For many restaurant owners, word-of-mouth is considered the apex of marketing strategies. In many ways, this holds true. Just consider your own experiences. How many times have you recommended your favorite restaurant to a friend? Or, conversely, visited a restaurant on a friend’s recommendation? Word-of-mouth is powerful.
The rise of the internet and social media has significantly changed how we shop, including how we socialize. 94% of diners will base their decision on whether to attend your establishment from online reviews alone.
So, how can you ensure that customers are landing on your site and not your competitors? By knowing how diners find restaurants in the first place, which websites they’re using, and what specific keywords they include in their restaurant searches.
Why It Is Important To Be At The Top Of Restaurant Searches
Whenever anybody has a query about anything these days, they use a search engine. From the mundane to the complex, right down to which restaurant they’re going to dine at that evening, a search engine is where they’re going to look for answers. To capitalize on this, you need to be putting yourself in the best possible position to grab their attention.
Almost half of all Google searches happen because the user is looking for locally relevant information. 86% of consumers utilize the internet to seek out local businesses. Online search engines are the new phone book, so you need to make sure your brand is visible.
Search engines might seem like a prominent tool, but there’s a lot about search engines that the average business owner doesn’t understand. Whether it’s the use of keywords to bump up your site in listings or the use of Google ads, this stuff doesn’t come naturally. It requires some research.
As of yet, there is no centralized restaurant search engine for diners to use. This means that business owners have to make the most of the popular search engines already available. Besides, you need to use every SEO tactic in your arsenal to put yourself at the top of Google Maps. Unsure of what that means? Keep reading, and we’ll break it down for you in full.
Potential Diners Are Searching For Your Restaurant
There are many ways diners use the internet to find new eateries. To fully understand the process, you need to know what specific tools they’re using and what exactly they’re looking for. With this information, you can then tailor your brand to meet customer expectations.
Make The Search Engines Happy
The most common phrase used by the average restaurant searcher is ‘restaurants near me.’ Fairly self-explanatory. Still, it’s a significant bit of information as it highlights what is most important to consumers:
The location of your restaurant matters more than what kind of food you have on the menu.
So, how are you promoting yourself locally?
Often when we talk about search engine optimization (SEO) and online marketing, we focus on making sure your business reaches as many people as possible. While throwing the net wide can undoubtedly pull in some additional clients, owning a restaurant is a whole different kind of operation. Location is imperative.
You need to know how easy it is for your local clientele to find you. Until the rise of an official restaurant search engine, learn how to use search engines to increase your spot on the listings.
There are various boxes you can check to ensure you’re putting yourself in the best possible position, but we’ll get into that further down. For now, let’s explore some other ways diners use the internet.
Utilize Review Sites
Most diners read reviews. An enormous 97% of consumers admitted to reading online reviews before using a business, but how can you guarantee positive reviews?
Unless you’re going to bribe every patron that crosses your doorway, you can’t completely control how diners respond to your restaurant once they’re online. The internet has provided a voice to everybody, turning once-ordinary customers into full-blown restaurant critics. This can be both a blessing and a curse.
Of course, the easiest way to ensure good reviews is by providing excellent service. That goes without saying. Unfortunately, experiences aren’t objective, and though you may try your very best to give every one of your patrons the best experience possible, they may not see it that way. Bad reviews can arise even if they aren’t fair. How do you manage those situations?
In instances like these, possessing a strong online presence is paramount. Advertisement opportunities aren’t the only reason you need to establish yourself; the right to reply is also imperative. A scathing review sitting alone on a site like Yelp will dissuade countless from trying your restaurant. However, if that same review has a calm and sympathetic response from your business, it can do a lot to remedy that potential damage.
Also, it’s worth remembering that not all online reviews are something to be feared. They can be a tremendous advantage. Be open to learning from diners about what is working in your restaurant and what isn’t – take it as constructive criticism that can help you grow.
How to Enhance Your Restaurant Search Presence
Now you understand how diners are using the internet to find their new favorite restaurants, it’s time to get educated on how you can send them your way. We gave you some indicators of what you can do to bring in customers above, but now we need to get into the specifics.
Create Online Account Profiles And Be Consistent
Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter can boost your clientele when used appropriately, but extending your reach isn’t all they’re good for. Remember how we mentioned that word-of-mouth was considered the apex of marketing? Well, social media is the new word-of-mouth.
Whether you’re posting informative updates to Facebook or giving your new meal its Instagram-worthy photo shoot, you’re giving people something to talk about and share. Throw in the occasional competition that requires users to tag three friends to enter, and you have a surefire way to increase your customer base.
Instagram is especially famous for restaurant owners as there is an entire subculture dedicated entirely to pictures of food. Some businesses also encourage engagement through the use of hashtags. By taking note of the most popular hashtags, particularly in your area, you can boost your restaurant’s visibility.
Also, Facebook’s check-in system can help to bring local awareness to your restaurant. This feature allows diners to ‘check in’ on Facebook so others can see where they’re eating, which then directs other users to your page. It is a great way to increase local popularity, and some businesses offer rewards or entries into competitions in exchange for a Facebook check-in.
