How to market your brick and mortar or mobile restaurant online in 2021 (post-COVID).
[updated December 2020]
Word-of-mouth, print, mobile app, and social media marketing tactics all work at increasing brand awareness for your restaurant, which in 2020 being such a volatile year - these methods couldn't be more important. But SEO spreads your branding farther and more sustainably than anything else. It’s a marathon approach, however, so it requires a plan and a committed effort to reap any rewards.
Knowing this article has been shared on Toast, iEatery, Uncorked ,and other places - I recognize its value to the restaurant community and decided to update it, to ensure it's as relevant and timely as possible.
So, without further ado, here are our (updated) Top-12 Restaurant SEO Tips taken directly from our internal cookbook that is sure to fill your parking lot, sidewalk, and inside tables as well as pick-up orders for 2021. While this isn’t the Joy of Cooking equivalent to DIY SEO tips, it covers some top-performing methods that most people can do themselves and if they outsource - will find easy to implement.
1. Keyword Research:
Think for a minute about how you search for things online. You type words into a search bar, hit the enter key, and in half-a-second are presented ten options, maybe a map and a few paid adverts to pick from. Things work the same for voice-search like on your phone or in-home/kitchen appliance. To have any sustainable visibility on search engines – you need to be using the right key-words throughout your website and internet assets like Facebook, images, articles, press releases, restaurant listing, and ordering apps.
Keyword research will discover the right words that will increase the visibility and discoverability of your restaurant. When thinking of keywords, also consider what category you best fit into. There's a Syrian restaurant in Providence that identifies as both a bakery and restaurant - but if they were given the option of either Syrian Restaurant or Bakery to classify themselves, I'd suggest the restaurant over the bakery. The average person might be more likely to try a new restaurant out, with some expectation of what food to expect, but might otherwise pause on what would be offered as a bakery. This category feature is prominent for most restaurant listing sites (called citations) as well as for their Google My Business listing - which is a direct feed to Google Maps that can literally drive traffic to their door or curbside.
No matter the flavor, keywords are the centerpiece for all internet marketing.
2. Website Optimization:
Going on the notion you’ve got your keywords cooked up, you now need to get those words into the right spots on your website, so they can work for you. Here is where you need to put your primary keywords:
Page Title (aka META Title)
Page Description (META Description)
Words actually on your pages, like your restaurant description and menu offerings
Within image and video filenames - this is before you upload to your website.
If the administrative part of your website allows for “META Keywords” only enter the primary category you used for your Google My Business listing - and no more. Just that single category. The only use for this feature is for category classification - and that's very limited by today's standards - so don't spend too much time here.
There are literally thousands of rank signals for your website, but these item areas are a great place to start. For more information on what technical and compliance issues exist for your website, take a minute to conduct a website SEO audit - whoever is handling your SEO or website updates can do this. You can also reach out to me if you need help with this.
3. Restaurant NAP:
By our observations, 80 percent of businesses have errors in at least one element of their business name, address, and/or phone number (aka N A P or citation data) - the restaurant industry is no different. I’ve written about business citation accuracy before, so no need to detail it again – suffice to say that getting this correct is paramount for local search engine visibility. In addition to this NAP, make sure your hours are prominently visible on your website. Adding your complete contact info and hours to the footer of your website will make sure your complete contact information and hours of business are listed on every page. Search engines feast on those morsels of NAP info and can reward your business with greater visibility for optimizing it.
4. Restaurant Schema:
This bit of HTML is useful for clarifying things like your restaurant category, menu offerings, opening hours, address, accepted payments, and other information to search engines in their own language (code). This isn't a universal element - restaurant schema is unique for your industry. Accepted by all search engines, this advanced tidbit is a must-have for restaurants reliant on local visibility and being discovered for mobile and voice searches. Which is all of them.
5. Map & GPS:
Make sure you have a custom Google map embedded on your contact or locations page – but not just any Google map – and make sure this is tied to your Google My Business listing. Leave no doubt to Google where you are!
6. Online & Menu Apps:
Have a menu on your website? If not – it’s a must, just make sure the navigation to the page is clear and discernible so people and search engines will easily identify it. Using a simple “menu” as the navigation text is a safe bet here, and use only text or a .pdf file to list your menu. Search engines can only see text, so if you use an image to represent your menu, the details will not be picked up by search engines. Consider adding a downloadable .pdf menu on your website, so it can be easily shared or tucked inside a kitchen or office cabinet for quick call-in ordering - but make that an option - having to download a menu on a mobile phone is a turnoff to many people. And don’t forget to add your menu link when working on those restaurant citations (below)!
7. Restaurant Citation and App Management:
I've mentioned Google My Business earlier as a must-have restaurant destination, but there are others to consider that either drive direct-traffic to your door, make your phone ring with orders, or who share data with other search engines and websites to do the same - a brief list of ones to consider include:
It’s a cliché to say, but content is the raining king for any marketing. Make sure your content is well written, is free of grammar & spelling errors, contains the high priority keywords, and tells a mouth-watering story to your readers. Hire a writer if you don't have the time or writing skills, it's that important.
Websites stopped being online brochures a long time ago – so make sure the tone of your site doesn’t sound like one - or look like one. The plus side for your efforts is that you can use this wording for your citations and apps, as well as on social media!
9. Social Media:
While not typically the go-to for lead gen, social media during the pandemic has been a primary way for restaurants to share timely (and ever-changing) closing & opening dates, day & hour changes, menu updates, pickup options, and sitting options. Keep with it!
If it's happening - share it on at least Facebook and Instagram. You can post to both right through Facebook Business Suite, check it out, it's a real time-saver!
Online reviews not only are great selling points for your restaurant, but search engines could reward you for being such an excellent business by bumping you up in rankings & visibility.
How do you get them you may be wondering? There're tons written about that, but in short - ask for them! Yup, it's that easy! Well, it's not easy at all actually, but with some staff members training and diligence - it gets easier. But like hokey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky would say "you miss 100% of the shots you don't take."
If you spot people carrying on about their dessert - that's a review opportunity. See someone taking a picture of their favorite grinder - that's a review opportunity. Your wait staff receives a compliment - yup, that's a review opportunity! Two people taking an arm-stretched-out selfie - offer to take it for them, then tell them your @sign, so you can share it! There are tons of opportunities for reviews and some free PR, but you'll need to help make it happen...
See 1-10 above - and do them. Commit to it, even if that means hiring someone to do it for you. These are not too complicated for an experienced marketer to do.
These 11 tactics work like any recipe, each ingredient brings its own BAM! to a dish. But when combined, it's all deliciously effective.