SEO for Restaurants: A Guide To Search Engine Optimization For Restaurants

Restaurant SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is something every restaurant owner should have a basic understanding of. Optimizing your restaurant website for SEO is a great way for customers to find you more easily whenever they conduct a search like “best pizza in ottawa” or “best beef noodles in ottawa”. In my last post, I wrote about why restaurants should invest in SEO, so I won’t bore you too much with that here  and get down to the nitty gritty details of restaurant SEO.

Let’s keep one thing in to the back of our heads: SEO is all about helping your website gain greater visibility in search results over the long-term. Search engines rank pages according to a lot of different factors, and one of those is authority. In order to build up authority on your website, you need to first learn how to set up your site so it is relevant to both search engines and to users. Let’s start by walking through how search engines work.

How Search Works

Popular search engines like Google and Bing are improving their way of displaying results everyday. New features are being introduced while others are shuffled around or discontinued.

The goal of a search engine like Google is to provide the best possible experience to a user when they have a question. In order to do that, they’ve written up an algorithm (a bunch of mathematical calculations) and consists of over 200 ranking factors that are used to position pages in the search results for a specific keyword. I know – it’s quite advanced! We as marketers don’t know what that algorithm is, but through testing and experimentation, we now have a better idea of what works and what doesn’t.

Search engines deploy robots (also called web crawlers or spiders) on the web to crawl through links from web page to web page. You can check out Google’s latest How Search Works tutorial to get an idea of how it works. Or you can just watch Matt Cutts (Google’s Spam Team Lead) walk you through that process here:

The process of crawling, indexing and ranking pages is continuous and it will go on indefinitely. As new pages and content gets introduced, older content that are less valuable gets pushed down. As a restaurateur, the best way to win over the search engines is to provide unique and valuable content that customers come back asking for more of. To start, get your customized menu system online!

How To Optimize Your Restaurant Website For SEO

Much like construct a house you want a solid foundation in place to support the structure of the home you want to build. Building a website with search engine optimization in mind is just the same. Every website has their own goals, and for restaurants it is all about providing accurate information like phone number, directions and a menu for customers to browse through. But in order to be found, you need to optimize your website’s content for search engines and for users.

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Title Tag

The title tag is one of the most important ranking factors that Google looks at. This is the link any given user will see first after they conduct a keyword search in the search engines.

title tag

**With the Menu online ordering system, you can customize and configure all these components very easily. In most cases, we will help you do the keyword research and write in the titles, descriptions, etc for you.

The rule of thumb with writing title tags are:

  • Use your target keyword(s) at the front of the title, followed by the restaurant name (i.e. Best Pizza in Ottawa | Jack and Jill’s Pizza)
  • Titles should be within 65 characters otherwise the title will be truncted with “…”
  • The title should be unique to all your website pages and tell the user what content is on that page

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Meta Description

The meta description shows up underneath the title tag in the search results (see image above under title tag). This is a small blurb that is usually written in by you or your webmaster to help explain more of what the page is about. The meta description is not used by search engines for ranking purposes, but it can be as convincing as you like to increase the chances that people will click through and view your menu.

Just to be clear – the meta description and the title tags don’t appear on any of your pages. These two elements are programmed in to tell search engine what the page is about and how to display it. We’ve made it easy for you (and for us) to go in and change it anytime.

The best practices when it comes to writing meta descriptions are:

  • 156 characters or less to avoid meta description to be truncated
  • Targeted keyword(s) should be written into the meta description
  • Include a call to action like “…order online today” or  ”come in and try our…”

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You’ve all see headings and sub-headings on newspapers and books before. Headings for websites work the same way, but there is a technical definition for them.

Headings range from Heading 1 (in HTML code it is <H1> and it works down to Heading 6 <H6>. Your H1 and stronger than your H2, H3 and so on. The goal is to use your targeted keywords in the H1 tag on your pages. For instance, if I was to target “best pizza in ottawa” on my website, I would want to have “Best Pizza in Ottawa” as my H1 tag on the homepage. For my H2, I may list out related keywords like “Downtown Ottawa” or “Sandy Hill area” – these are the areas that I serve.

Each page should:

  • Have a single H1 on the page,
  • H1′s on each page should be unique have the targeted keyword,
  • H2, H3.. H6 should be used in conjunction to support the primary keyword you are targeting, and,
  • Avoid repeating keywords over and over with Headings.

