Just the other week my girlfriend and I were looking for a particular patisserie in the Brighton Lanes that sold raw vegan chocolate cakes (yes I know, very Brighton!).
OK Google, where is Black Mocha?
This is the search result returned from Google:
Excerpt from Black Mocha’s Google Business page
Black Mocha have done an excellent job of optimising their web presence for local search. These guys don’t even have a website – not one I can see anyway.
But they have managed to build up brand exposure through reviews on highly relevant websites such as Trip Advisor and have a strong Google Business Page.
These are just two of the tactics we will be looking at in this post on how to optimise your restaurant or cafe for local search.
Why is Local SEO so Important for Restaurants?
Siege Media recently researched the 100 most popular Google keywords of 2016 excluding the obvious branded terms such as GMail and Amazon. At number 11 was restaurants near me which received 3,350,000 searches per month in the US.
These types of location based searches tend to be from mobile devices. In fact 50% of local searches from a smartphone result in a store visit within a day.
This is perhaps expected. Somebody searching for a near me type search implies they are pretty far down the buyer journey – they are ready to buy.
For you as a restaurant owner, this means they are ready to eat. So how can you take advantage of this hungry traffic and ensure they come to your eaterie?
Well the answer lies in the application of local SEO tactics.
How Restaurants Can Optimise For Local Search
Google My Business
Google My Business is a free Google service that makes it easy for small businesses to get found online.
Creating a Google My Business listing gives you exposure on Google Maps, allows you to display opening times, contact details and interact with your followers.
Your listing will also improve your local ranking meaning your business will be displayed in Google’s local 3-pack listings.
If you are a restaurant wanting hungry diners to find you, this is where you need to be.
Consider this local search for italian restaurants near me.
These results are displayed at the top of the results page. Clicking through to any one of these restaurants give a feast of information that would be of interest to a diner such as menu links, website link, customer reviews and directions.
Notice the ‘Directions’ button at the top of this result for Orsino? This will help lead a hungry diner right up to the very doorstep of your restaurant, by giving precise directions.
Your Google My Business page also allows diners to leave reviews which is the second restaurant SEO tactic we are going to discuss.
Get Customer Reviews
If you’re anything like me, when thinking of dining at a restaurant you’ve never been to before, you are curious to find out how previous customers rate the food there.
It is only natural that people like to see proof that a product or service they are spending their money on is going to be good.
In 2014 a Bright Local consumer survey revealed 88% of searchers read the reviews of local businesses to determine if they are trustworthy.
Reviews also help your local listings search results stand out from the crowd with gold stars, helping to increase the number of people clicking through to your business.
The image above illustrates a search result for restaurants in brighton.
Not only do reviews help to make the local results stand out with stars, the result after the local 3-pack (Trip Advisor) is another review site.
So in addition to getting reviews on your Google My Business page, you also need to get reviewed on review sites such as Trip Advisor and Yelp.
Which leads us conveniently on to our next SEO tactic for restaurants.
Get Local Citations
Local citations are mentions of a local business anywhere on the internet. Local citations don’t necessarily contain links, but are still an important local SEO ranking factor.
Local citations provide evidence to the search engines that your business is actually real and not some bogus setup to con money out of unsuspecting people.
They also allow people to leave reviews of your business.
Here are some examples of places to get your restaurant locally cited on:
- Local Chamber of Commerce
- Trip Advisor
- Bing Places
- Menu Pages
- Time Out
- The List
An important point to note when getting local citations is to make sure that you stick to a consistent NAP – name, address and phone number. This helps enhance trust signals with the search engines which will in turn improve your rank in local search results.
Optimise for Local Keywords
There are certain on page elements that you will need to optimise in order to get page 1 visibility for your restaurant with the search engines.
- Meta title – A title that contains your keyword is essential in order to rank. The meta title describes what the web page is about and search engines often use it as the blue link text on the results page
The image above illustrates the top 3 results for indian restaurant brighton.
Notice how the first result has been truncated?
This is because the title is too long. Google will only display the first 50-60 characters so be sure to fit your keyword and restaurant name within the permitted limits.
Although not in position one, the second result wins the prize for most effectively optimised meta title.
On checking the traffic numbers that search for the keywords our 3 Indian restaurants have optimised their titles for, you will see why the second result has done the best job SEO wise:
The second result, Pavel Indian, has optimised for two closely related terms – indian restaurant brighton & indian takeaway brighton. And managed to fit it all within 50-60 characters.
The first restaurant has only optimised for one keyword, even though they also offer a takeaway service.
The third has targeted keywords that don’t deliver much traffic and are very generic. The search intent behind order takeaway doesn’t indicate what the person might be searching for.
- H1 tag (page heading) – Whereas the title will indicate the page subject matter from the search engine results page, the heading will let the site visitor know what the page is about once they’ve clicked through.
It is a good way to confirm to your visitor that they are on the page they’ve expected to see.
Ideally, your page heading should contain the keyword you optimed the title for so there is consistency between the search result and the page.
If you fail to do this you risk visitors leaving your site after they click through. You have a very short time to convince a visitor to read your web page once they’ve landed. If the page title isn’t related to the search result link they clicked, they won’t see relevancy and you won’t see them for dust.
- Page Description – The page description is often used in the search results to provide an overview of what a web page is about. It sits underneath the blue link (yellow box in image below).
Although the page description isn’t considered a search engine ranking factor it does improve click through rate (CTR) to the page. Particularly if it contains the keyword a user is searching for.
Search engines truncate descriptions over 160 characters, which you can see has happened with the Pavel Indian result.
- url – A keyword in the url is great if appropriate. However, with a home page this isn’t advisable.
- Page Content – Opinions vary regarding how often you should mention keywords within the page copy. However, a good rule of thumb is to use keywords if it makes sense to ie does it benefit the user?
Matt Cutts, Google’s former Head of the Web Spam Team, explains how Google analyses keyword use in web page copy:
- Image alt tags – These describe what an image is about and aids visually impaired people who use screen readers. It also helps search engines to discover what an image is about in order to list them in image search results.
So be sure to include your keyword in any image alt tags too.
Local Link Building
Links are still a fundamental part of Google’s algorithm. When it comes to optimising for local search, links from locally based sites and blogs are pure gold, particularly if they are related to your business.
Links from local sites send signals to the search engines that your restaurant has a strong association with whatever town or city you’re in.
Here are a few ideas of places to look at to whet your appetite for building some great local links to your restaurant website:
- Local suppliers
- Local food bloggers
- Local events sites
- Local food festivals
If your restaurant serves mainly local customers, it is crucial that you optimise your business for local search.
Having a Google My Business page is a good way to get started if you don’t have the budget for a website yet. This is a free service provided by Google, and if optimised, your Google My Business page will rank in the local results without the need for a website.
Reviews are also an important part of increasing your restaurant’s online presence, so don’t be afraid to ask for them!
Finally, if you do have a website, make sure you get local citations from listing sites and links from other businesses that are local to you.