Is your restaurant not ranking high in Google Search and Google Maps?
If you have been ignoring your restaurant’s presence in Google Search and in Google Maps, you’re leaving money on the table for your competitors. Likely that’s why you’re reading this post.
If you want to grow your restaurant’s Google rankings through SEO and show at the top of the page, then you’re in the right place. Read on!
What Is Restaurant SEO?
Restaurant SEO (search engine optimization) is the process of optimizing your website and brand presence throughout the web so that your site ranks at the top of Google’s search pages and within Google Maps for your target keywords. Results are achieved through great website content, off-site listings, optimized Google My Business profile, technical SEO, and review management.
Why Ranking Your Restaurant on Google’s First Page Is
The first page of Google is a huge source of new low-cost customers! New customers coming from Google are the lowest cost leads your restaurant can get out of any marketing tactics.
- Google is the number one search engine by a HUGE margin
- Android is the leading mobile phone operating system which is equally as dominant as Google search
- Google Maps is the dominant online map service
Without ongoing SEO efforts to improve your search presence on mobile devices and desktop, your competitors that have invested in top of first page Google results and search rankings are stealing your business.
Consider the skyrocketing growth in searches for “restaurant near me” that began in 2013. Are you interested in capturing your share of that search growth? That’s just one search term among thousands.
Leads coming from Google organic searches are the lowest cost per lead source out of any marketing tactics you’re doing for your restaurant – bar none. Google is on 24/7.
Proximity Affects How You Rank
Keep in mind throughout the local SEO process outlined below that an element of how well you rank in Google Search and within Google Maps is dependent on your restaurant’s proximity to a geolocation (e.g., city name, town, zip code). Customers are looking for local restaurants. So if your restaurant is not physically located in the particular town the person is querying about (e.g., “Jewish deli in San Diego”), or the restaurant is on the borderline, you are not likely to rank well in Google Search (the local 3-pack that shows at the top of the search results) or Google Maps for searches with that city or town name, or zip code. This makes sense though – Google prefers to show searchers the restaurants that are nearest.
The highlighted area below is what Google considers San Diego. If you’re located outside that area it will be difficult to rank for searches related to San Diego.
Some queries have no geo qualifier terms like the city name. For example, “restaurant near me” – this query has no geo qualifier term. In these cases, Google looks at where the searcher is relative to your restaurant among all the competitors. Those businesses with the highest relevancy to that searcher along with closest proximity to the searcher typically end up ranking higher.
Of course, there are many factors that affect rankings – this post details that process and how you can positively impact your rankings by implementing SEO for your restaurant.
For Upcoming, New Restaurants: Start Pre-Open SEO Marketing Early
For a new location that is coming soon and under construction, create a speed to ramp digital marketing process that includes at least the steps below.
Start advertising the opening in advance to build awareness and market anticipation…it will plant the seed for people to search for you once your doors are open. People searching for you in Google and Google Maps will help your Google listing get traction in search results faster.
New Location Timing:
The local SEO process takes 90 – 120+ days to get traction in search and on maps so start early and claim your Google My Business (GMB) profile as soon as possible if you’re in pre-open stages. You will need to have your phone number set up and access to your mail. Google will mail out a verification postcard with a pin number that allows you to claim your Google My Business profile.
Social Media Marketing and Google Ads
While not directly correlated to SEO, make sure you place Google and Facebook pixels on your website to ensure you’re building up a remarketing list of anyone that visits the site during the pre-open marketing process. Once the doors are open, you can use remarketing campaigns to create immediate brand awareness with those past website visitors that your location is NOW open. This helps get you off to a strong start and is an essential tactic to a speed-to-ramp process. Read our related post on Google Ads For Restaurants and Facebook Ads For Restaurants.
How To Optimize Your Restaurant’s Google My Business Profile
Claim Your Google My Business profile for each location and optimize it
If you haven’t claimed your Google My Business listing, do this now! Here are instructions from Google on how to add or claim your listing.
Within your Google My Business profile page, several sections require your attention. Once you login to your GMB page (go to business.google.com), you will see a menu to the left that looks something like this:
After you click on Info, you will see something like below:
Google My Business Info Section
Make sure your name is exactly how it should be listed – no variations.
It’s imperative that your restaurant name be used consistently throughout the web – from your GMB profile to Yelp, Facebook, TripAdvisor, etc.
Variations in your restaurant’s name can negatively impact your SEO rankings in Maps and in Search. Part of local SEO signals for Google have to do with consistency in your restaurant’s NAP (name, address, phone) information. If Google sees variations throughout the web then it loses confidence that you are whom you say you are.
