How often have you visited a restaurant without checking the reviews first?
Given that the food industry is so saturated, you can’t expect enough people to show up to your restaurant if you’re not adequately visible online.
There are many ways to enhance your restaurant’s discoverability, from having a responsive and appealing website to reviews and social proof. However, the best way to get started is with search engine optimization (SEO).
Restaurant SEO helps to optimize your website and social media profiles for the search engine. This is achieved through the creation of targeted content based on your audience’s search intent.
This type of SEO includes elements such as on-page, off-page, and technical SEO—all of which collectively help your restaurant rank higher in the search results.
So, if you’re interested in learning more about making your restaurant SEO-friendly, this article is for you. But first, let’s understand why exactly restaurant SEO is so important and how it makes your restaurant more visible to the search engines.
Why is SEO important for restaurants?
Fact: 68% of online experiences begin with a search engine.
Now, imagine if somebody searches for a good restaurant in your local area and your business doesn’t show up. Consistently losing out on such opportunities can hurt your business drastically in the long run.
Enter SEO marketing for restaurants.
SEO can boost your website up the search engine results pages (SERPS) and subsequently bring in a flux of new customers.
Search engines use certain parameters to assess web pages and rank them for the relevant keywords. So, when you optimize your restaurant’s online presence with unique recipes, blogs, and photos, your restaurant will show up more often whenever somebody searches for the right keywords.
Still wondering how you can benefit from this? By incorporating SEO into your marketing strategy, you can:
- drive better traffic by optimizing your website for certain keywords and specific questions;
- increase your rank in the SERPs and reach a qualified audience to generate more targeted leads;
- create brand awareness; and
- get an edge over your competition.
While SEO has the potential to seriously enhance your online presence, it’s better to learn the basics before you start scaling your strategy.
How to Strategize Restaurant SEO
Instead of shooting arrows in the dark, start by undertaking ample research. Luckily for you, we’ve done the legwork to guide you through the process of building your restaurant local SEO strategy from scratch.
Define Your Target Audience
Do you know who your ideal customer is? If not, then now’s the perfect time to consider this. Think of the customer base you’ve served so far and then use a survey to get more accurate results.
Look at the Olive Garden, for instance. The restaurant’s target audience includes:
- Fans of Italian cuisine
- Families and large groups
- People looking to grab a bite at the drive-through
So, study your customers and create a buyer persona. Ask questions like:
- Which age groups do you cater to?
- What kind of cuisines does your audience like?
- What are their top preferences for each course and beverage?
As you answer these questions, you’ll get familiar with your target audience and understand their needs and pain points.
Find Suitable Keywords
Once you know who your audience is, the next step is to prepare a list of keywords relevant to your business—both locally and globally.
A keyword like ‘eateries near me’ is pretty common and beneficial for a restaurant to rank for. Adding more details to this keyword can be a game-changer. So, try targeting your cuisine as well to increase your chances of ranking higher, for example, ‘Mexican eateries near me’.
Spy on Your Competition
You can see that a restaurant near you has gained a lot of traction lately. It shows up top in the SERPs for a range of different keywords—and naturally, the place is buzzing with customers. That’s the power of SEO. Checking out what these competitors are doing can be advantageous to your own strategy.
For example, look at the Local Pack results below for the search term ‘best pizza place in New York’. All three restaurants have a few things in common—they’ve optimized their Google Business Profile listings to include opening hours, address, cost per person, reviews, and ratings.
How can you get your restaurant to the top of the search results?
Ranking on Google’s first page is nothing short of a dream come true.
But getting to the top is a long-drawn-out process. You’ll need to create a targeted roadmap to ace the restaurant SEO game, and your website should be at the core of this.
Here are four key actions to consider as you work to build a successful website.
1. Do Your Homework
Scratching the surface and only taking basic SEO actions won’t get you great results. If you want your website to rank on top, assess your marketing and SEO goals first.
