SEO for restaurants

A practical guide with steps you can take today to rank higher in search engines

A practical guide with steps you can take today to rank higher in search engines

Investing time in SEO (or Search Engine Optimization) means increasing organic traffic to your website, thus boosting your brand awareness and turning it into sales.

It’s easy to get lost in details but SEO for restaurants and bistros doesn’t need to be a hassle.

We compiled some essentials tips you can use starting today, no matter if your website has been online since day one or you’re just getting started now.

SEO for restaurants keyword strategy

Before you get started on tools or anything fancy, first think about your business profile.
It’s the same exercise you did when you decided to become a restaurant owner. Which cuisine is your specialty? Where are you located? Do you offer the option for takeaway and delivery?

When customers search the internet, they try to find something specific in their area – no one will search for a Thai restaurant in a different city (unless they’re planning a trip there).

This exercise will help you with defining which customers your website is addressing. Trying to get known in an entire country can not only dilute your traffic, but also wouldn’t bring extra benefits.

Narrow your keywords

By doing this, you’re going to be able to narrow some keywords that you want to rank for. Before going into keyword tools, try to write down some short phrases that you, in the position of a customer, would search for online (of course, applying it to your restaurant’s specs).

Let’s say that Pronto Restaurant in Naples is doing Italian cuisine.

If they’re not searching for a specific restaurant, most users would type in keywords like:
“Italian restaurant in Naples”
“Best restaurant in Naples”
“Italian restaurant”

In this case, the best option for Pronto Restaurant is to optimize their website for the first 2 keywords. The last one is a bit too generic and the competition too high.

Choose keywords wisely

The main goal is ranking #1 in search engines for specific keywords.

Trying to rank first for every word or search phrase related to your business will only dilute your traffic and overall website authority. A search engine like Google will display what’s more useful for the user and if another website has been properly indexed for some very specific keywords, it will display that one first.

Try to rely heavily on one main keyword (like “Italian restaurant in Naples”) and work on ranking first for that one.

SEO for restaurants - keywords

Take your time

A thing that very few people will tell you is that indexing your page or website in a search engine takes time. The downside is that no one truly knows exactly how much it takes for indexing. It depends on a lot of factors and can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks. Getting authority, on the other hand, is another different thing, and can take entire months.

Practical tips & tricks for SEO for restaurants

There are steps you can take to make sure your website will be indexed and will rank high in search results over time.

First tools of the trade

Before getting your hands dirty, you’ll need to sign up for Google Analytics and Google Search Console. These two essential tools will help monitor your website performance and keep you up to date with keywords that users searched for to reach your pages.

Give crawlers a robots.txt to read

In order to crawl a website, search engines send away bots that scan your website and read its contents. It does so by following the instructions found in your robots.txt file which tells them how exactly to crawl your website.

The data crawled by these bots is then collected and the content is indexed so that it can be served up in search results when someone is looking for that information.

Submit a sitemap

A sitemap sends information to search engines about your pages and how your content is organized. It also tells them how often should bots visit them, how frequently pages are updated and when was the last change.

It also sends information like the importance of a specific URL in comparison to others on your website. For example, when it comes to priority, a page where you have the restaurant menu will be more important than the page where you list job openings.

It’s not mandatory to submit a sitemap to search engines – if your robots.txt file is in order, that alone will give search engines the information they need about your pages. However, it could help crawling your website better, especially if it’s new and doesn’t have external links to it just yet .

Fix crawl errors

The Google Search Console tool has a pretty neat feature called “Crawl errors” which lists issues at page level or site-wide. The latter is more urgent, as any issues that affect your entire website can cause some serious damage.

But what you’ll mostly need to watch out for are the URL errors – all those 404 (“Page not found”) errors that can signal a search engine like Google to stop indexing those pages.

Make sure that, instead of deleting a URL, you redirect it to another page. Otherwise, in time, these 404s will bite out of your PageRank, thus hurting your entire website . Besides, it’s not really user-friendly, is it?

SEO for restaurants - fix crawl errors

Poor performance affects SEO

A page or website that takes ages to load is no friend of search engines!
Slow loading time does not only affect user experience but can also lead to poor crawling and indexing. This means that it will affect your PageRank, instead of going for the 1st position.