Add your days and hours of operation
Add any special hours.
Add your phone number
Another essential element of local SEO…make sure to add the phone number that will be used throughout the web on other profiles (e.g., Yelp, Facebook, etc)
Add a short name
This is helpful when you want to give a shortened URL to people to leave a review for your restaurant.
Particularly crucial for restaurants – list the following URLs:
- Menu URL
- Order Ahead URL if you have
- Reservations URL
Add menu options
Below you can see a lengthy menu that has been added to this restaurant’s Google My Business profile.
Fill out Attributes
This will include things like wheelchair accessibility, Amenities, type of crowd, dining options, etc
Add a unique business description
As of this writing, that is up to 750 characters of text…write unique descriptive quality content for your business.
Photos: add great images of your restaurant and the food
Make sure to show photos of the interior and your food.
Choose the correct restaurant category
Choose the most accurate Primary category of the restaurant – this can significantly affect what searches your business shows for. There are many options here, so type different categories to find the one that is the best fit for your restaurant. Once you have chosen your Primary category, choose secondary categories that apply as well.
Link to the correct location page on your restaurant website
Typically, this is the restaurant’s Home page if you’re a single location. If you have multiple locations, each GMB page should link to each respective location page on the website (you should have a stand-alone location page for each location…not just one page that lists all the locations.)
Designate “owners” for your GMB profile
Make sure you add Users as “Owners” to your GMB profile – GMB will notify any “Owners” of changes that have been made to your profile. Edits from unscrupulous people to your GMB information, such as your name, address, phone, etc, are not uncommon (anyone within Google Maps can “suggest” edits to your restaurant’s information). Often these types of changes are coming from competitors or ex-employees that want to hurt your business.
Q and A on your GMB profile
Make sure you’re checking your GMB profile regularly for anyone asking questions that need answers.
You can also ask and answer your most common questions here as well.
Google My Business Posts
GMB posts are an excellent opportunity to write about upcoming events, specials – for example, Mother’s Day Brunch you’re having.
These posts will show in your business’ Knowledge Panel in Google, so it’s great exposure to draw attention to your specials and what’s happening with your company – another opportunity to increase engagement…so another positive signal.
What Google My Business Optimization and Local SEO success looks like
From within your Google My Business profile within the Insights section, GMB will show you stats on where customers view your business on Google. This section can be beneficial in understanding what kind of exposure you’re getting and how your efforts are progressing.
GMB provides rolling data on one week, one month, and one-quarter of data so take regular snapshots of the impressions and clicks data.
Below is an example highlighting the extensive growth this restaurant client had in just over a year of exposure in Google Search and Google Maps from ongoing SEO work.
Data from 1 month in April:
And then just over a year later (screenshot below) – EXPONENTIALLY more people finding the restaurant in Search and on Maps.
Also, note that the Discovery section (blue) is the largest source of how people are finding this business. This means most customers are finding the business on non-branded queries such as by category or queries such as “restaurant near me,” or by type of restaurant.
For a restaurant that is not a big brand, having most searchers find your restaurant on non-branded queries is ideal since these are people that perhaps didn’t know of your brand but have been introduced to it through a non-branded Google search or via Google Maps. This is not always the case. Comparing this to a more well-known and popular restaurant brand, or a brand that invests heavily in local branding with traditional ads, the Discovery percentage is far less.
A Year Later – Total Searches Has Exponentially Grown
Citations: Claim and build out your profiles on other websites
Citations are other websites (e.g., Yelp, Superpages, Yellowpages, Tripadvisor, etc) that list your NAP (name, address, phone). These additional citations are signals to Google that you are whom you say you are and send a positive ranking signal to Google that your info can be trusted to show to searchers.
Consistency throughout the web of your NAP is critical to SEO success. Make sure you are always using the same NAP information and correct any incorrect listings you find on the internet that list the incorrect NAP. Inconsistent information about your business will likely negatively affect your local SEO rankings in Search and on Google Maps.
Don’t forget to create listings at GrubHub and other food-related sites as well.
Citation Competitive Analysis For Uncovering More Local Citations
Search for your competitors in Google and see what other websites are listing them locally. Do a Google search for their brand name plus city or geolocation. In the below example, you can see the different sites that list this business– click through to those sites and see if you can list your business there as well.
Push your information out to the data aggregators, such as Acxiom, Factual, InfoGroup, and more. These are the primary sources that feed the search engines along with other directories throughout the web. There are services you can use to push this information out, or you can do it manually.
Don’t forget about claiming Bing Places
Bing doesn’t get much search traffic compared to Google, but it is a good citation source and one you should absolutely set up.
