People lean on Google and other search engines for practically everything these days. From directions and news to memes and recommendations, the information age has created a paradox where there’s so much information that it can be difficult for people to find what they want. That’s especially true in the restaurant industry where consumers are making restaurant searches to find new places to eat while restaurants are trying to stand out online.
Research shows that 81% of consumers have searched for a restaurant on a mobile app and 92% through a web browser in the last six months; 84% of those are likely to look at more than one restaurant before choosing where to dine. People search for restaurants more than they do for hotels, retail outlets, or entertainment and they’re using that search experience to inform their dining decisions. Investing the time and energy into improving how your restaurant's website appears in popular restaurant searches is an effective way how to increase restaurant sales.
How can restauranteurs reach hungry potential guests searching for a new place to eat? Here are five proven ways to optimize your digital footprint and generate business out of online restaurant searches.
How to Use Restaurant Searches to Increase Revenue
1. Optimize Your Site to Appear in Local Restaurant Searches
Did you know that 82% of smartphone shoppers search locally? In fact, localized searches comprise nearly one-third of all the searches on Google. When people aren’t looking up what a Florida man did on their birthday, they’re making restaurant searches to find the best places to eat near them.
At the highest levels, consumers are searching for restaurants based on location, quality, and type. They want to find the best Mediterranean restaurant in the neighborhood or plan a trip to the best pizza place in Boston when they’re in town for a conference. Some of the most common restaurant searches are phrased around “restaurants near me” or “best restaurants in INSERT CITY.”
It’s important to tailor your website copy to play up the local aspect. While investing in developing your restaurant’s brand is important, it’s not that important when it comes to converting website visitors into orders. Instead, focus on calling out the type of food you serve and which community you’re a part of. When your website says you’re “Central Square’s favorite vegetarian spot” you can capitalize on local restaurant searches for vegetarian restaurants near me, vegetarian restaurants in Boston, MA, vegetarian restaurants in Cambridge, MA, or vegetarian restaurants in Central Square, Cambridge, MA (if they’re really being specific). You may even get some hits from people who aren’t in the area currently but are scoping out their options for a future visit..
Seriously, the simplest form of restaurant marketing is to just know what and where you serve, then sharing that information in the most concise, explicit way possible. The Google restaurants algorithm is optimized to provide the best local results to restaurant searches, and ensuring your website copy plainly states your location and cuisine can give it a boost. Don’t forget to add your restaurant to local listings on Google+, Facebook, Yelp, Urbanspoon, TripAdvisor, OpenTable, and Allmenus.com too!
2. Claim Free Online Listings and Consider the Paid Ones Too
Speaking of online listings, claiming and actively managing your restaurant’s pages is essential to capitalizing on restaurant searches. Effective restaurant marketing requires an extensive online footprint and claiming listings on the top review sites, online reservation sites, or delivery platforms will help you capitalize on search traffic. Here are some of the more popular sites where you can either claim your listing for free or pay to play:
Free Online Restaurant Listings
Paid Online Restaurant Listings
AirBnb (powered by Rezy)
Most of these sites already do the hard work for you by building a webpage, locating your restaurant in Google, and optimizing your page to appear when people search their site for “restaurants in my area” or “restaurants near me.” All you have to do is claim the business and check out what people are saying. Many of the sites included on the paid list above are players in the third party delivery space. The listings they make for the restaurants who sign up for their services are also optimized for searches like “delivery near me”.
Active management of these pages will give customers more opportunities to leave reviews and allow you to address negative reviews proactively. Even more importantly, active online listing management will allow you to keep information like hours and menu items up to date, a practice that helps customers and gives your restaurant priority in Google’s search algorithm.
Manually checking and updating listing information across multiple sites can be a tedious process, but this investment of time and energy will definitely positively impact your bottom line. If you’ve found success in converting restaurant searches into business and want to invest in a solution that keeps your many online listings up-to date with the latest menu, pictures, and hours of operation, companies like SinglePlatform offer a hands-free solution for busy restaurateurs. After all, according to a survey from research firm Hotspex, a Facebook fan is worth $174 to a brand. It’s in your best interest to keep the fans coming.
3. Use Positive Customer Reviews As Marketing Material
Brand advocates are worth their weight in gold, in part due to the lifetime value of their patronage, but mainly because they also act as a lead generation channel for your business. There’s no better restaurant marketing tactic than generating good reviews. An astounding 88% of people trust online reviews as much as they do recommendations from friends and family, and 92% of people trust recommendations more than they do advertising. Positive reviews show search engines that real people enjoyed your restaurant while demonstrating legitimate social proof to customers.
Sites like Google, Yelp, Facebook, and TripAdvisor make it easy to get reviews and provide the proof your business needs to capitalize on restaurant searches. However, you can take it a step further by showing reviews on your business website. A study by Northwestern University revealed that simply displaying reviews on a site increases conversion by 270%. That same study showed that it only takes one to eight reviews to start seeing an increase.
You can easily implement reviews on your site using widgets from review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor but you can also add them through third-party tools like Kudzu, SuperPages, and Zagat. Be sure to allow online visitors to rate and review your restaurant directly on the site, too. Google counts these reviews which will lead to rich snippets on your restaurant’s search engine result pages (SERPs).
