SEO For Restaurants – Improve Local Rankings. Complete How-To Guide

by Toby

September 25, 2019

seo for restaurants and gastropubs

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
Important
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.

Consider this:

  • 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.

Restaurant Near Me Search Growth
Search Growth in Google for “Restaurant Near Me” Searches

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.

Local SEO

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.

Google Map San Diego
How Google Defines 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 start 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 the 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:

Google My Business Menu of Information
Inside Google My Business – Menu Of Information To Fill Out

After you click on Info, you will see something like below:

Google My Business Detailed Information
Google My Business Detailed Section About Your Restaurant

Google My Business Info Section

Name

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 who 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.

Add URLs

Particularly crucial for restaurants – list the following
URLs:

  • Website
  • Menu URL
  • Order Ahead URL if you have
  • Reservations URL

Add menu options

Add Restaurant Menu To Google My Business

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.

Google My Business: Choose Your Primary Restaurant Category

Additional Google My Business Primary Categories
Other Google My Business Primary Restaurant Categories

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.

Question and Answers Restaurants in Google My Business
Restaurant Question and Answers in Google My Business

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:

Google My Business 1 Month Impressions
Google My Business Impressions Data From 1-Month

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

Google My Business Impression Growth 1 year later
One Year Later This Restaurant’s Exposure in Google Had 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 who 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.

Look for Your Competitor’s Citations – Other Websites That List That Restaurant

Data Aggregators

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.

Website Optimization

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.

Keywords

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. My SEO agency is in Temecula and I was in my office when I did this search so the related searches Google uncovered that people were using had Temecula in them. If these anecdotal-related searches are relevant and apply to you, incorporate them into your content.

Google Related Searches
Google Related Searches – These Appear At The Bottom of Search Pages

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.

Blogging

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.

On-page SEO:

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:

  1. Search for your business in Google Maps
  2. Click on the hamburger menu in the top left
  3. 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.

Google Rich Snippet Restaurant Menu
Google Rich Snippet Showing A Restaurant Menu In 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
  • Reservations
  • 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.

Restaurant Menu Rich Snippet in Google Example
Another Example Of A Restaurant Rich Snippet Showing A Menu

Example of Restaurant Schema – JSON-LD


 

Increase engagement:

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).

Mobile-Friendly Website

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.

Mobile Usability Report Google Search Console
Mobile Usability Report – Google Search Console

Technical SEO

Hosting

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:

Example Of A Robots.txt File

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):

Example XML Sitemap
Example XML Sitemap Showing URLs On A Website

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.

Other

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!

Google Reviews Showing In Search Results
Google Reviews For Restaurants Showing In Search Results

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:

Restaurant Knowledge Panel Showing Aggregate Review Ratings
Restaurant Knowledge Panel Showing Aggregate Review Ratings From Other 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

Restaurant Marketing Ideas To Drive Food Sales Up
Facebook Ads For Restaurants
Restaurant Marketing Strategies To Get New Customers

Got questions or feedback? I welcome any comments below.

About the author 

Toby

Toby is the co-founder of 39 Celsius. He has over 20 years of digital marketing experience and has started several different companies throughout his career.

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