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Image Optimization

Optimizing text on your web pages is just one area of SEO. You can also optimize images that you’ve uploaded on to your website. For instance, what comes up when you do a Google search for a [city] + [keyword] and head over to Google Image results? You find probably some of the restaurants in your city because the images have been optimized in some way to rank for the keyword in image search. There are two ways that you can optimize images for search engines:

(1) File Name – this is the name of the file before you upload to your site. If your image is of a “beef noodle soup”, use that as the file name. You may also want to include the order number (i.e. 01 beef noodle soup). When the image is uploaded, the image should fall into an image folder with a path similar to this: I recommend using the standard JPG format whenever possible.

(2) ALT Text – search engines rely on a bit of text called the ALT Text to tell them what the image is about. This is extra bit of HTML that can be added when an image is embedded on one of your pages. If we take the example of beef noodle soup, we can include 01 Beef Noodle Soup as our ALT Text for this image.

Optimizing your images is a great way for customers to browse and find dishes from local restaurants on the web. While majority of people search “chinese food” + [city], some may search “best har gaw in” + [city].

image optimization for restaurants

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NAP Information on Site

The business Name, Address and Phone number (NAP) is an essential part of a restaurant’s local search identity on the web. In all cases, this information has to be consistent with the Google business listing and web directories. A loss of consistency can be detrimental to your rankings in the local results.

There are two places that you would want to place this information; (1) footer on every page and (2) contact page.

*You should also ask your web developer to markup your address information with Schema. This is microdata that search engines use to interpret the type of content that is on your site. For instance, when you markup your address information, Google crawlers will be able to associate that text as an address from just regular text on the page.

Get on Google+ Local

Every restaurant needs a Google+ Local listing (formally known as Google Places). It starts by claiming an existing listing or creating a new one if you are a new restaurants. Here is the link to the Google+ Local sign up page: Google Places for Business‎

google plus local business

Your Google+ Local page is probably your most valuable page next to your website. Because majority of people who look for restaurants start their journey on Google, if your listing is not appearing in the search results, you’re losing out on a lot of traffic and potential new customers.

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Get into Local Directories and Restaurant Directories

citation sources

Getting into local directories and restaurant directories are a must for restaurateurs. There are plenty of free local citation opportunities out there already that you can get your restaurant listed in. Citations count towards your rankings simply because Google counts on other sources to to validate the legitimacy and accuracy of each business listing in their database.

I wrote a full post on the top Canadian citation sources that restaurants should have, so be sure to check it out.

The bottom-line is: the more quality citations your restaurant has, the more likely your business listing on Google will appear in the local results.

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Links and Link Building for Restaurants

Links can be classified in two forms: internal links and external links (inbound links). Internal links are links that is used within your restaurant website. These include links in your navigation and links within your blog where you reference posts that you’ve written in the past. Internal links help with SEO because links send value to each page it links out to. The deeper your pages are on your site, the less authority it may have. Your homepage will typically be the strong page on your site.

link buildingExternal links (also called inbound links) are links from third-party websites that point to your website. Consider links as ‘votes’. A local blogger writes a nice article about their experience at your restaurant and links to your homepage. They just vouched for your awesome food and now Google recognizes that you should probably be where most people are searching.

Getting more links to you site can help with your rankings, but be very careful. Too many links from unrelated websites can hurt you. For instance, links from local directory sites and local blogs make more sense than a link on  a site that talks solely about gadgets. That is why it is important that links get built naturally and from relevant sites.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to your customers experience. Good experience + exceptional food = they will talk, and they may even write a good post about your restaurant.

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Restaurant SEO is a great way to get yourself in front of customers online. Search engines have evolved into what I’d say a “Recommendation Engine”. If you are looking to scale your marketing efforts and grow your business, then optimizing your website for search is a great way to win more customers over on the web.

By applying all that was covered optimizing your website and Google+ Local listing, you will be in a good position to rank well in the organic results on Google.

Here at Menu, we strive to not only provide the system to accept online orders, but to help restaurants market and convert more of their customers online. Interested in finding out more? Get in touch with us today!

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Jackson Lo

Jackson is the manager of Analytics and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for MENU.CA. He is heavily involved in the Local Search Marketing community and has helped many small-medium sized local businesses win online.

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