Unfortunately, many restaurant owners have beautiful websites with little to no traffic. Considering that 90% of sites get zero search traffic from Google, it’s clear that the old saying “if you build it, they will come” isn’t always true.
The Internet is very competitive, so you need a good restaurant SEO strategy to identify ways to improve your site to build traffic. By implementing these tips, you can rank higher on Google, leading to more visits, sales and profits.
Optimizing Keywords for SEO
Potential customers find your site by typing–or speaking–words into Google and other search engines, so making sure that these keywords appear on your site is very important.
By selecting the right keywords, and then putting them in the right places, you can significantly increase the chance that your website will appear on the first page of Google.
Choosing the Right Keywords
Determining what keywords could lead people to your restaurant’s website is the first step in a good restaurant SEO strategy. You can figure out what those keywords are if you:
- Think about your customers – Imagine yourself as a potential customer: what words or phrases that are related to your restaurant could he or she type into Google? If you own a pizzeria, “pizzeria (name of city)” or “pizza in (name of city)” are good possibilities.
- Use Google Autocomplete – Ever notice how Google gives suggestions as you type? After brainstorming possible keywords, try typing them into Google. If you start typing “pizza in (city)” and Google autocompletes “best pizza in (city),” that means a significant number of people are typing that phrase into Google, so it’s a potential keyword, too.
- Use a keyword planner tool – Brainstorming and autocomplete are good ways to find keywords, but you don’t know how many people are searching for those keywords or how many sites are competing for them. Programs like Google Keyword Planner give you specific information so that you can pick the best words on which to focus.
Including Keywords in Content
Once you choose the keywords you want to target, you have to use them in your website’s content. When writing text, uploading images or recording videos, be sure that you:
- Use your focus keyword at the beginning of your content – The beginning of an article tells you what the rest is going to be about, so Google looks at the beginning of a page to better understand its purpose. For example, if you want a page to rank for “pizza in Chicago,” use that phrase in the first paragraph or two of text.
- Repeat the keywords in the content, but not too much – If you want a page to rank for a certain keyword, 1-2% of the words on the page should be that word. Less, and Google may not identify the target keyword. More, and Google may penalize you for keyword stuffing, trying to manipulate the algorithm by overusing your keyword.
- Incorporate variations of the keywords – If your keyword is “pizzeria Chicago,” including variations such as “pizza restaurant Chicago” and “pizza place Chicago” will help you avoid overusing keywords, as well as possibly rank for secondary terms, too.
- Optimize images and videos – In addition to using high-quality, clear images and videos, inserting keywords into file names helps you rank in image search.
Putting Keywords in HTML Tags
For a complete restaurant SEO strategy, you also need to incorporate keywords into the HTML code that forms the structure of your site. Important parts of the HTML code include the:
- Title Tag – When you look at search results on Google, title tags are the big, bolded letters that you click on to visit a site. So, be sure to include keywords so that you can describe your site to Google and attract clicks from users.
- H1 Tag – After clicking on a search result, the H1 tag is the “title” at the top of the page. If you sell pizza in Chicago, including the keyword “pizza in Chicago” in the H1 tag is a good idea so that both Internet bots and hungry people know the purpose of your page.
- NOTE: In many content management systems, H1 tags are used to make title tags, but they don’t have to be the same.
- H2 and Other Header Tags – H2 tags, like “Optimizing Keywords for SEO” in this article, break text into sections. H3 tags, like “Choosing the Right Keywords,” break text into even smaller subdivisions. Including some of your target keywords in these headings is a good idea, but no stuffing–organize your content with the user in mind.
- Meta Description – When looking at Google search results, the 1-2 sentence description of a website underneath the title tag is the meta description. This extra information tells bots about your site and convinces users to click, so be sure to include target keywords.
- Alternative Text (Alt Text) Tag – Text that describes images. Originally developed so that screen reading programs could describe images for blind users, Google now uses alt text to make sense of images.
Correcting Technical Issues
Besides putting the right keywords in the right places, optimizing the technical aspects of your website is crucial for good SEO, too.
Optimizing Site Structure
Although technical SEO can get complicated, structuring your restaurant’s website properly is a good start. It’s very important to:
- Use a logical site hierarchy – Most users expect to see links to the “About,” “Menu,” and “Order Now” sections on the homepage. If people have to visit the “About” page, and then the “Menu” before they see “Order Now,” they will probably be confused–as will Google bots.
