You need to be on Google. It’s the largest of all search engines, and it is proven to help restaurants boost their business. Let’s take a look at some strategies you can implement to rank higher on Google and fill all the tables in your restaurant.

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No matter how good or bad your restaurant website has performed in Google up until now, there are many ways you can step up your search engine optimization (SEO) game and achieve a higher rank. A higher ranking in Google, along with other prominent search engines, and strong local listings are some of the best ways to widen your audience, increase brand awareness, and bring in more hungry customers.

SEO has been a popular buzzword for a few years now. Between the changing SEO landscape and an ever-increasing level of competition, it’s never been more important to learn, understand, and use SEO techniques to their fullest potential. Using customer feedback, locality, ordered data, and more, you can push your restaurant’s website up to where you want it to be on Google, whether you have a single location or you offer a chain of fine eateries in different places.

What important SEO steps must you take to achieve your online marketing goals? Below are ten strategies you can use to reach your goals and draw the audience you’ve always wanted.

Have a Solid SEO Plan

The most important thing you can do is have a solid plan of attack when it comes to SEO. Doing so will prevent you from wasting time, narrow down your true competition, and bring results faster. The results? Widening your audience by driving targeted, high-quality traffic to your restaurant’s website.

Start with the geographic locations where the majority of your customers will come from, as they likely work or live close by. Next, you’ll need to identify the keywords and phrases your customers use to find you on Google. How? There are many great tools you can use to research keywords like Google’s Keyword Planner and other third-party keyword tools. Keep in mind it’s very important to think in terms of what people type in to search and what they’d ask using voice search (more on that later).

What should you be considering? High-level terms visitors might use to find restaurants could include “restaurants” or “restaurant websites.” Doing your research using a keyword planner will reveal keywords that will be much more focused and beneficial to your efforts. Think in terms of geography or restaurant type, like “restaurants near me” or “Italian restaurants.” The keywords should be both what your restaurant is about and what an actual visitor might type in to specifically find you. Remember to also use brand terms to create brand awareness.

Local Search Is a Must

Creating local listings in all the major search engines is key. Using Google My Business to improve your local search results should be at the top of your to-do list. You’ll also want to ensure that you’re promoting on social media and any restaurant-specific directories you can find.

Moz Local and Yext are more great tools that can assist you in understanding all of the external data sources and directories available so that you can create listings and manage them properly. Ensure you’re using directories that have an authority and don’t waste time and resources on those that don’t matter. After Google My Business, you’ll want to also utilize CitySearch, FourSquare, TripAdvisor, Yelp, Yellow Pages and more.

Social Media Engagement

While there’s been an ongoing debate about the real impact of social media engagement on SEO, it’s undeniable that it’s a wonderful, affordable, and easy way to connect with your audience on a personal level, which is a real bonus.

How you and your restaurant are portrayed on social media, in the customers’ mind, is a sampling of what to expect if they come to see you. If your engagement on social media is warm, welcoming, and genuine, it just might correlate to a stronger organic search presence and more paying customers. Engagement along with content and popularity are among the more important, basic elements you need to be successful.

When it comes to social media engagement, you’ll want to ensure that you engage with followers often and reply to their posts quickly. If the visitors you engage with like the interaction, they can influence others to patronize your restaurant and share your content.

Fresh, Relevant Content

One of the most common mistakes restaurants and other businesses make when it comes to SEO is allowing their content to become stagnant. Unchanging content that’s been up since 2008 isn’t going to keep visitors on your website. Rather, it’s going to send them running to a competitor’s website.

If you have only one location, your job here is easier. If you have multiple locations, you will have some work to do but it can be done. The challenge is to regularly supply each restaurant website with fresh, relevant content that will be of interest to your customers and hopefully establish you as an authority in your particular niche.

While engaging blog posts are what most people assume is meant here in talking about content, copy is not the only thing that can be used. Beautiful photography, videos, animated graphics, and more can be used for great results.

