Senior SEO Consultant

Share
  • 0
  • 0

Admittedly, SEO isn’t likely to be the highest priority channel for a restaurant when it comes to acquiring new diners, but it does have a crucial role to play.

This is because SEO is not just about ranking on page one, it’s about having the right content ranking on page one, to satisfy a user query. With modern SERPs (search engine results pages) and changes in user behaviour, SEO is as much a customer service channel as it is a customer acquisition channel.

You might also like: Local Marketing Tips For Business Owners

As well as other channels and third-party platforms, such as TripAdvisor and Zagat, all of which create both awareness and drive customers, they also mean people might start searching for your restaurant online, so it’s important that your website is able to:

  • Provide clear opening and closing times
  • Menus that are easily readable on all devices (PDFs can be cumbersome on mobile and often require the user to download them, which is an inconvenience)
  • Able to see which menus are valid, and when (lunch time specials, a la carte, etc)
  • Able to easily book a table online (if you take bookings – and if so you need to make sure your website is GDPR compliant)
  • Able to contact the restaurant easily, without having to spend ages finding a contact number

From experience, I’d also look to cater for common questions that users have when they are researching a new place to eat, such as:

  • Do you have a children’s menu?
  • What vegetarian options do you have?
  • What vegan options do you have?
  • What gluten free options do you have?
  • Are your ingredients organic/locally sourced?

The list goes on. A lot of this might seem obvious, but from experience it’s not and a lot of restaurants are missing out by not optimising their websites for users in this way, because your website is technically your first point of customer service, so it’s important to get it right.

Not only does your website need to provide all of the above, you need to optimise it (through SEO techniques) so that when someone searches for “restaurant X opening times” or “restaurant X sunday menu”, the right page with the right information ranks for that query, making their path to finding answers easier.

Building The Business Case For Restaurant SEO

SEO done properly is not cheap, and it doesn’t come in boxes/packages/token systems/cookie cutter models, so building a business case for what will be essentially another expense is essential.

Unless of course you have a Michelin star chef, or a massive hipster Instagram following of foodies, it can be difficult to stand out in a very crowded marketplace, and this is where SEO can play a part, because:

  • Not everyone searches for brand
  • Not everyone knows the area
  • Not everyone knows what they want to eat
  • Some people just want to find something close to them
  • Some people just want to find a good deal.

It’s these areas where you can steal the march on your competition. A lot of these queries also have HUGE search volumes in the UK alone, for example:

 Search Phrase  Average Monthly Search Volume (UK
 [places to eat near me]  1,830,000
 [restaurant nearby]  823,000
 [restaurants near me for lunch]  40,500
 [places to eat near me open]  27,000

1.8 million searches a month on average is huge, and because local SEO works slightly differently to “normal SEO”, you can potentially see results a lot earlier within an SEO campaign.

Local SEO works differently to normal SEO, in the sense that Google handles the queries differently and provides different levels of result page personalisation. One of the main variables of local SEO is also the user location, so it’s not always possible to appear in every Map Pack, or in every search.


The 2018 DIY Restaurant SEO Checklist

As discussed above, SEO has the potential to unlock new audiences filled with potential diners for your restaurant, whether you’re a small independent, a startup, or a chain.

Likewise, you can do a lot of the basics yourself without hiring an SEO professional to do everything, you can also just hire an SEO consultant, to advise and provide a sense check on your activities – keeping your costs down.

#1 Optimising Your Restaurant Website

Because of the restaurant market, a lot can be achieved through some very simple structure, information architecture, content, and schema markup changes. If you’re using a platform like WordPress, all of this will be a cakewalk (even if you’re not a developer).

Whilst a good technical checklist contains ~300 checkpoints, a reasonable DIY checklist for doing your own technical (and to see some initial wins) can be less complicated. It’s also important to make sure that key content areas here meet the needs of your potential diners.

Contact Page Optimisation

If you’ve research local SEO before, you may have come across NAP, which stands for:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone Number

It’s important that this is consistent across all your online assets (Facebook, Twitter, Google My Business, directory listings built for link building…) otherwise you’ll be sending mixed signals to both Google and your users.

If you’re near to a train station, or bus station, or even a local monument, include a brief “directions from section” as well as a map, that way people can gauge how far away the restaurant is from familiar landmarks, and adds an element of familiarity.

It’s also important to remember why people navigate to your contact page, it could be too:

  • View opening times
  • Call the restaurant
  • View the location
  • Book a table (if this is the case, do you have another part of the site for booking a table? Cater for these lost users and point them to it! It’s customer service and a part of the full experience)

Content / FAQ Section / Cater For Interrogative Queries

As mentioned, it’s important that your website caters for a variety of search intents, and you can easily and clearly answer questions such as:

  • Do you have a children’s menu?
  • What vegetarian options do you have?
  • What vegan options do you have?
  • What gluten free options do you have?
  • Are your ingredients organic/locally sourced?

