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Dead Simple Search Engine Tips for Restaurants

How to use SEO to get more guests into your restaurant

a group of people sitting at a table

SEO can be a daunting concept for those whose jobs don’t require diving into the inner workings of the internet—truly, it can be a daunting prospect even for those whose jobs do require it. As a restaurant operator, you’ve got plenty more on your plate than search rankings, but having a basic understanding of SEO will help more guests find their way to your site, and, in turn, your seats. Here’s how:

What is SEO?

First things first: SEO stands for “search engine optimization,” and it refers to how Google and other search engines find your site in the endless sea of webpages out there. When the structure of your site and the information on it is laid out properly and clearly, it makes it easier for Google to find your site and show it to the people who are looking for what you have to offer.

a screenshot of a cell phone

How Do I Get Strong SEO?

Strong SEO comes from a few sources. Search engine algorithms themselves are complicated and ever-changing, but SEO is based on the idea of building trust and authority for your page, which is developed over time. It also comes from other websites, who have already earned the search engine’s trust (like, say, the website for a major publication), linking to your site, essentially “sharing” some of their trust with you.

This is why it’s so important to have a website for your restaurant up as early as possible (even if it’s just a splash page). A newspaper or blog wants to link directly to your official website—not a third party like Yelp or OpenTable—and you want them sending readers your way, because…

Web Visitors = Restaurant Revenue

It’s simple math: the more people who see your website, the more opportunities you have to turn them into paying customers. Our data shows that web traffic is double foot traffic in the restaurant itself, so it’s imperative to get as many online visitors as possible. (And once they’re there, you have the opportunity to turn them into paying customers even if they can’t step foot in your restaurant itself!)

a screenshot of a mobile phone

Best Practices for SEO

Having a website is a good start, but there are a few easy things you can do to ensure that you’re building the best SEO possible:

  • Make your guests happy: In the same way that you strive to create the best experience in the dining room, build a website that anticipates and responds to your guest’s needs (here are some tips for getting started on that). Search engines will take notice, and send more visitors your way.  
  • Build a mobile-responsive site (i.e. one site that loads seamlessly across all platforms).
  • Ensure that your site loads quickly by keeping it free from heavy PDFs or large photo files.
  • Label pages properly: If you have a section of your site dedicated to your menu, call it that. The same goes for things like “events,” “contact,” or “reservations.” Just like your chef in the pantry, search engines are looking for clean, well-organized, clearly-labeled websites.
  • Tech considerations: many DIY website platforms have clunky HTML coding, and open-source platforms can have lackluster security guardrails. Make sure you work with a reputable platform that keeps your site streamlined and secure under the hood

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