Restaurants are the most searched for type of business online, and more than 80 percent of hungry on-the-go searchers look for a place to eat on their mobile device. While there’s a consistent interest in what many restaurants have to offer, there’s also a lot of competition to satisfy appetites. Simply having an amazing menu isn’t enough to maintain a steady stream of customers for most restaurants. An effective way to market a restaurant is to embrace effective SEO tactics and smart restaurant marketing ideas.
Optimizing Restaurant Homepages
Search engines don’t care about pretty restaurant websites with a bunch of mouth watering images and fancy sideshows. Effective restaurant marketing involves a website homepage that’s optimized for one or two specific keywords. WordPress has a handy SEO plugin tool that can be used to optimize content for certain keywords. On a related note, Google’s AdWords Keyword Tool can be used to find relevant keywords for a restaurant’s paid ads.
Presenting Accurate, Consistent Online Info
NAP (name, address, phone number) info for restaurants needs to be consistent and up-to-date for restaurant marketing efforts to effective. Google considers even slight variations on a business name to be a different business. For instance, “The Main Street Cafe” and “Main Street Cafe” would be considered two separate businesses.
More searchers use mobile devices than PCs to find what they want today, especially when it comes to finding a local restaurant. This means having a website that’s responsive in design (adaptive to whatever screen it’s viewed on), properly sizing images, and keeping content easily digestible with descriptive subheads and short paragraphs. Google also has a mobile-first policy (how a site is viewed from a mobile device is considered for ranking purposes) that should be kept in mind with restaurant marketing.
Claiming/Completing Local Business Directory Listings
Search engines pay attention to things like local business directory listings. Restaurant visibility can be boosted online when local business directory listings are claimed and all relevant info is added to profiles. Directories that tend to work best for restaurants include OpenTable, Urban Spoon, City Search, and even Trip Advisor (to target travelers in town looking for a good restaurant). Any duplicate listings should be removed. Claiming Google My Business listings is just as important for marketing/SEO purposes.
Embracing Visual Content
Image-based content accounts for more than half of all online searches (it’s even higher when mobile searches are considered), and images are particularly appealing when it comes to anything related to food. Social platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are perfectly suited for food pics and videos. A steady influx of visual content is needed to retain engagement and maintain a prominent placement on search results pages, a goal that can be achieved by:
• Running visually-based contests with small prizes (e.g., free dessert)
• Encouraging customers to submit their own photos (even if a contest isn’t involved)
• Re-posting relevant images (and giving credit to the source)
Timing Social Posts
Facebook and Instagram posts about upcoming deals or new menu offerings can be an effective restaurant marketing strategy. But those social posts will likely be ignored or never seen at all if they are sent out during non-business hours or on naturally slower days or times of the day. Post should be delivered when customers will likely be interested and actively searching for a good meal, cool treat, or quick snack.
Spicing Up Review Site Profiles
More than 90 percent of local customers (the majority of restaurant patrons) read reviews when making a decision. While there are many review sites, Yelp is one of the biggies, plus anybody can post a review. Since reviews will show up on search engine results pages (SERPs), being mindful of what’s posted can have a big impact on reservations made and orders placed online. Review sites can become more impactful for SEO and restaurant marketing purposes with:
• Prompt, courteous responses to reviews (including negative ones)
• Making it easy for customers to leave comments or post reviews
• Including unique features of your restaurant in review site profiles (e.g., “across the street from the football stadium,” “free WiFi”)
Telling Compelling Brand Stories
The heart of SEO is relevant content. And the content that’s often preferred by today’s searchers, especially millennials, is story-based content that goes beyond selling. Creating a compelling narrative for a restaurant can be accomplished by:
• Having a consistent message/theme across multiple platforms
• Introducing or spotlighting staff members or chefs
• Asking patrons to share their personal dining experiences
• Posting questions via social media likely to encourage stories (e.g., “What’s your favorite summer dish on our menu and why?”)
Maintaining a Blog
Content that goes beyond selling for restaurants can also come in the form of a blog. While it can be primarily devoted to all things food related, other topics can also be explored as long as whatever is being discussed is brand-related (e.g., funny stories involving customers or patrons, DIY cooking tips, recipes). A blog can pack more of a punch for SEO purposes with:
• A fairly regular posting schedule so followers have an incentive to keep coming back
• Internal links to related blog posts
• Efforts to reach out to influential bloggers who may provide include links back to a restaurant’s website or blog content within their content
Ultimately, restaurant marketing will be a mix of engagement techniques, strategies, and brand promotion in the form of blog or social media content, online reviews, mobile-friendly website content, accurate NAP info, and relevant visual content. Restaurant owners can monitor online engagement stats with Google Analytics and free social media monitoring tools to determine when it’s time to implement some new or different restaurant marketing ideas.
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