This is also where a blog comes in. Through a blog you can naturally include lots of information about your location, your food, and your service in a non-salesly manner (which is what Google loves!). And if you’re stuck for ideas you can always:

  • Search for locally-focused blogs and foodie that accept guest posts
  • Run online quizzes on social media and ask people to submit photos for you to then repost via the blog (Google loves user-generated content!)
  • Try to find opportunities to create content with local influencers from various scenes (this is a chance to expand your audience further beyond foodies)
  • Be active in forums and discussions in the food industry
  • Write answers on Quora and find opportunities to leave the links to your blog posts naturally
  • Participate/sponsor local events and write about it!

Schema / Structured Data Markup

In 2017 Schema.org released a special Schema markup for restaurants (https://schema.org/Restaurant) and it is currently in use by less than 50,000 restaurants globally.

Note: When implementing any schema, Google prefers JSON-LD.

Also added for restaurants:

  • A new menu type. Menus officially become entities in Schema.org with their own properties and subtypes.
  • The new Menu type includes a hasMenuItem property. This property would be used to point to the (also new) MenuItem schema type, which is what would be used to mark up individual menu items.
  • Since most restaurants feature a few menus such as one for breakfast, one for lunch and one for dinner, there is a new hasMenuSection property and a MenuSection type that can be used to mark up the various menus. And you can also use it to mark up the different sections of each particular menu such as the appetizers, salads, main courses, and desserts on a dinner menu.
  • For each MenuItem, we’re able to mark up the name, description, price, and nutritional information. And while it’s not new to schema, you can also use the suitableForDiet property to denote if the menu item is low calorie, low fat, low salt, vegan, gluten-free, or suitable for various other restricted

Marking Up Menus With Schema

First things first, on the homepage of the restaurant website we want to point Google straight in the direction of the menus!

<script type="application/ld+json">
{
  "@context": "http://schema.org",
  "@type": "WebSite",
  "name": "Your Restaurant's Name",
  "url": "http://your-restaurant.com/",
  "publisher": {
    "@type": "Restaurant",
     "name": "Your Restaurant's Name",
     "hasMenu": "http://your-restaurant.com/menu/",
     "logo": "http://.....

In fact, you could use the hasMenu property to point to the URL of the menus on any page of your website that has a schema markup.

What if I have more than one menu?

Then you break it down like this:

"hasMenu": [
  {
   "@type": "Menu",
   "name": "Breakfast",
   "url": "https://dans-diner.com/breakfast-menu/"
  },
  {
   "@type": "Menu",
   "name": "Lunch",
   "url": "https://dans-diner.com/lunch-menu/"
  },
  {
   "@type": "Menu",
   "name": "Dinner",
   "url": "https://dans-diner.com/dinner-menu/"
  }
  ],

Now, looking at the actual menu pages themselves, you go as far as specifying the times that the menu is valid for. So taking the dinner / evening menu for example:

<script type="application/ld+json">
{
   "@context": "http://schema.org",
   "@type": "Menu",
   "name": "Our Menu",
   "mainEntityOfPage": "http://your-restaurant.com/menu/",
   "inLanguage": "English",
   "offers": {
    "@type": "Offer",
    "availabilityStarts": "T18:00",
    "availabilityEnds": "T23:00"
   },

This tells Google that the menu is served between 6pm and 11pm. You can then go on and specifically wrap items within the menu in schema as well.

As mentioned previously, a lot of websites just lead with a PDF menu, which is great – but it can be terrible for users as it’s making them download it, and PDFs generally aren’t great on mobile, and they can offer little SEO value – so do both, a plain menu on the page and a downloadable PDF!

Your item markup can be something simple like:

"hasMenuSection": [
   {
    "@type": "MenuSection",
    "name": "Appetizers",
    "hasMenuItem": [
    {
     "@type": "MenuItem",
     "name": "Fried Eggplant",
     "description": "Served with Italian red gravy.",
     "offers": {
"@type": "Offer",
                 "price": "7.95",
                 "priceCurrency": "USD"
     }
    },

Or even more detailed and include nutritional information, and information such as whether or not the food item is gluten free:

{
     "@type": "MenuItem",
     "name": "Fried Calamari",
     "description": "Served with Italian red gravy or honey mustard.",
   "image": "http://your-restaurant.com/images/fried-calamari.jpg",
     "suitableForDiet": "http://schema.org/GlutenFreeDiet",
     "nutrition": {
   "@type": "NutritionInformation",
                "calories": "573 calories",
                 "fatContent": "25 grams",
                 "carbohydrateContent": "26 grams",
                 "proteinContent": "61 grams"
               },
     "offers": {
   "@type": "Offer",
                 "price": "7.95",
                 "priceCurrency": "USD"
   }
    }

In fact you can specify a number of dietary requirements including DiabeticDiet, HalalDiet, HinduDiet, KosherDiet, LowCalorieDiet, LowFatDiet, LowLactoseDiet, LowSaltDiet, VeganDiet, and VegetarianDiet.