These goals can be to:
- Boost website traffic
- Get more leads
- Reduce bounce rate
- Expand your mailing list
Once you’ve determined your goals, evaluate your website and find the scope of improvement to make your website SEO-friendly.
Let’s look at the restaurant SEO success of Venue Restaurant and Lounge for inspiration.
The restaurant wanted to increase brand awareness by riding on the premium quality of its food. To rank for high-conversion keywords related to its food, the brand worked on content and technical elements to enhance SEO performance, leading to phenomenal results.
Note: This example predates the Google My Business rebrand to Google Business Profile.
An all-inclusive SEO marketing for restaurants approach combines building backlinks, mobile optimization, use of targeted keywords, use of Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords, and the creation of quality content.
This approach will eventually help you rank higher, drive more quality leads to your website, and increase footfall to your restaurant.
2. Deliver a Great User Experience
The user experience of a website is a vital aspect of SEO marketing for restaurants. Creating a tremendous navigational experience should therefore be a priority.
This includes considering:
- Visual aesthetics
- Clarity of navigation
- Snippets of the latest news
Bresca presents the perfect design for a user-friendly website. This DC-based restaurant flaunts its beautiful ambiance and offers key details about reservations on the homepage. Users can easily learn more about the restaurant through the navigation bar at the top.
Besides improving your website’s user experience (UX), focus on the following three aspects of Google’s Core Web Vitals to enhance your website’s impact.
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
This is the time that the largest element on your website or URL takes to load. Web content usually loads as soon as a visitor enters a page—so people have come to expect this. If your website pages take too long to load, it can avert a reader from your pages.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
This measures the sudden changes in text structure or visuals on a page without prior warning. This shift can often be annoying and ruin user experience by moving them to another part of the page without notice. Hence, CLS helps provide an excellent experience to your visitors.
First Input Delay (FID)
This measures the time taken for an action to complete. For example, if the user clicks on a button on your page or link.
Here’s how you can determine the score for these three metrics:
So, focus on creating a seamless customer journey while optimizing elements like loading time and responsiveness.
Use visuals to show visitors what they can expect when they visit your restaurant and give them a peek into your ambiance, kitchen, and happy customers. However, make sure these visual elements adhere to the Core Web Vitals best practices.
Your website should also include key details like:
- Opening days and hours
- Complete location with map
- Parking facilities
Adding these details while optimizing for Core Web Vitals will improve your website UX by a huge margin.
A word of advice: You can keep track of your Core Web Vitals for free with this Chrome extension.
3. Encourage Users to Take Action
A call-to-action (CTA) button is the most direct way to encourage users to take action. This action can be anything, such as booking a table, browsing the menu, leaving a query, or calling the restaurant.
Ensure your CTAs are crisp, clearly visible, and optimized for the right keywords.
Noir’s homepage demonstrates how it’s done. This New York-based restaurant ranks very well for the search term ‘Best restaurant in New York’. Noir’s website flaunts minimalistic aesthetics with neatly placed details related to Covid guidelines, along with the description of its upscale dress code, hours, and ambiance.
However, what catches the eye is the ‘Dining Reservations’ CTA button, which leads to a booking calendar where users can effortlessly make a booking. By strategically placing this button, Noir encourages customers to take the desired action.
4. Make a Mobile-friendly Website
You might be surprised to know that mobile searches account for 54.8% of organic website traffic globally.
Mobile optimization is significant because it allows your customers to access your website anytime and anywhere. Besides improving the user experience, a responsive website can:
- Help to boost search rankings
- Increase credibility and trust
- Improve navigation
Optimizing your website for mobile is also important as it can encourage a visitor to stay longer on a page, which can prompt them to convert into customers, and may also reduce the bounce rate of your site.
Once your website is live, you can create several intent-based pages to target different long-tail keywords and increase your restaurant’s SEO score.