What makes Twitter such a great addition to any restaurant’s social media arsenal is its versatility. Whether you’re using it for customer service, tweeting out your latest blog posts (the merits of which can be read further down), or using your razor wit in the hope of going viral (it’s possible!), Twitter can be a magnificent tool to bring in new guests.
Having your website is an essential part of maintaining an online presence, but owning an engaged social media platform can make a marked difference. It humanizes your brand and allows you to form direct connections with your diners, boosting customer numbers and creating loyal patrons.
Build Your Restaurant Website
Owning a website is just the start of the battle. You need to keep your site as optimized as possible by checking a variety of boxes. That includes staying on-trend, updating your website with relevant information frequently, and ensuring it isn’t only viewable on one device.
In 2018 over half of all internet users used their mobile phones to browse the web. This is a significant chunk of your clientele that you immediately alienate if your website isn’t mobile-compatible. Website hosting services like WordPress offer automatic mobile compatibility. Make sure it’s a box you’ve ticked in your design.
Restaurant Website Essentials
Some of the absolute essentials you need to include on your website are:
- An easy-to-read, easily accessible menu.
- Clearly defined information related to booking a table.
- Opening hours throughout the week.
- If you offer takeout in addition to sit-in dining, make that clear.
- Links to your social media.
- Clear contact details.
You can add other features, such as a blog, as your brand builds some momentum, but the above are the most imperative.
If you’re struggling to build the perfect website, there are services available to help. Instinct Marketing can help small business owners with their websites, from website design to implementing the best SEO practices. Speaking of…
Restaurant SEO Is Very Necessary
It isn’t just your site design; you need to think about it; it’s how your site interacts with the broader web too. This is where SEO comes in. By utilizing the best practices, you can boost your business to the top.
Claim Your Google Business Listing
This is a significant first step if you haven’t completed it already. Have you ever Googled a restaurant and immediately been shown a bunch of reviews and images at the top of the searches? That’s a Google business listing. They are entirely free to set up and effectively work as great promotion without the hefty price tag.
Statistics released in the past have shown that businesses that use the Business Listing feature are considered twice as reputable by prospective diners.
You can also customize your business listing to include features such as:
- Booking a table
- Viewing the menu
- Placing an order
It’s more than just a way to increase your visibility in restaurant searches. It’s a fully operational tactic that encourages potential customers to engage with your brand. And it’s free!
A blog can be a powerful addition to any professional website. It allows you to upload content that keeps your diner engaged while also providing you with an opportunity to pack as many SEO keywords into your site as possible. SEO keywords are the specific terms used most often in search engine queries.
The reason so many websites offer blogs these days isn’t because owners double as impassioned writers: it’s because they understand SEO.
By providing your restaurant site with a steady stream of blog posts, you achieve two key things:
- Your brand now has a voice. This is important, as it keeps your restaurant from seeming cold or unwelcoming. It works similarly to how posting images of staff on Instagram can humanize your brand. It lets visitors know that your site is active, not abandoned.
- You can quickly adapt to new SEO keyword trends without sounding contrived. Whenever there’s a new culinary fad, you can capitalize on it with a blog post of your own. No contrived copy, no frequent rewrites, just a new blog post with all the right info. Simple!
If you aren’t the creative type yourself, consider hiring a freelance writer to create your posts for you. That way, you won’t have to worry about weakening your professional appearance due to bad grammar or poor spelling.
Invest in Geo-Targeted Ads
As we said above, most diners aren’t interested in restaurant searches for establishments on the other side of the world – they search for local restaurants. Geo-targeted ads help customers choose your restaurant over another business.
They’re beneficial on two fundamental levels:
- You save money by targeting a specific radius relevant to your business instead of incurring costs for an unnecessarily far-reaching campaign.
- You hit the demographic most likely to respond to your ads, resulting in higher footfall for your establishment.
You can invest in geo-targeted ads through classic advertisement platforms such as Google Ads, Twitter, and Facebook at no additional cost. You can hone in on an entire state, a city, or even a zip code. How wide you want to cast your net is entirely up to you.
Fill In All The Boxes On Every Reservation App
The days of calling a restaurant to book a table a long gone. In the modern age, people want immediate results with minimal contact. This is why you can order an Uber without speaking to anybody and why reservation apps are only increasing in popularity.
If you’re using a reservation app for your restaurant, you need to make sure every single box is filled out. This includes:
- Your restaurant description
- Your location
- Your availability (opening times and capacity)
Some apps even let you attach photos of your establishment or purchase ads with them to boost your popularity. The point is to maximize every tool available to you. The internet is a competitive arena, but you can avoid becoming drowned out by some pretty simple fixes.
Want to Get Started?
The food industry is an ever-changing world, and keeping up with customers takes consistent work, especially when it comes to dominating restaurant searches. As a restaurant owner, you have to think beyond traditional marketing and use the internet to increase the likelihood that customers will choose you over a competitor.
Online, there’s a whole range of guests out there for you to claim, provided you use the right tactics. As a restaurant owner, a digital marketing strategy may be a fit for your business.
Instinct Marketing is a digital marketing company based in Sacramento, CA, that helps locally-owned restaurants bring more customers to their doors. We are here to provide your business with the best possible SEO strategies so you can focus on what is most important.