You can check your implementations with with Google Structured Data Testing Tools.

#2 Control Your Online Presence

Now that you’ve started to build out your website’s content and technical capabilities, the next step is to take control of your online presence and start building “signals” that Google can acknowledge. Some of these pass some authority to your website, but again it’s more than just building backlinks – it’s about creating and spreading your brand online.

Restaurant Directories

Backlinks and citations play a key role in local SEO, and can help your restaurant make an impact in organic search. Below are essential third party sites to list your restaurant online (please note this article is not country specific, so only submit to those directories relevant to your country/sector).

Google My Business

Listing your restaurant on Google My Business should be at the top of your priority list.

Google receives nearly 6 billion searches per day. In short, when most people start their restaurant search, they start with Google. Listing your business on Google is a great way to get found, and you can even offer links to your menu and reservations on Open Table, your site, or other platforms.

Create your Google My Business listing here.

Google My Business listings also allow you to post articles directly to them, as well as allow other users to post questions and reviews – so be active, and respond to people!

#3 Reviews, Reviews, Reviews

As I mentioned earlier, Google local results are determined by distance, prominence, and relevance. And reviews help a restaurant build prominence on Google. They also help build trust with potential diners.

If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

If your diners have had a pleasant experience, when you give them their bill remind them to leave a review to win a free meal / money off voucher in the monthly draw. This will incentivise a review, and allow you to encourage positive reviews and discouraging negative (as you simply don’t ask a disgruntled diner!).

It’s important however to review the guidelines of where you’re asking people to review you, so you don’t break them. Some of the more popular review platform guidelines can be found below:

Respond to customers’ reviews. Positive & negative.

Doing so builds trust and encourage more customers to leave reviews for your restaurant. It also allows you to show proactive customer service and potentially rebuild bridges with negative reviewers.

There will always be a few negative reviews. Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines even say that a handful of bad shouldn’t outweigh the good, but keep an eye on their frequency and velocity as a few negative bad reviews in short space of time can look like a deterioration of service, and put potential diners off.

You should never leave negative reviews unanswered – reply to them according to Google to Google’s Guidelines for reviews.

In addition to Google reviews, you should also make your profile on leading reviews sites like Yelp, Bing, and potentially look at third parties such as Reviews.io (who in my opinion are a better alternative to TrustPilot.

#4 Add Content, Add Value

It’s true to an extent that content is king, however content for the sake of content adds no value – and what do users (and Google) want? Value.

This is why a blog on your website can now be your best friend. Through your blog you can drive topical relevancy, naturally and seamlessly talk about the local area (increasing your local relevancy), as well as show off. You should be blogging about:

  • Recipes
  • Cooking supplies and education
  • Local escapades
  • Restaurant updates
  • Food love
  • Promotions

And sharing these via your social channels. You should also share your blog posts through Instagram, with great imagery to really capture the attention of foodies. Through #LocalHashtags, you can also benefit from local exposure and Instagram bots designed to promote posts with specific city hashtags.

Your restaurant blog can approach some of the traditional methods of digital marketing, like search engine optimisation and positioning your chefs as knowledgeable industry members.

Educating your guests is a major way to use your restaurant blog for marketing purposes. You can include all of the information regarding all of your menus, the ingredients of your dishes, and pertinent information for people who want to visit your restaurant. This is important as the latest update to Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines shows that the authority of the content curator is being taken more seriously.

Rather than posting as “admin”, or as the name of the restaurant, empower your chefs and their identity, expertise, and knowledge to really drive the restaurant online with authority.

Building Individual Authority

Authority comes from producing quality content online, being referenced and quoted, and being associated with industry relevant third parties.

A great way of doing this is writing guest blogs for great foodie websites, some great sites out there that accept guest posts include:

As well as helping build your authority, you may also get author bio backlinks from these websites, which will help boost your website authority as well!

Further Reading:

Share
  • 0
  • 0
  • https://searchmaven.net Reginald

    Hi! I was searching for some information on this topic and came across this. Great resources and thanks for sharing!

  • Melisa Smith

    I am very glad to read your article. I try to read different types of digital marketing related article always. Today I am surfing to read about “Local SEO” and I found your very well written precious article. I got some so new concept and lesson from your content. I believe it will help me a lot. Thank you so much for your impressive article. I appreciate your effort to write such a kind of worthy content. Which is really pretty knowledgeable for the newbie and the for the expert also.