Eight Top Tips to Optimize Your Restaurant Website
SEO is a long-term strategy. You can’t just rely on trial-and-error. So, here’s a rundown of eight proven tips to level up your SEO game:
1. Perform Restaurant-Focused Keyword Research
Your ideal customer can find your restaurant through keywords. Strategically placing your primary, secondary, and other long-tail keywords on your website is crucial to expanding your discoverability.
Optimize your site with keywords related to the customers’ search intent and answer relevant questions like:
- What cuisine do you serve?
- Where is your restaurant based?
- What are your unique selling points (USPs)?
The best place to start your keyword research is Google Trends. Here, you can search for specific keywords and find out the search volume across multiple locations globally. This free tool can help you find keywords you already rank for and discover which websites are ranking on top for these keywords.
Here’s a Google Trends report of keywords based on the search term ‘Italian restaurant’:
You can further divide this search based on:
- High-level keywords: Such keywords are broader and have high search volume. They are difficult to rank for because millions of other websites are also trying to rank for them. ‘Philadelphia restaurants’ and ‘Restaurants in New York’ are high-level keywords.
- Niche-specific keywords: Every restaurant serves a different type of audience—you might serve Mediterranean cuisine while the restaurant on the next street specializes in comfort food. Niche-specific keywords represent this uniqueness in terms of cuisine or specialty. So, ‘deep-dish pizza in New York’ or ‘best dairy-free ice cream’ are niche keywords.
- Brand keywords: These keywords are narrower. They appear only when a user is searching for your restaurant and queries specifically related to it. For example, if your restaurant’s name is ‘Yummy Ice Cream’, your brand keywords will include ‘Opening hours of Yummy Ice Cream’ or ‘Menu of Yummy Ice Cream’.
2. Do On-page Restaurant SEO
On-page SEO helps search engine crawlers understand if your content is related to your website and assess its relevance for the visitors. On-page optimization involves a complete audit of the elements on your website.
To ace on-page SEO, try taking actions directly on the website to further push your content towards top-ranking positions.
The following are crucial on-page elements to optimize:
These tell the user about the main content of any page in the SERPs. Meta titles can be seen as the heading of the webpage.
The meta description appears just below the headline in the SERPs and provides an overview of the content. The ideal length for a meta description is 155 to 160 characters. It should be a summary of your page that includes the focus keyword.
Heading tags inform both the crawlers and the users about the content of a website. They create a comprehensive layout for a page.
Note: The use of meta titles, meta descriptions, and heading tags doesn’t directly affect SERP rankings. However, this does provide helpful information to the user, and can encourage them to visit the website. This in turn can increase the clickthrough rate of a site, which can indirectly boost search rankings.
3. Use Schema Markup
Just like human beings, machines have their own language. Schema markup is structured data that educates the search engines about your content and helps them evaluate whether the information displayed on your website is relevant for the users or not.
Ideally, your schema markup should answer your target audience’s queries with specific information about your restaurant. Schema markup can include:
- Cuisine and location
- Ratings and reviews
- Opening hours
- Reservation and booking details
4. Build Citations
Citations are business listings on online directories. Building citations for your restaurant on popular review websites—which is where people usually find a restaurant—can significantly improve your domain authority.
Citations typically include your restaurant’s basic details, such as name, address, and phone number (NAP). These citations are a key element of SEO marketing for restaurants as more than 70% of people are likely to view your website as reputable if it appears on business directories.
While creating citations is a time-consuming task, you can always hire a virtual assistant to save you time and achieve your goals faster.
Some places where you can begin creating citations are:
- Google Business Profile: This application boosts your local search ranking by informing the people if your restaurant is near them and if they can visit you. It’s a free tool that adds more credibility to your restaurant.
- Bing Maps: Adding your restaurant to Bing Maps means that people can find you via the directions on the map, making it easier for customers to visit you.
- Facebook: By listing your business on Facebook, you can reach a slice of its 2.89 billion active monthly users. You can also do location targeting to attract customers from specific locations.
