Updated: Aug 12
In the old days, hungry citizens would turn to magazines for their dining inspirations. Then the internet provided us with dozens if not hundreds of dining authorities.
Present day though, we turn to one source more and more when we’re hungry - Google. And what a tool! We can simply type in Thai Food Grand Rapids and we don’t just get websites of Thai restaurants in the great city of Grand Rapids but maps, reviews, and maybe even some photos and videos.
Therefore as restaurant owners, we know the importance of appearing on that first page of results. While that may sound like a daunting and time consuming task, there are tricks to be among the first search results Google shows a user/potential customer.
Free Google tools
Being the final boss of all bosses in the search engine game, it’s only right that Google offers several tools that can help boost your restaurant’s site traffic. Two crucial Google tools that every restaurant needs are Google Search Console and Google My Business.
First, Search Console is a great way to monitor the health of
your site and figure out where to make improvements. Once you have your site created, be sure to submit it to the Search Console as to make sure Google is aware your site exists and indexes it for their search rankings. From there you can check in with Search Console to check that your site has the proper speed, security, and other features that Google checks when ranking sites.
Google My Business is probably one of the most important tools on the internet for your restaurant. It’s like an ad in the phonebook (if you remember those), telling searchers where you are, when you’re open, what your place looks like, and much more.
When customers type your restaurant’s name into the search bar, an informational box - or knowledge graph - will appear on the right, if you’ve created a My Business page for your restaurant.
This will allow searchers to easily click to your site, find directions to the restaurant, read reviews, and even take a look at your menu. A more complete and up to date My Business profile is more attractive to searchers, and will thus lead to more traffic.
In the past, choosing a popular search term or keyword and packing it into your site’s text and web copy was a common way to boost your site’s ranking. However search engines have caught on and reportedly deemphasized the importance of keywords.
Nonetheless, knowing your target audience and learning how they search for restaurants like yours is key. Keyword planning helps you understand the path potential customers take online, and where you can catch their eye.
Use these keywords and insert them where it is natural on your site. That could be a blog, your menu page, and even your site’s URLs.
With Google Keyword Planner (free) you can search for keywords that relate to your restaurant and see how often they are searched for, and if there are many or few other sites trying to rank for those keyword search terms.
Helpful free tools: Ubersuggest, SEMrush, Google Keyword Planner, Google AdWords
Videos and images
Having an online presence that includes visual components is increasingly more important. Including images and videos on your site gives Google more content to pull from and put on their results pages. Therefore it’s advantageous to have images that correspond to your keyword strategy mentioned before.
Although, to make it easier on Google and thus easier for you to appear on the result page, be sure to tag your images and videos. That doesn’t mean use a #hashtag, rather go into your content management system you used to create your website (wordpress, wix, etc), they should make it easy for you to find and tag your images.
For example with Wix, when editing you can click on an image, go to Setting, then click the Advanced SEO tab.
Backlinks simply are other sites that link to your website. Common examples can be blogs, directories (think Time Out and Yelp), and business organizations.
Backlinks are arguably the most important factor in ranking high on Google for multiple reasons. One reason is because oftentimes in searches, non-restaurant websites such as online media, reviews, directories like Yelp, or other more popular sites will appear first - since they get more traffic and have better SEO. However, we can use this to our advantage.
Check to see what sites appear on that first page of results. If Yelp is there, be sure to create an account, which is a smart idea anyway since many diners use Yelp. Or if a food or restaurant related site appears, such as TimeOut or Eater, reach out to the editorial teams to gauge their interest in reviewing your restaurant. That way, even though your own website isn’t on the first page, authoritative sites praising your business will, which can be just as good if not better.
Another way to get more backlinks and boost your restaurant’s rank is through old fashioned networking. If you belong to a business organization like a chamber of commerce or professional association, it should be pretty easy to have them post a link somewhere on their site to yours. Chamber of commerce offices are great resources, as they almost always have an online directory of their members.
Easy to manage
Being a restaurant owner is hectic, stressful, and time consuming. Doing all the work necessary to get on the first page of Google results is too. 71% of clicks go to sites on the first page of Google’s results, signifying how important it is to appear there.
While getting your site there will take lots of time and effort, we have just reviewed together shortcuts in getting on that first page, and in front of potential new customers (or returning ones). All it takes is a little time investment upfront, and you can get back to focusing on what actually makes your restaurant great.