If you run any kind of local business, then local SEO is something you have to take seriously. Appearing in the search engines for local searches can drive a significant amount of targeted traffic – and if you’re not ranking, you can be sure your competitors are.
One area where local SEO is especially effective is for food and drink establishments like restaurants and cafes. These are exactly the type of local establishments that people search for on their mobile devices when they are out and about or planning an evening out.
During 2017, Google has added a number of features that make local SEO even more effective for restaurants. Here’s a look at the exciting changes along with some tips on implementing your local SEO strategy effectively.
Link to Your Menu Directly from Google My Business
We’re going to assume you already have a Google My Business (GMB) listing (and if you haven’t that is the first thing you need to do).
Back in April 2017, Google added a nice little feature where it allowed restaurants and cafes to add a link to their menus, as reported here.
By adding this to your listing, you can ensure that people who find your listing via search can go straight to your menu and find out what you offer rather than having to click through to your site first.
Create Buzz with Google Posts
Then in June 2017, Google allowed all businesses to create Google Posts, as reported here. This was something that some businesses had been able to do previously, but now it is available to all GMB users.
If you have not used these yet, they enable you to create short posts of up to 300 words, a bit like blog posts, along with an image. At the end of the post, you can add a call to action button using options like ‘Reserve’, ‘Get Offer’ or ‘Learn More’.
This is a benefit for all businesses, but it definitely helps restaurants looking to get more reservations. You could use it to promote a special offer or a special event like Valentine’s Day with an engaging post and then encourage reservations directly.
You can create the posts directly from within GMB, and they will show up in search in the Knowledge Panel (on desktop) or in Maps when people check out your listing after making a search for your business.
These not only give you more real estate in Search and Maps, but they are also free to create, so they are definitely something you should experiment with.
Add Even More Links
In August 2017, Google introduced yet more features to help local businesses – and food establishments benefited once again.
These included the ability to add links to more actions in your GMB listing, including to make reservations and order online. (Google provided details of these changes here.)
This makes it even easier for customers to make reservations and make bookings directly from the listings.
As reported by Search Engine Land, you can now add quick URLs that can help searchers go straight to the pages on your website that they want to find. Choose from:
- Book an appointment
- Reserve a table
- Search for an item
- Make an order
- View the menu
This makes it much easier for customers to make an online order or reserve a table.
Other Local SEO Tips for Restaurants
As well as all the new updates Google has introduced this year, make sure you don’t ignore all of the other essential steps you can take to optimise your local SEO strategy.
Display Your Menu in the Search Results
Displaying your menu in the search results has been an option since as far back as 2014, but many restaurants still don’t take full advantage of it.
The basic principle is that when someone makes a menu-related search for your establishment in Google, your menu will display directly in the search engine results.
You might ask why you would want potential customers to access your menu in search rather than on your own website. But the potential benefit is that people can cut out a step in the process, making it easier to make a decision about whether they want to eat in your establishment or not.
After all, if people can find what you provide faster, there is more chance they will be sold.
One issue with this is that the menu does not include images, so if someone wants to check out the photos they will need to visit your website.
Also, the data is taken from third-party sites like SinglePlatform rather than directly from your website, so you will need to keep these updated whenever you change your menu.
Read full details of how to get your menu in search here.
Engage Your Customers on Social Media
Another key focus of any local SEO strategy should be to engage with your customers on social media.
While the exact link between SEO and social media is not known, what we do know is that social media engagement is a ranking signal, and that the more shares you get on social, the more likely this is to lead to better rankings.
Social is also a fantastic platform for food and drink establishments because it provides you with so many options for engaging your customers. While many businesses don’t understand the full potential of social media, restaurants, bars and cafes have many options.
For example, you could share tempting images of your delicious meals, promote a Happy Hour, create and promote content around special dates like Halloween or New Year’s Eve, launch discounts and hold competitions – all great ways to engage your local customers.
So if you have not yet got a social strategy up and running, make that a priority and benefit from better local SEO as a result.
Here are 21 tips from Wishpond to get you started.
Build Up More Reviews
Testimonials are important for any business, but they are especially important for restaurants – and even more so if you face a lot of stiff competition.
People will often make their final decision on where to eat based on reading reviews. And if they can’t find any reviews – or the majority are negative – this is likely to cost you business.
Create a strategy to generate more reviews – the more you get, the better. Reviews are also tied into your local SEO efforts because you can set your rating to show up in the search results.
Using structured data markup, you can get your ratings to appear in search – helping your site to stand out and encouraging more people to click on your links.
Here’s some info from TrustPilot that will help you implement this for your own website.
Create Unique Content
The creation and promotion of content is essential for any SEO strategy. When you are working on your local SEO, make sure content is at the heart of your efforts.
Useful and engaging content that provides value to your prospects not only helps you to rank in search, but it also helps you to build your brand and improve brand recall.
You have a benefit in the food industry in that you can easily incorporate images and videos of your product to bring your content to life and help to get it more attention when you promote it via social media.
If your competitors are also creating and promoting content, look for ways to set your content apart. Make it unique by providing information about the founders, the staff, the culture and, of course, what makes your food better.
Optimise your content with your most important local keywords, and as you continue to get more shares and links, your local SEO will inevitably improve.
Get More Citations
Finally, make sure you get lots of citations for your restaurant. Citations are essential for any local SEO strategy because they are a local SEO signal, and they are really important for restaurants.
So head to Yelp, FourSquare and similar sites and make sure you have a presence on them – this can get your restaurant a lot of views and traffic as well as direct bookings.
Once you have your listings, keep them updated, use attractive and eye-catching imagery and respond to your reviews to take full advantage of these sites.
Dominate Local Search in Your Niche
2017 has been a great year for local SEO, especially if you run a restaurant, takeaway or cafe. We always recommend keeping an eye on the updates Google introduces because some of them can have a big impact on your success in search – and if you can start taking advantage of them before your competitors, you can get the upper hand.
So look into posts, quick URLs and the other updates brought in during this year – and don’t forget to focus on the other strategies that can maximise the power of local SEO. After all, local SEO is only going to become more important as the years go on, so now is a great time to start optimising your GMB listing and more to dominate local search.