quite poor. You can see too that there is no search option, and the abundance of tabs makes it fairly difficult to navigate through.
Here’s a better example of how a restaurant’s site should be made mobile-friendly:
In this one, the website can still be clearly seen below the dropdown menu in a more appealing layout. The options are also more organized, making it a little bit easier to search through. Furthermore, the most important call-to-action (CTA) (in this case to make a reservation) is clearly visible.
The key to mobile-optimization is to make it as easy as possible for customers to get what they want out of your website. Make sure that the most important information and CTAs are front and center and categorize other options in an intuitive drop-down menu.
6. Ignoring Website Speed
Another commonly overlooked website element that impacts your restaurant’s SEO is the loading speed of your site. Many search engines will penalize you for a slow loading speed -since this has a negative effect on the user experience.
If your site takes more than just a mere matter of seconds to load, most customers will likely leave. This increases your site’s bounce rate, which again, hurts its ranking signals.
You can test your site speed with Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool, which will analyze your performance and offer feedback for improvements. It will also show you your mobile speed as compared to desktop loading speeds.
With this information, get to work fixing any errors that may be slowing things down, such as excessive Flash content, un-optimized images, issues with your website’s code, or bad hosting service.
7. Not Having a Blog Section
Many restaurant marketers skip over creating a blog section because, well, who reads restaurant blogs?
While it may not necessarily seem like something a customer would seek out, this type of content marketing is an incredibly useful restaurant SEO tip that can help drive in organic traffic.
This gives you an opportunity to include more of the best keywords for restaurants throughout your site – without keyword stuffing your home page. It is best to balance your keyword density throughout (especially when it comes to long-tail keyword phrases) so they are integrated more naturally.
Let’s say you own a vegan restaurant that caters to health-conscious consumers. With a little keyword research (using Ubersuggest), you will find that various phrases related to vegan food are trending – particularly in relation to location or specific cuisine types.
In order to capitalize on these trending searches, they can be integrated into blog posts that are related to your restaurant specifically.
For example, say that your vegan restaurant serves various types of international dishes. By tying that into a piece with the keyword “German vegan food”, you can drive in more traffic from these searches.
8. Forgetting to Put a Location Map on the Website
Placing a map on your restaurant website might not seem like a big deal. However, you are wise to always maintain the mindset that Google rewards websites that make life easier for their visitors.
Posting a map on your website only adds to the user experience, which in turn, helps local SEO for restaurants.
From a user perspective, there are many reasons to do this.
For one, it helps customers get directions without having to open Google Maps and search for your business (first world problems, right?). They can simply click on the map and get directions immediately. Additionally, they can see a street view of your restaurant to provide extra context.
Two, the data that comes with this map can include your address, phone number, and any other GMB information.
Three, it gives the user nearby points of interests – like parking or activities to do before/after eating at your restaurant.
Having a location map on your website does a lot to improve the user experience. Fortunately, the process of embedding a Google Map on your website is pretty straightforward and can be done in a few clicks!
Even though your restaurant is a brick and mortar establishment, the website should never be an afterthought if you want to keep business flowing. The number of searches for “restaurants near me” is only continuing to rise – and if your business is not on the top of the SERPs, you will lose out on a lot of hungry customers.
By using these tips, you can create a far more impressive website, a better UX, and a stronger SEO strategy that will help you make your way to the top.
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