There's no denying that for restaurants, ranking well in Google is essential to an effective restaurant marketing strategy. Google is one of the first places hungry potential customers go to find food. So it cannot be ignored if you care about new business.
Mobile search is dominant now among consumers, and Google's Android operating system is the dominant mobile phone by a large margin - three to one (3:1) over Apple's iOS. So what this means for you as a restaurant: Google search, and Google Maps are integrated into more people's phones than any other service. And as a result, 97% of all search traffic goes through Google. So when people are hungry, they go to Google to find food, get directions and read your reviews.
If you want more traffic from Google organically and without ads for your restaurant, then this post is for you. Five tips and strategies you can implement now to improve your rankings and traffic.
What is Restaurant SEO?
SEO for restaurants is the process of optimizing your restaurant's presence in Google so it shows at the top of Google for relevant search terms. The process - your SEO strategy - focuses on optimizing two core assets: your Google Business Profile, and your restaurant's website. (Related post here on, what is local SEO?)
Google Business Profile
Your Google Business Profile (GBP) - formerly known as Google My Business - is the main element for optimization and ranking in Google. What shows in Google local search at the top of the page is a 3-pack of GBP profiles. And similar for Google Maps - what shows is your GBP.
Here's an example:
And most of the click traffic in a Google search results page goes to these top 3 listings, so if you're not showing up at the top or in a 3-pack, then your competitors are eating your lunch (sorry, pun intended).
So the first step in improving your restaurant's Google exposure is ensuring you have claimed and set up your restaurant's GBP (click here to login and create a profile if you haven't already). Make sure you fill out your profile as thoroughly as possible, including images and videos of the food and experience, your hours, links to your website and online ordering, and most importantly, choosing the correct category for your restaurant (i.e., pizza restaurant, Italian, Korean, etc.). The category is one of the essential elements so choose wisely.
Schema Markup & Structured Data
Schema markup code is unique code that is placed on your website and tells Google all the crucial details about your business - what type of restaurant you are, your geolocation, your days and hours of operation, and other necessary information.
Without schema markup, it can be difficult for Google to understand what type of restaurant you are, when you're open, where you're located, and more.
When Google visits your website, it only sees text on a page. Of course, Google is sophisticated and can likely figure out some of this information independently. Still, it's not as strong a signal as using schema code. Without schema, you are missing out on better optimization.
Schema code removes all doubt about your restaurant. When you add schema code to your pages, Google understands everything about your business precisely. Schema code speaks the language Google understands clearly. Here's a link to the restaurant schema options you can use: https://schema.org/Restaurant
A business can put many different types of information in schema markup. Still, the most important is the NAP - name, address, and phone. A word of caution, your restaurant's NAP info has to be consistent, so whatever you use in your Google Business profile, the same info needs to appear here.
You can use free tools to create the schema, so you don't have to write this code by hand. Schema code goes in the <head> section of your pages. Make sure the information in your schema code appears visible on the page to anyone reading it too.
Website and On-Page SEO
Make sure your website is mobile friendly. If it doesn't render well on mobile devices, that will negatively affect your site's chances of showing in search results. Of course, your GBP will still show, but a poor user experience on mobile devices for people who click through to your website will hurt your conversions and new customer business.
Images and Videos:
Ensure you have professional images and videos of the experience that reflect the brand for website visitors. Showcase your food and kitchen, too. Using images and videos and applying some basic SEO will allow you to show in more places within Google and help you dominate local search.
Below is an example - I highlighted the Video tab where your videos would show, and to the right is the Image tab. Applying good SEO to videos and images will help you show here. People want to get the vibe of your restaurant through images and video so make sure you are utilizing this. Image search has huge volume so don't ignore this.
Think of Google search results like the shelf space at a grocery store - the more spots you occupy, the better it is, and the fewer spots your competitors have.
Use image and video SEO:
Here's a related post on using YouTube videos on your site for better SEO results.
Page Title tags and Meta Descriptions
Create unique title tags and meta descriptions for each page. This is one of the first things Google reads when it crawls a page to determine the topic. It's not a ranking factor per se but tells Google what the page is about. Title tags should be approximately 55 characters long, and meta descriptions should be approximately 155 - 165 characters long.
Citations and Links
Citations are essential for improving your presence within Google. Citations are just other websites that list your NAP - name, address, and phone number. Google uses citations as 3rd party validation that you are whom you say you are. The closest analogy is personal networking - the more people you know, the more prominent you are and the more conversations you will come up in.
Examples of citations include Yelp, Facebook, Yellowpages, Dunn and Bradstreet, and hundreds more. What's most important is the consistency of your NAP information. Because inconsistency in this information means it may not be correct. And as a result, Google loses confidence in your business information and demotes your ranking. The last thing Google wants to do is provide a user with incorrect driving directions or the wrong phone number; thus, your business will rank lower.
Many citation sources will also provide a link back to your website. Links aren't necessary, but they certainly help.
So if you belong to the local chamber of commerce, make sure your listing is set up correctly with your NAP and links back to your website.
Are there other alum associations or organizations you belong to that you could also get a listing with a link? If yes, then submit your information.
Nothing kills business more than negative reviews. Therefore, make sure you are actively monitoring and responding to your reviews. Google reviews show right in search results, and I guarantee that if you have too many negative reviews or are not actively managing and responding to your reviews, your sales are suffering.
Make it a priority to respond to all your reviews and actively ask your happy customer for reviews to build up your profile.
Timing - How Soon Will I Rank?
When you start an active local SEO campaign, at a minimum, it can take 90 days to begin to see traction. And in many cases, it can take far longer.
Here's an example below - this restaurant was brand new and located in the South Beach Miami area. You can see 3 months here, but the project started in May, so about 4 months before growth really took off. Once our work kicked in, exposure took off with impressions growing 8x or more in Google Maps and Search. Your mileage will vary in terms of timing based on many factors. But SEO requires a consistent effort applied over time.
But much of your exposure growth in ranking in Google depends on the above points and the local restaurant competition. Suppose you're in suburbia where the population is more spread out. In that case, it can be easier to gain exposure sooner there versus an urban location where the population is more populous, and restaurants are closer to each other.
Start the local SEO process at least 90 days in advance of your restaurant opening if you can. Then, claim your Google Business Profile and fill it out completely. Next, focus on on-page SEO for your website. Ensure you use images, and perhaps video on your website and Google Business Profile - images and videos can help you rank in more places. Finally, work on building citations, i.e. other websites that list your company's NAP - name, address, and phone. Learn more.
A Restaurant benefits from SEO because it enables your business to show at the top of Google search and Google Maps for searches related to your restaurant. This drives in more new customers at one of the lowest costs available. Google is the number one search engine by a large margin - SEO is essential for new customer business for any restaurant. And it's on 24/7, unlike ads.
Your online presence is one of the main components to effective restaurant marketing. And ranking in Google and other search engines is essential for your restaurant's success because most potential customers are using it to find restaurants. Google owns search. And to dominate here requires on-page and off-page SEO efforts. Unlike ads, organic non-paid listings are free and on 24/7. (Read my related post on all the different features within a Google SERP you can rank in and how to do it.)
However, the best results of driving new customer business are using integrated marketing tactics across channels. If you run Google Ads at the same time as your SEO efforts, you will own the paid space and the organic, thus further dominating the search results and leaving that many fewer spots in a Google Search Results Page to your competitors.
And don't forget integrating paid social and using Facebook and Instagram ads. Facebook is the largest social media platform and between Google and Facebook you can market to almost anyone.