Quality Content – Text, Images, Video
Content is still king on the web – text, images, and video. Up to this point, we’ve talked mostly about strategies away from your website.
As I mentioned earlier, you should have standalone pages for each location if you have multiple locations.
Write descriptive content about your location
The content on each location page should be uniquely written – this content should include things like what shopping center it’s located in, what well-known brands you’re next to, significant intersections, streets, or freeways that you’re off of and any other specialized content unique to this location.
Understand what keywords people are using to search for your type of restaurant and make sure you’re writing using those keywords. Likely there are many different types of keywords you never thought of.
Use Google Search To Uncover Keywords
There are numerous keyword tools you can use to help you uncover additional restaurant search terms. One of the most accessible tools you can use is just doing a Google search for one of your keywords and scrolling to the bottom of the page for Google’s related searches that it often provides.
In the example below, I searched in Google for “Mexican restaurant near me.” I scrolled to the bottom of that search page and Google provided related search terms that people are using as well. If these apply to you, incorporate them into your content.
Google Keyword Planner
The Google Keyword Planner is another helpful resource. This tool is located inside Google Ads and is free to use as well.
I wrote a related post here on How To Rank Your Website On Google’s First Page that has a section that goes into more depth on performing keyword research.
Blog about any events and happenings that can be picked up in search as well; for example, Mother’s Day Brunch…I can’t tell you how many people will query for Mother’s Day Brunch in their local town looking for a great brunch to take their moms to and almost no good content comes up…this is such low hanging fruit if you’re a restaurant. Most restaurant owners are just not embracing this or dedicating resources to it, and it is out there for the taking.
Amplify your content through social media
Take your blog post and create a Facebook paid ad campaign around that content and drive paid traffic to the page.
Consider a Facebook ad campaign that is more specific on campaign objectives (Brand, Reach, Conversions, Leads, etc), not just a boost post (a related post here on why boost posts are not worth it). Boost Posts are one of the worst options to choose when using Facebook ads.
Using paid social ads with Facebook and Instagram does not directly influence your SEO ranking in Google, but it does drive people to search for you more often which can play a role with influencing the organic rankings of your restaurant.
As a side note, we ran a correlation analysis between Facebook and Instagram ad spend, and Google conversions. What we found was a strong positive correlation between paid social ads and increases in Google conversions (r coefficient of 0.67). This makes sense though – Facebook is very effective at planting that brand seed in the consumer’s mind which then later sends them to Google to search for you or your offer.
Identify Local Blogs and Websites
Often local websites or other local blogs that talk about the happenings in your town need local content. Reach out to them – invite them to your restaurant in return for a blog post review or reach out to them to make them aware of your local events. These types of tactics send powerful local SEO signals to Google and can accelerate your exposure in Google search and within Google Maps. Consider joining the chamber of commerce in your town as well – an excellent example of a local website dedicated to your town or city.
Title Tag and Meta Description
Write keyword-rich title tags and meta descriptions that are unique for each page and location on your website. The Title Tags and Meta Descriptions show right in the search results and will undoubtedly influence click-through-rate (CTR) so write benefit-driven tags with a solid call-to-action (CTA). Meta Descriptions should be up to 160 characters long. Title tags should be 55 characters or less. Use your primary keyword in each tag.
Embed GMB map of your business
Embed the Google Map of your business on your location page on your website – you want to make sure it’s your business on the map that your embedding, not just the address. Here’s how you can do that:
- Search for your business in Google Maps
- Click on the hamburger menu in the top left
- Scroll down to “Share or Embed” and then click on Embed and copy the code
How to Grab Google Maps Embed Code
Optimize images for search: Add images with alt tags
Alt tags help search engines understand what your images are about, and the alt tag helps the visually impaired understand what the image is about as well.
Structured Data – Add Schema markup for your Restaurants
Schema markup is special code that you place on your website that enables Google to better understand the different pieces of content on your website that it can show in search results, for example, as a rich snippet as the below screenshot of a menu illustrates. The below screenshot has a menu showing in the zero position above the traditional organic search results.
The benefit of getting schema markup is that more of your restaurant’s content can rank in Google and occupy more space within a Google Search Results Page (SERP).
Most restaurants miss schema markup; this is another area of low hanging fruit that is NOT difficult to implement, yet your competitors are likely missing and stumbling over.
You should at a minimum markup:
- Name, Address, Phone (NAP)
- Your restaurant’s menu
- Days and Hours of Operation
There are various formats of schema markup you can use – the recommended format is JSON-LD. And, if you’re using WordPress, there is a special section for each page or blog post to add JSON-LD markup right to the head section of each page or post.
