Sunday, January 8, 2012

SEO for Restaurants: What You Need to Know

Search engine optimization (SEO) for restaurants is becoming more important as we move in to 2012. Search trends suggest that restaurant owners looked for SEO services online more in 2011 than any year prior. And  justifiably so. With the amount of people that search online for restaurants in their respective areas, having a website and business listing that is well optimized becomes essential for restaurant owners looking to increase their visibility online and drive new customers through their front doors. Here are some things that restaurants owners need to consider when it comes to SEO.

Local SEO is Your Driving Force

When people search online, regardless of where they are from, they are bound to trigger map results if searching something similar to, "best restaurants San Fransisco" or "Indian restaurants in New York City". So what does this mean for restaurant owners? Here are some tips:

  1. Do you have a local listing? Conduct a search of your restaurant's name in Places to determine whether or not your business has a listing that could be displayed in the map results. 
  2. If your business does not have a listing, create one, and fill out every field that you possibly can.
  3. If a listing exists, you need to claim the listing so it is under your control. This will require that you receive a PIN number. Google will give you an option to receive that over the phone via an automated service, or, send the PIN to you via snail mail. 
How to Optimize Your Local Listing to Rank High in the Map Results

Google is more likely to display your local listing towards the top of the map results for relevant searches if the listing itself is optimized appropriately. Follow these steps:

  1. Fill out every field. Google gives credit for complete fields. You will see a % displayed in the dashboard that indicates to what extent you have completed the profile. 
  2. Be wise in selecting your categories. You get 5 to select, 1 of which must come from Google's pre-determined list. In this case, select, "Restaurant." For the other 4, determine what search queries you want to rank high for.
  3. If you don't know what search queries would be best to rank for, use Google's Keyword Suggestion Tool to get an idea as to how many people are using a particular search query per month. Be realistic though and know your competition beforehand. 
  4. Build citations to your listing. It is best to read my post on citation building to understand what that entails. 
Have a Review Strategy in Place for Local SEO

Ultimately, you can rank really high in the map results for a plethora of keywords, but that does not necessarily get more customers in your front door. People searching for restaurants online typically want to see reviews from past customers. As a result, it is important to have some sort of review strategy in place. Additionally, it is my belief that Google is going to use reviews as a stronger ranking signal moving forward. If you have no reviews, that may suggest that your restaurant is not very popular. So, why would Google display your listing towards the top of the map results? On the surface it makes sense. 

In the end, a sound SEO strategy for restaurant owners is to understand that local search is going to be the fastest way to attract new customers. That does not mean your website itself should be neglected and all of your effort poured in to your listing. In fact, we know that Google incorporates website authority in to their map result ranking factors. You may want to check out my recent post on the cost of SEO companies to determine whether or not hiring a professional would be a wise investment. That is assuming you have nobody on your staff that is well versed in SEO that could manage the work in-house.

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