- Remove broken links – If you delete a page from your site, remove any links to it as well. If people click on a link and see “404 Error,” they may get frustrated and leave your site. Search engine bots will do the same.
- Avoid duplicate content – Do not copy and paste text on multiple pages. Google sees it as spammy, so it penalizes sites with the same content on multiple pages.
- Make your website mobile-friendly – Internet users are much more likely to visit your site on a smartphone than a desktop, so keep that in mind. Avoiding small fonts and including a search bar will make it much easier for mobile users to navigate your site.
Increasing Site Speed
Research has shown that many people will leave a site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. Since site speed is a Google ranking factor, it’s important to always:
- Compress images before uploading them – Large images will slow down your site, so use a free online image compressor such as Optimizilla to reduce their size. For images already on your site, use a plugin such as Smush to compress them.
- Limit the number of content management system (CMS) plugins – Although plugins are helpful, too many can slow down your site, so only install plugins you need.
Making Your Website Secure (SSL Certificates)
You may have noticed that some web addresses begin with “https” instead of “http.” “Https” indicates that the site has a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Certificate protecting users’ login credentials, credit card information and other personal data. If your restaurant has a website, installing an SSL certificate is important because:
- Both customers and Google feel more confident if a site is secure – Customers are more likely to place an order, and Google is more likely to rank the site on the first page, if there is evidence that the website’s owner takes security seriously.
- Many hosting services like Bluehost and HostGator offer SSL certificates for free – Simply activate your SSL certificate in your host dashboard, then download a plugin.
Promoting Your Website
Just like a brick-and-mortar restaurant, if you don’t make people–and search engine bots–aware of your site, it probably won’t get much traffic. Once your website is built and optimized, it’s time to turn your attention to promoting your website.
If a website links to another, it’s because the owner of the first site thinks the second site is well-done. Google knows this, so sites with many backlinks rank higher. If you want link building to be part of your restaurant SEO strategy, here are some ideas on where to get links:
- Chamber of Commerce – Although you will likely have to pay a fee, most SEO experts say that a link from your area’s chamber of commerce is valuable because it is a site that is both local and trustworthy.
- Local business associations – For links that are trustworthy and relevant, local business associations are great. For example, if you own a pizzeria in Chicago, find out if there is a Chicago restaurant association website where you could get a link.
- Related businesses – Direct competitors probably won’t link to your site, but related businesses might. For example, if you serve cookies from a local bakery in your pizzeria, you should consider asking the bakery owner for a backlink.
- Local newspapers and other press – Newspapers are local and trustworthy, so a press release about your grand opening or a feature about a significant achievement is a good way to build valuable backlinks.
- “Top” Lists – Potential customers love local “Top 10” or “Best ____ In ____” lists, and so do SEO experts. If you realize that your pizzeria is not on the “Best Pizzerias in Chicago” list, contact the author and offer a free meal for a review.
- Guest posting on blogs – Although the links aren’t local, writing articles for other sites is a good way to get links. For example, if you quit your job to open a restaurant, writing about your experience for an entrepreneur blog is a good way to get a link.
- Sharing content on social media to generate organic backlinks – Although social media doesn’t directly impact SEO, it can help your content go viral. If many people see your content, there’s a good chance that some of them will link to your site.
Local SEO for Restaurants
Most SEO best practices are applicable to all sites, whether they be large or small, local or international. However, there are extra things that local businesses like restaurants need to do:
- Setting up a Google Business Profile – Formerly known as Google My Business (GMB), your Google Business Profile is a business listing that contains information about your business such as the location, hours, photos, videos and reviews. This profile is important because it helps you rank in local searches and appear on Google Maps.
- Creating profiles on Yelp and other review sites – 98% of people read online reviews of local businesses at least “occasionally,” so having reviews in addition to those on Google is beneficial. Your Yelp profile is another place to get a good backlink, too.
- Getting citations on review sites and local directories – Think of citations as mentions on the Internet. Even with no clickable link, mentioning your restaurant’s name, address and phone number (a NAP citation) is beneficial to SEO. Good places to get citations include local directories such as:
- Better Business Bureau (BBB)
- City Search
Many restaurant owners create websites that struggle to get traffic. Unfortunately, with so many websites on the Internet, you need a good restaurant SEO strategy if you want traffic.
By optimizing your site with keywords, correcting technical issues, promoting your website to build links and following local SEO best practices, you build a foundation so that over time you can get high-quality traffic to your site that leads to more sales and increased profits.