The food industry is competitive and, as with many niches, restaurant website SEO includes certain techniques specific to its industry.
To start, let’s define SEO. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the strategy used to increase website visibility organically using free on-site and off-site optimization techniques. This does not include methods involving ad spend.
There are many ways to perform search engine optimization, and there is no one “silver bullet” method to skyrocket your website to the first page of search results. It takes time and effort, but the results are well worth it. Some of the ways to optimize for search engines include, but are not limited to:
- Keyword research and competitor analysis
- Website structure/organization
- Optimizing title, heading, and image tags using keywords
- Content optimization using targeted keywords
- Blog creation and maintenance
- Internal linking
- Social media accounts to build relationships and distribute content
- Local listings in reputable niche directories
- External linking
So let’s get down to the nuts-and-bolts of restaurant SEO. Who doesn’t love to eat out or pick up food every now and then? Whether your potential customers have had a long day and don’t feel like cooking or travellers are passing through your area in search of a great meal, people search for restaurants frequently, including on mobile devices. What’s more? These hungry customers rely heavily on reviews from Google and Bing, as well as social media sites and sites like TripAdvisor where customers leave feedback.
Must-Have Components of an Optimized Restaurant Website
With so many considerations to keep in mind, we thought it would be helpful to list of some of the basic “must-haves” for your restaurant’s website. Here they are:
When organizing your website, make sure that your main navigation area is intuitive for users to navigate. Your goal is for users to find the information they need within 2-3 clicks of landing on the website. Whether it is restaurant hours, location information, online ordering, catering, or menu items, it should be quickly accessible. Avoid having too much clutter on the home page and top level menu. Prioritize what items should be listed in the main navigation and which ones can be included as drop-down items beneath the main navigation.
If you have an older website that is not mobile friendly, you have several strikes going against you. First, search engines will penalize your website because it will be deemed less valuable to users. Second, potential customers will find the website difficult to navigate, especially considering that the majority of searches are done on mobile devices. You can find website design companies who offer very reasonably priced responsive restaurant website development or, if you are tech savvy, go with a DIY web design company like Squarespace to accomplish this. Just keep in mind that DIY websites do not offer the level of support you would get with a web design firm.
Highly Visible Contact Information
Your contact information, including hours, address, phone number, location, and online ordering button (if applicable), should be prominently displayed on your website, specifically in the header, footer, and contact page. It would also be helpful to include a Google map on your contact page. Your contact information should be the first thing mobile users see when they click on your site. See an example of a responsive website (smartphone view) we did for Scali Café in Boston’s financial district to the right:
Showing poor quality images can make your establishment—and your food—look less inviting. Put your best foot forward with professional images or at least high-quality images with complimentary lighting. Optimize images by filling in the “alt image” tag and “title description” tag to give users with special needs and search engines a good idea of what the image contains.
Optimized, High-Quality Website Content
Before you start writing content for your website pages, do some keyword research and competitor analysis to see how potential customers are searching and what keywords your competition is ranking for. Check out our post on keyword research for additional tips on how to do this. If you are not comfortable doing your own research, you can enlist the help of a search engine optimization expert or SEO content writing expert to help you craft keyword-specific text.
Also, search engines can’t read images, so if you have a paper menu, consider typing it out rather than including it only as an image or a PDF.
If at all possible, consider maintaining an active blog. By providing frequent content, you give search engines a chance to crawl and index your site more often, attract more visitors, and show yourself to be an authority/expert in your niche. This, in turn, can boost your rank in search results.
Customers love to check out reviews from others before trying out a new eatery. Consider including testimonials on the home page or in the sidebar area of your website pages. If you get testimonials from Google, TripAdvisor, or another similar site, cite the source of the review and include a link to the external site so the user can see more reviews. (Of course, make sure the reviews are good first.)
Restaurant Off-Site SEO Tips
Once you have set up a responsive, user-friendly website with great written content and stunning images, it’s time to do some off-site SEO for better visibility in search engines. As listed above, keyword research and content/tag optimization are important for SEO. Additionally, the following are three off-site search engine optimization tactics you can employ for even more opportunities to get in front of potential customers.
Create Google My Business and Bing Places for Business pages (especially Google).
It costs nothing to set up business pages with the major search engines, and in return you will be more visible in local searches. The image below shows a typical Google business listing as it appears in search results.
Set up social media accounts to grow a loyal following.
Restaurants often benefit from Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter since they are B2C businesses. Google+ can also benefit you since posts from G+ appear in Google search results, but don’t expect a large following. Use your social media accounts to run promotions, post coupons, show pics of featured/new dishes, and more.
Add your restaurant to local directories.
If you have ever searched for a restaurant online, you have likely pulled up a plethora of review sites related to the restaurant you are interested in. Here is a starter list of directories to get your restaurant listed in to enhance your online presence and increase the likelihood of getting in front of new customers:
With a mobile-friendly restaurant website, including optimized tags, keyword-rich content, beautiful images, intuitive navigation, off-site business listings, and social media accounts, you will be well on your way to increased traffic to both your website and your restaurant.