Search engines love unique content; it must be unique because anything duplicated will actually hurt your SEO efforts. This gives you an opportunity to present your menus, dishes, restaurant, and more in a positive light. It can really help you stand out amongst your competition also.

Content Localization

While we’re on the subject of content, one element you should include in your content is information about your location. Where is your restaurant and whom do you serve?

Often there are unofficial names for neighborhoods and locales around you that aren’t easy for search engines or traveling visitors to discern. By offering content that gives information about your community, you’re actually helping both potential customers and the search engines out.

For each restaurant website, include information on the location and tailor it as much as you can to your restaurant. Give details on local history, local neighborhoods, and offer community engagement.

Reviews Are More Important Than You Think

Restaurant reviews and ratings are displayed on every search for a given restaurant, and yes, visitors are going to click on the higher rated establishments first. Reviews are used in the SEO arena as an engagement tactic but actually have a bigger impact on your search engine ranking and traffic than you think.

Good reviews are the goal but sometimes you’ll have reviews that don’t adequately reflect the quality of your restaurant. What you can do about this? Devise strategies to get as many reviews as you can to help bring up past scores.

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Use On-Page SEO

There are many facets to SEO success and the use of on-page SEO practices is often skipped by businesses that don’t want to take the time to implement them. While it can be a timely process, it’s actually in your best interest to consider doing so.

Why? The pages of your website must be indexed by search engines so people can find you and so your content can be properly filed and sorted. Be sure to evaluate your robots.txt and XML sitemap. Google Search Console can help you identify errors.

Also ensure all of your URLs, titles, meta description tags, headers, page copy, and image alt tags are unique and keyword-specific. Yes, it will be a time investment to check your site over to ensure this, however, the end result will be worth it.

Schema Markup

Structured data is another area of SEO many don’t consider to be valuable but it very much is. Its use can offer context on the search engines and bring your content to more users.

For restaurants, using the Schema library is something you definitely need to consider doing. Doing this may require the help of a developer unless you’re using a content management system (CMS) like WordPress or Joomla that offers an add-on or plugin that can take care of the task for you.

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Mobile Search Is the New King

More than 50 of all search engine inquiries are conducted on mobile devices. For restaurants, this aspect is even more crucial to know since a high percentage of searches for restaurants are conducted via mobile searches.

With the rise of mobile search, it’s important that your website is optimized for SEO and mobile. A website with a responsive design, meaning it appears and functions the same regardless of which computer or device you’re viewing it on, is ideal. Google’s July 2018 update changed its practices from rewarding mobile-friendly websites with slightly better rankings to now penalizing websites that aren’t mobile-friendly.

Provide your users with a great mobile user experience. Ensure you have a responsive website that loads quickly.

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Voice Search Is on the Rise

Voice searching occurs when you use a digital assistant like Cortana, Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant, etc. to search for things online. For example, you can say, “Hey Siri, what is the closest Mexican restaurant?” and she will direct you to your maps app.

Now as many as up to 15 of search queries are done by voice. If your website is not optimized for voice search, you could be hurting your SEO efforts.

How are websites optimized for voice searching? Take a look at your keywords. Think about the differences between regular searches where people type in a query and voice searches where they’d ask a question. If you wanted to find the nearest Thai restaurant and you typed the query into your web browser, you might type “nearest Thai restaurant.” If you speak into your phone, you’re less likely to say that. You might ask, “Where is the nearest Thai restaurant?” Your keywords must be optimized for each of these possibilities.

A full restaurant is the ultimate goal and one of the best ways to accomplish this is to ensure that your restaurant can be found quickly and easily in search engines. When potential patrons find you, what they see needs to convince them that yours is the restaurant they want.

It may seem like there is a lot to do, so you could consider reaching out to a digital marketing agency that has experience building out custom websites for local companies. For example, if you live in Youngstown, try searching “Youngstown Websites” in Google, and browse through your options.

Once you get the customers in the seat and behind your menu, then it’s up to you and your staff. By ensuring that your SEO is as tasty and easy to digest as your wonderful dishes, you’ll have a perfect marriage of in-person and online success.