In addition, that feedback allows you to address customer concerns or analyze what aspects of your business are working well. Toast offers guest feedback integration on Toast Go, Toast Online Ordering or Toast Kiosk, allowing you to instantly garner feedback from customers and build customer relationships.
4. Create a Menu Page
An OpenTable survey showed that 93% of consumers will look at a restaurant’s menu before they decide where to eat. It may seem obvious to have your menu accessible online, but this stat clearly shows that restaurant searches that turn up appealing, updated menus can turn a browser into a buyer. Plus, as stated before, keeping your menu up to date with concise menu item names related to popular searches – like nigiri sushi, spaghetti bolognese, fish tacos, or frosé – your menu can help you in Google’s search rankings.
This doesn’t mean just uploading a JPEG or PDF copy of your menu to your website. Google uses little bots called crawlers to ‘read’ web pages for the presence of keywords and phrases; when a Google user searches something that contains that keyword or phrase, Google will then show the web pages they’ve found that contain information related to the search. The order in which these relevant webpages appear in search results depends on a number of factors, but you can help yourself rank higher by presenting important information about your restaurant – including your menu – in a concise, easy-to-read manner.
Google can’t crawl your menu if it’s a PDF, the menu needs to be hardcoded with its own page on your website. This helps consumers find exactly what they’re looking for and will make your restaurant stand out when someone searches “best falafel in Austin” or something to that effect.
Be sure to read over the menu before publishing to verify that dishes are clearly explained and descriptive. The more keywords, the better! Also, add pictures! Your food is delicious, make it look that way online. People invented the phrase “food porn” for good reason, you know. Plus, an OpenTable poll has shown that the addition of images to a menu convinced 53% of customers to order a dish that was unfamiliar to them. Sometimes people just need a little push.
5. Develop a Concrete SEO Strategy
Part I: Develop A Keyword Targeting Strategy
We’ve scratched the surface of restaurant SEO – the technical digital marketing term for converting restaurant searches into new business – and outlined a number of simple things you can do to improve your placement in restaurant searches but now it’s time to get a little more specific. To gain exposure on SERPs (search engine result pages), you need to identify keywords and phrases that best describe your restaurant.
Let’s divide these into two buckets: keywords and long-tail keyword phrases.
Keywords, sometimes referred to as main keywords, refer to terms comprised of one or two words that Google users search. Examples include: restaurants, restaurant delivery, Italian restaurants, Chinese restaurants, etc. Keywords cast a wider net for the searcher because they’re broad in nature, allowing the searcher to find a number of relevant different options in their area. They’re for the people who are really undecided on what they want for dinner. Phrases like “Thai restaurant” or “best Thai in Boston” are examples.
You may not get exposure on these keywords because they’re common and the competition is fierce. If you a do a quick Google search for “restaurants”, Google has 6,660,000,000 results; this means you’re competing against 6,660,000,000 other pages to be on the first page. Though you may not rank highly right away, it’s important to keep these sorts of keywords present on your site because as your site matures, Google crawls new pages on your site when you publish them or push out updates, they will take note that you use “restaurant” or “Thai restaurant” regularly and should be considered for the “restaurant” or “Thai restaurant” results in your are.
Long-tail keywords are terms comprised of three or more words; they are much more specific and present an important opportunity for you to differentiate your business in restaurant searches. Some examples of long-tail restaurant keyword phrases are “chicken tikka masala” or “restaurants open now” or simply the name of your restaurant. When optimizing an SEO strategy, it’s valuable to have many specific long-tail keywords so you can stand out to the people who really know what they want to eat. Good long-tail keywords can also target specific audiences, i.e. “vegetarian-friendly restaurant.”
Part II: Add Schema Mark Up to Your Restaurant Website
Now that we’ve covered specific tweaks you can make on the front end - or public facing – part of your site to improve your ranking for popular and local restaurant searches, let’s briefly touch on some enhancements you can make to the back end – where your restaurant website’s code and overall site architecture live.
One technical play you can make to improve how your site performs in restaurant searches is by adding schema markup to your restaurant’s website.
Schema is a coding vocabulary that can be added to your site’s HTML to help Google’s crawlers better read your site and, in turn, improve how you rank for popular or local restaurant searches.
Schema markup can be used to make your restaurant’s SERP appearances stand out. Say, for instance, you host weekly events like an open mic night, a local band, or trivia. You can use schema markup to show the dates of upcoming events, like this:
If you’ve added tools like third-party review widgets, you may already have schema markup working on your site. Otherwise, to reap the benefits of online listings, reviews, and a menu page, you’ll need to support them with schema markup.
It’s a scary, technical-sounding name but the process is pretty simple. If you’d like to do it yourself, you can visit Schema.org to learn how to create and add schema markup code to specific elements of your site. That may take a little time but it’s not like learning to code from scratch.
Otherwise, you can use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper, a free tool that helps you create the appropriate markup code by selecting specific options, highlighting text, and inputting the site URL. Better yet, as noted before, you can also use third-party review widgets on your site.
12Pro tip: Schema markup is especially useful on customer reviews so remember to keep generating reviews. Google sees those reviews as fresh content, which leads to better rankings.
Find Success in Restaurant Searches
Are you ready to scale your restaurant? These restaurant marketing tactics are simple but effective strategies that you can implement today to start improving your conversions from restaurant searches. Everyone is online these days and they’re all hungry. It’s time to take advantage!