Here’s another example of Google showing a rich snippet in a search result – look how much space it occupies in Google.
Example of Restaurant Schema – JSON-LD
Add food images and embed video into your pages where relevant. Shoot videos of not only your restaurant in general but of any events and embed them in your site. Video embeds increase engagement and time on site which are positive SEO signals. Most importantly, it adds a personality to your brand.
Add a downloadable pdf of your menu – this too is an engagement signal for SEO, and it gets marketing collateral into the hands of future customers (tip: embed links in your pdf so people can click through to your website, reservations, and locations pages, and of course include all your restaurant’s contact information).
Google uses a mobile-first index. If your site is not mobile friendly it leads to a poor customer experience. Fixing mobile usability problems is a top priority for you to resolve as it will negatively affect your rankings and it leads to poor user experience. Remember your goal is to please both search engines and users through a frictionless browsing experience for your customers. The last thing you want is people pinching their mobile screens trying to see text or images.
If you haven’t already, make sure you have set up Google Search Console and check the mobile usability section for any issues.
Below is an example – hopefully, your report shows zero mobile website issues.
Make sure you have good hosting and that your site loads quickly. A dedicated host is best – don’t cut corners to save a few bucks and use shared hosting which is inexpensive but performs poorly since you’re sharing the web server with a dozen other websites all vying for server resources.
Robots File and XML files
Ensure there is a Robots.txt file and XML file for your site. The Robots.txt file is the first file the search engine reads before it crawls your site and it lets the search engine know if it’s allowed to crawl the site, what if any files or directories it should not crawl, and where your XML sitemap is located.
Your robots.txt file is loaded at the root for your website and is found at yourwebsite.com/robots.txt – your site might already have a robots file – you can check by going to the URL mentioned above.
Here’s an example:
Your XML sitemap, conversely, lists all the pages on your website making it easier for Google to crawl your entire site and find all the pages.
Here’s an example of what a sitemap might look like (we use the Yoast plugin so it auto-generates the XML sitemap):
Secure Website – https not http
Make sure your website loads securely in https. This is not hard to do so there’s no excuse for not having a site load https. Many hosts can help you with free SSL certificates.
Make sure your address and phone number are visible in multiple places throughout your website and ensure that your phone number is click-to-call to make it easy for people on mobile devices to call your restaurant with a click.
Reviews and reputation management – Google reviews show right in search!
Reviews are social proof that reflect the customer experience and will directly affect your sales. Nothing kills good SEO efforts with bad reviews – not so much that it will hurt your rankings, but more that people will avoid your restaurant if your reviews are poor.
Here’s a local pack for “restaurant near me” – Pizza Hut has only a 3.5-star rating – not good!
Many believe that reviews play some role in ranking, but most importantly, reviews will impact the click-through-rate from Google’s local pack to your GMB profile or your website, which sends an SEO signal.
Encourage reviews – add POP material to the tables with the shortened Google My Business URL or even with a QR code people can scan from the table. Encourage your servers to ask the customers that they know are happy to leave a review as well.
Be careful incentivizing for reviews – this violates the TOS of almost all review sites.
Google also aggregates reviews, so your reviews on Facebook, Yelp, and other popular sites matter as Google will show them in your restaurant’s knowledge panel.
Here’s an example of Google aggregating reviews from 3 different review sites:
Respond to negative and positive reviews – this shows management cares and interacts with its customers.
The Final Word
SEO efforts will return the highest ROI of any marketing tactics. Google can send quality restaurant leads to you 24 hours a day 7 days per week if you’re showing up high on the first page. Most in the restaurant industry have been slow to adopt SEO. The opportunity is there for the taking.
If you follow the guide above and work on the following tactics you will be in good shape. Here’s a summary:
- For new restaurants, start the SEO process early and in advance of opening if you can – create a Speed To Ramp process
- Optimize your restaurant’s Google My Business Profile and monitor it regularly for changes and add new and relevant posts
- Citations – list your business on other websites
- Check the citations your competitor restaurants are getting
- Focus on website optimization
- Ensure you have quality content on your site – text, images, video
- Does your site provide a good user experience
- Implement on-page SEO
- Make certain your website is mobile-friendly
- Technical SEO: use a good host and preferably a dedicated server
- Make sure you have a robots.txt and XML file
- Reviews and Reputation Management – respond to all reviews and encourage your happy customers to leave reviews for your business
Other Restaurant Marketing Articles
Got questions or feedback? I welcome any comments below.