Is your restaurant leveraging digital channels to get more customers?
Getting customers in an industry as competitive as the restaurant business comes with a number of unique challenges. One of these challenges is the growing expectation of consumers being able to access information about your restaurant online. So being present online is essential to your success.
Here’s the problem: you have a million and one other tasks on your plate (pun fully intended). You have to prepare the menu, negotiate with suppliers, hire the right personnel, and make sure everything is in pristine condition. With your energy divided into all areas of your business, you don’t have time to tend to a website and market it effectively.
Can you get by without a website in this digital age? Can your customers still find you in search engines?
We’ve got some good, and some not so good news for you… Eventually, we recommend you have a website. Your own asset that you own in the online world. However, in the short term it is still possible to rank on page one of a Google search even if you don’t have your own website.
Want to know how?
It’s all about understanding local SEO. So in this article we’ll talk about how to use local SEO to boost your restaurant’s Google ranking without necessarily having a website of your own.
How to start a strong local SEO campaign for your restaurant
Increased competition in the restaurant industry means you need to focus on the unique things you can offer your audience, and one of these things is proximity, according to the Local Search Ranking Factors survey.
It makes sense.
No one wants to drive 20 miles to eat a delicious dinner. People want to find the best places that are closest to them. Sure, you can’t change your restaurant’s physical location, but you can influence other factors that drive your prospects’ searches and make you a top ranking business in your area.
Setting up a local SEO campaign is quite a practical and straightforward process. However, you do need to know your ABCs of local search and use the proper tools to make it effective.
You don’t necessarily need an amazing website (or a website at all!), as long as you stay on the top of Google’s search results with the strategies below.
Let’s take a look at how you can make it happen.
Start by setting up Google My Business
According to Google themselves “Google My Business is a free and easy-to-use tool for businesses and organizations to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. By verifying and editing your business information, you can both help customers find you and tell them the story of your business.”
The local SEO study I cited previously from Moz ranks Google My Business as the number one source of traffic for local businesses. So, it’s paramount that you learn how to set it up correctly.
Let’s take your restaurant business as an example. Firstly, people will need to find your location and physically come to you (or at least be close by if you only deliver within a certain radius). Secondly, you will have plenty of competitors, so you need to optimize your Google My Business page to perfection.
Step 1: Create a Page and Claim Your Business
One of the first steps for getting Google My Business set up is to create a business page and claim your business.
Your end goal is to have something set up so that it looks like this in a Google search:
Make sure that you meet Google’s quality guidelines. In other words, it’s vital that you understand what it takes to create a good listing and the information Google wants to see.
Take a few minutes to read the guidelines carefully and learn about how to verify your location and represent your restaurant business accurately.
Once you have a good understanding of Google’s requirements, it’s time to choose the right category for your business. Be very careful with this selection since the classification you pick will influence every Google search from now on. For example, if “family restaurant” fits your business better than “Italian restaurant,” then that’s the category you should pick.
Step 2: Complete Your Business Listing
If you want to make your restaurant listing attractive to both search engines and your audience, then you need to complete it thoroughly.
Here’s the thing: Google will always give preference to the listing that offers more information. Plus, searchers will also be inclined to pick the business that provides as many details as possible.
Don’t fill out just the basics, such as your address, business hours or phone number. Also include special hours, photos, a link to your menu, the type of payment you accept, and so on. Most importantly, make sure that the information you provide is accurate.
Here is an example of a listing from Ribs & Burgers that is well populated with relevant information:
Step 3: Make It a Presentation, Not a Spectacle
Your Google My Business page is not the place to show-off, or use tricks from your marketing magic bag.
Present your business professionally and offer valuable insights that will convince customers to choose you over your competitors.
Help your prospects see the good things they can find at your restaurant. For example, don’t forget to mention your green terrace or special pancake recipe that everybody loves. You can do so through photos, videos, or stories. A media enriched page will look more attractive to searchers than one that provides just the basic information.
Below is an example of a media-rich Google My Business listing from Pink Salt in Double Bay:
Step 4: Engage with Your Existing Customers
Customer reviews are another important factor people take into consideration when choosing a local restaurant from a search – plus they help with your Google ranking.
Take care of your existing customers and always be prompt in responding to their feedback. Encourage reviews and let them speak for themselves.
According to a 2016 Brightlocal study, 84% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Use this to your advantage and don’t hesitate to ask for feedback from your loyal customers.
Your customers can see a selection of reviews from directly in a Google search like this example from Tetsuya’s in Sydney:
By clicking on “View all Google reviews”, a list of all the customer reviews pops up:
The visibility and accessibility of these reviews makes them a key component to your local SEO strategy.
Don’t stop at Google
Don’t stop at Google to make your restaurant business relevant in search results.
Make sure you know which other sites your audience use to look for recommendations in your niche.
For example, you could build your business page on specialized websites like TripAdvisor or Yelp, as they will often appear in Google search results too. There are also other aggregation sites such as Zomato to consider.
Use their established traffic and audience to show up on page one without your own physical website.
For example, when I search for “Pizza Surry Hills” the first two organic search results are TripAdvisor and Zomato:
Use geotags on your images
Here’s a smart trick to bring even more customers to your business page from a Google search.
Put some time into creating a small database of visual resources such as location-based pictures of your restaurant, happy customers, eye-catching visuals of your menu items… anything you can think of.
When you are uploading an image of your restaurant to Flickr, Picasa or other image platforms, fill in the tags with your location and other keyword-rich information. That way, you increase the chances that your restaurant will show up on the first page of Google. Preferably with a beautiful looking visual of your signature dish!
Geotagging your images is not a difficult process, and it will improve your local SEO significantly, so take full advantage of it.
Connect social media accounts to your business page
As mentioned before, it helps if you combine multiple online sources that point to your business page, so you cover as much virtual ground as possible – without having a website.
Be on Facebook, Instagram or FourSquare and always mention your business page in your profile descriptions. This way, you gain additional exposure and get more referral traffic to your page.
The more people that see your business page on Google, the more likely Google is to show it to other searchers because they perceive it as interesting and relevant. It’s a win-win.
Having a professional-looking website and optimizing it to perfection isn’t the only way to rank high in Google.
It may sound odd, but as we’ve demonstrated above, local SEO matters just as much (or even more sometimes) than having a website for your restaurant.
Are customers finding you when they search for local restaurants on Google?
If not, think about how you can apply the above tips to get the visibility you need.