93% of consumers look at reviews for local restaurants to find the most suitable place based on their likes and dislikes. This figure is enough to underscore the importance of reviews in building your reputation and authority in the online world.
5. Get Reviews
Reviews help in highlighting your USPs and securing new prospects. More importantly, reviews can majorly influence buying decisions as they reflect real user experiences. They’re a great way to engage with your customers and you can utilize this feedback to improve your services and restaurant local SEO.
Being featured on review websites ties in well with the previous point, as these also provide valuable citations.
Some trusted websites for restaurant reviews are:
This site has 45 million users with a good mobile-optimized website where your customers can leave easy-to-read, single-line reviews:
Yellow Pages connects local businesses with customers, so a review on this site is good for your local ranking:
This site has more than 224 million unique app reviews. Yelp helps locals discover your business and helps you to retain customers through the positive reviews you gain on the website:
6. Genuinely Engage on Social Media
More than 3.78 billion people use social media globally—and this number’s expected to increase to 4.41 billion by 2025. With so many users worldwide, you have the chance to reach a large audience and grow your business through social media.
While social media doesn’t directly affect your restaurant’s SEO ranking, it can amplify your brand name and increase traffic to your website.
Collaborating with influencers is a great way to spread the word about your restaurant and blow up your social media account. Another important step to boost your social media presence is to curate an aesthetic feed.
As an example, Nobu is one of the most followed restaurants on Instagram and it’s a celebrity hot-spot. Nobu’s Insta feed is the perfect blend of colors and real-time stories that invite people to visit the restaurant:
You can post consistently on social media by easily scheduling your posts with a dedicated tool. Post pictures of memorable moments, celebrity visits, or special events and festivals to get greater engagement.
YouTube Marketing is also a great way to get your restaurant in front of new customers with inspiring videos of your cuisine, chef, or special events.
7. Encourage Customer Reviews, Interactions, and Social Mentions
Genuine reviews from your customers and mentions on other websites and social media accounts can enhance your search engine ranking score. Encouraging reviews shows your customers that you care about their opinions and their feedback on the services you provide.
When you respond to reviews or comments on websites or social media, it helps Google to auto-suggest answers for the FAQs related to your restaurant. Your local restaurant SEO efforts will also bring results when your customers actively leave feedback and give reviews.
Chop Shop engages with customers on Yelp by responding to every positive and negative review, which is a great way to show its engaged with its audience:
8. Create and Promote Groundbreaking Content
Quality content plays a key role in informing, persuading, and reminding customers about your restaurant.
Creating a blog is crucial to driving organic results for your website. Divide the blog topics into relevant categories—like cuisines and beverages—and target a variety of keywords in the food industry.
Look at how Taco Bell shares all its latest updates in the news section:
Here are some interesting ideas for your restaurant blog:
- Recipes: You can discuss the secret to your most famous dish or release a series of try-at-home dessert recipes from your chefs.
- Customer stories: These stories can be about the positive experiences that your customers had while visiting your restaurant.
- Food-related articles: These can be about the origin of your dishes or why a certain ingredient is used in a recipe.
- Best practices: Talk about your policies and initiatives, such as why you don’t use any plastic in your restaurant or which charities you donate to.
- Event highlights: Share information about an event with a celebrity guest or explain if there was something unique about the food or decor on a particular day.
The next part is to distribute your content. Create a distribution pipeline to share your blog posts on social media and within your email newsletter.
Be Consistent for Local SEO Restaurant Success
Restaurant SEO can help to place your brand in front of your target audience. To reach the top of the search results, you need to have a detailed SEO strategy with consistent efforts.
Once you start ranking for your target keywords, follow the advice in this article to maintain your place. Build a seamless user experience and regularly update your website as per the latest Google updates.
You might also want to seek help from a digital marketing agency or consult an SEO expert to supplement your efforts. With a strong online presence and ongoing optimization, you can take your restaurant to greater heights—both locally and globally!