Some things that you and your webmaster can do to increase your performance:

  • Optimize images
    Use a tool like TinyPNG or Optimizilla to compress your images;
  • Use font-icons or PNG sprites for your icons
    Displaying each one as an individual file means extra loading time on your page.
  • Minify your HTML, CSS & Javascript
    Google made a list of useful tools that help getting rid of redundant bits and pieces in your code, thus improving your loading time.
  • Leverage browser caching
    Ask your webmaster to have a caching policy in place – you can set for how long you want certain information on your page to be cached. Images, CSS & Javascript files are cached by browsers in order to cut down on loading time for returning visitors.
  • Always check your page speed
    Make sure to constantly verify that your performance is in top shape for both mobile and desktop.
    Google’s PageSpeed Insights can determine an overall score of your website’s performance and suggest possible improvements. We’d recommend making sure your score is above 90.

Work on your local SEO game

If your website is new, it needs time to gain authority.
Moz, an SEO software company, developed an algorithm for measuring page and domain authority. This helps determine how trustworthy and valuable a page is, and thus how well a website will perform in search engines, relative to its competitors .

In order to increase your authority, there are some steps you can put into motion:

Link building

An important step in increasing your domain and page authority is to get linked from high authority websites.

Of course, we don’t recommend spamming their comments section with links to your restaurant’s website but instead try to reach out to online businesses in the food industry.

You could propose to either write a guest post and link back to your own domain or the other way around. If they make lists of recommended restaurants, try to get yours included. Throw in a bargaining chip as well, perhaps by offering coupon codes for their visitors.

Get recommended and linked by others

Work on your social skills!
Not only will this help with link building but also getting someone trustworthy saying a few nice things about your dishes.

Do some research for foodies in your town – it might seem like a chore at first but it will pay off. Where to find them, you say?

  • Search on to see if there are any food lovers gathering in your city. See if you can attend and if so, don’t be afraid to maybe bring some treats from your restaurant there. Mingle with the attendees and see if any of them have blogs where they add recipes or review places to eat.
    Ask them if they’re willing to come by your restaurant and try some of your dishes for free. In exchange, they would write an article on their blog and link back to your website, maybe even with a coupon code for their readers.
  • Find /subreddits for food bloggers and see if any of them are from your town; a good tool to snoop them is... SnoopSnoo.
  • Find lifestyle bloggers and see what they’re about – if they like making recommendations to their readers, perhaps they would be open to write something about your business and include a backlink.
  • If you organize events or special promotions that could fall in that category (Taco Tuesday, anyone?), see if you can find any event aggregators online and list yourself there.

Get listed in restaurant directories

List your website in directories like Yelp, TripAdvisor or Foursquare where you can post pictures of your dishes, more details about your restaurant and, most importantly, get reviews by the community!

Align contact details across all social media profiles

Make sure that both your website and social media pages have all been talking to one another before the interrogation :-)

It would be embarrassing to have conflicting opening hours, address or phone numbers on your social media accounts.

Aside from this, make sure that all of your accounts have been verified as this adds credibility.

Create a Google Business profile

Claim and list your business so that Google will display a content box on the right side of the search results page whenever a user searches for you.

Normally, this works for branded keywords (that involve your restaurant’s name) but in some instances it can also be displayed for similar searches where you may be relevant for the user.

SEO for restaurants ranking in search results

Not only it attracts a lot of attention but it will also level up your SEO efforts – but don’t rely on these alone, everything has to work in tandem!

If done right, Google will list your restaurant’s profile with all the useful information the user might need, based on relevance and proximity.

Some things that you’ll need to have in place:

  • Images of the place and the dishes you serve;
  • Location – both written address as well as a pin on Google Maps;
  • Opening hours;
  • Contact number;
  • Website address;
  • Business description.

It’s all about user experience

We know, this one’s tricky.

Google recommends having quality and useful information on your website, by having relevant content instead of SEO-driven efforts.

While everyone in the industry agrees that SEO is a must if you want your website to be discovered by your potential customers, it’s shouldn’t be the only focus.

Instead, try to include in the mix the user experience and here we’re talking about the whole deal:

  • Your restaurant website design
  • How easy it is to find relevant information for the user
  • How easy it is to place an order or book a table
  • Mobile friendliness – mobile usage when browsing online has already surpassed desktop users

Andreea Dobrila

Andreea Dobrila is a proven SaaS Copywriter & Conversion Optimizer. She has been featured in articles published on BigCommerce, G2 Crowd, Wikipedia, Orders2me, and many others. She's on a mission to provide restaurant owners with all the marketing tools & resources they need to skyrocket their sales.

Start by downloading her Ultimate Guide on Food Descriptions That Make You Hungry: Hypnotic Menu Writing Tips & Secrets.

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