SEO tips for restaurants: help guests find you when they’re hungry!

Someone searching for a restaurant in the browser on a smartphone.
Photo: Abillion

Google ranking and online visibility are essential factors for a successful restaurant business. Your restaurant’s ranking in Google search results directly impacts your revenue. There’s a lot of competition in the restaurant industry. With a good SEO strategy, you can boost your profit and make sure guests find you first when they’re googling for a place to eat. 

But what is SEO?

SEO stands for “search engine optimisation.” It’s a combination of different things that can be done to gain love from search engines such as Google, Microsoft Bing and Yahoo.

This love isn’t the warm fuzzy kind. Although good SEO results can make you feel a bit like that. It’s the kind that makes your website or brand rank higher in the SERPs which is short for “search engine results page.”

How can SEO help my restaurant?

As you have probably gathered at this point, having a SEO strategy is a good and necessary thing, but why exactly? Here are some of the ways your restaurant can benefit from SEO improvements.  

Ready to dive into some SEO tips? In the sections below we’ll look at some things you can do to make your restaurant rank higher on Google and other important search engines.  

Make a keyword plan for your restaurant’s online content

Before you can start boosting your ranking, you need to figure out which keywords and terms you want your restaurant to rank for.  

You’ll also have to decide on a geographic area you want to belong to. This is the area where most of your guests are likely to come from. Most often these are guests who live or work close to your restaurant, their visitors, and tourists.

Your keywords should include words and terms guests might search for when looking for a place to eat, and. Naturally, you want to rank for keywords relevant to your restaurant, menu, brand, and location such as tapas restaurant + the name of your city.  

This guide from Search Engine Journal is good if you need help with picking the best keywords.  

Photo: Suzy Hazelwood

A good keyword plan should include three kinds of keywords: 

Broader restaurant terms: These are important keywords that are related to your restaurant but not specific to what your place has to offer.  

Examples:  

Niche keywords: These keywords are more specific to your restaurant and what makes it unique 

Examples: 

Brand keywords: These are keywords that include the name of your restaurant combined with other relevant keywords. 

Examples: 

Once you’ve gathered all the best keywords and terms, you have a good starting point on your mission to lead more guests your way.

Local SEO: location, location, location 

As with pretty much everything else, location also matters a lot when it comes to SEO. 

You want both guests and search engines to know where your restaurant is located. Moreover, if you have more than one restaurant you need to make it clear where each of them is located.  

But how do you go about doing that? 

First, you have to make sure that your restaurant’s name, address, phone number and opening hours are correct on all local directories online. This includes social media sites, web directories and pages that are more specific to the restaurant industry. Some of the most important ones are Google My Business, review sites, and your country’s various versions of the yellow pages.  

Additionally, whenever possible, it’s also a good idea to optimise any descriptions of your restaurant that you come across online. Throw in your most important keywords in the description, while still getting your unique selling points across in a tone that appeals to guests. 

A hand placing a red pin in a map
Photo: Geojango Maps

Learn to love online restaurant reviews  

Here’s something to do right now. Google the names of some of your competitors. Take your time, I’ll get some coffee in the meantime… 

…ready? Review sites were probably at the top of the list of search results. That’s why embracing, and even encouraging, online reviews are an important part of any SEO strategy. Whenever a guest mentions your restaurant in a review your chances of ranking higher increase. Moreover, online reviews will also help strengthen guests’ engagement, especially if you reply to reviews and comments as often as you can. 

The same goes for social media. If you’re active on social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook, your restaurant’s accounts and the content will also often rank quite high. Furthermore, guests who find you on social media are likely to pay your website a visit.  

You can read more about the benefits of online reviews right here.  

Make your restaurant’s website mobile friendly

When was the last time you tried visiting your website from different browsers and devices?  

If the answer is “longer than 6 months ago” or “never,” you should try this as soon as possible.  The reason is that a website that’s loading slowly or where some text, buttons or pictures aren’t visible and clickable on all devices risks ranking lower.  

When the curious and critical Google bots crawl your website, they focus on mobile friendliness. This has been the case since 2021, and chances are that mobile is all that matters to them in the future.  This makes sense, after all, a very high percentage of hungry restaurant guests look for a restaurant on their smartphones and tablets.  

If you want to know how big a percentage this is for your restaurant, you can implement a tracking strategy (also helpful for your restaurant business in a million other ways), and let the data tell you exactly which devices and browsers your guests are using when they’re clicking around on your website.  

Things you have to pay attention to are:

When everything is looking appetising and loading fast, your chances of getting more table bookings and returning guests are much higher. 

Create a restaurant blog 

The search engines are picky eaters. They prefer unique content that has value for readers. 

For this reason, creating fresh content from time to time is a very good way of ramping up your website’s SEO value.

Creating a blog with restaurant news and other interesting content is a popular way to do this. A blog allows you to sprinkle important keywords on your site in a natural way.  

Unique content doesn’t have to be page upon page of text, it can be a single paragraph, some nice pictures (what’s better than pictures of delicious food?), and perhaps the occasional behind-the-scenes video.  

A redhaired woman with a black beret writing on a laptop in a restaurant
Photo: Nick Night

If you are someone you hire to write for you has completed a text, you can always run it through an online plagiarism checker to make sure you didn’t accidentally write the same as someone else.  

Even though you’re trying to catch the attention of the search engines’ crawler bots, you want guests to feel there’s a human behind the words. This also benefits your overall SEO, because after each update Google rolls out its crawlers get more and more advanced.

Craws also detect if a text has no value to human readers. So, say it with passion and throw in your best keywords without overdoing it. In most cases, this will come naturally if you’ve picked good keywords because these keywords describe what your restaurant has to offer. 

Implement the right Schema Markup  

The purpose of any business website is to communicate what the business has to offer and to attract more customers. Naturally, this can to a large extent be achieved via the content on the page, but there are more technical aspects to consider as well. 

In your case, you want both search engines and guests to know that your content’s aim is to communicate something about a restaurant. To ensure that search engines can’t mistake your website for another kind of business, it’s important that you implement Schema “Restaurants” Markup. 

For this, you might need the help of a developer or your code-crunching sister, because the Schema Markup has to be incorporated in the code behind all the visible parts of your website. It’s what the crawlers see when they find your website, which is why it’s so important. 

You can find the Schema “Restaurants” Markup right here. 

Keep track of your restaurant’s SEO progress  

Once you have started to implement your changes, you’ll want to be able to keep an eye on the results. Which keywords are you ranking for after 3 months? After 6 months? Is the ranking of your restaurant’s name climbing the SERPS?

Don’t worry if you don’t see a very big change after 3 months or even 6. It takes time for SEO efforts to bear fruit. Exactly how long time it takes for you depends on a myriad of different factors such as competition, keyword difficulty, language and updates Google decides to roll out while you’re waiting. 

To keep track of your SEO journey, you’ll need to use SEO tools. You can find some free ones here!

Google Analytics are among these, and it can be used in so many other ways than simply for SEO. Tracking data from restaurant analytics can help you figure out which times are your restaurant’s peak times, your most popular menu items, how well your marketing campaigns are working and much more.  

Did you know that you can also track events from DinnerBooking’s restaurant reservation system via Google Tag manager? You can read more about it here. 

The last few years have been a bumpy ride for many restaurants. First, the pandemic and now inflation. Every small thing you can do to fill more tables is a step in a better direction. And even though SEO can feel like an insignificant thing, it’s a big deal for your online presence, and that’s a big deal for your restaurant’s profit. We hope our tips will give you a great start on your SEO journey. 
 
May the search engines be with you!