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By Katie McCann
Have you ever wondered how diners find your restaurant? Do they primarily rely on word of mouth? What about social media? Do they use search engines? And, if so, what restaurant searches do they use?
Word of mouth will always play a role in how customers find restaurants. But the rise of the Internet and modern technology has brought about a change: Guests now use multiple platforms to search for and make restaurant reservations.
If you want to stay ahead of the curve, you need to understand how guests discover new restaurants and what strategies you can use to show up in these restaurant searches.
In this post, you’ll learn:
Diners use a variety of platforms to find a table:
And, when searching, diners typically search by many different criteria:
Of course, people rarely use one platform and one set of criteria when searching. For example, a couple who plans a weekend getaway to New York City and wants an exceptional dining experience will probably search by location and restaurant type. A possible search term may be “the best fine-dining restaurants in Manhattan.”
These potential guests will probably also use review sites like TripAdvisor to find suitable restaurants in New York City. They’ll filter results based on criteria like “cuisine and dishes,” “dietary restrictions,” and “price.”
Beyond just showing up in Google search results, diners can actually book directly through the search platform, using Reserve with Google. Reserve with Google spans across industries, with the ability to reserve everything from tables to tickets. Reserve with Google gives diners a seamless reservation experience without ever having to leave their search.
What does the experience look like? First, diners search for a restaurant. If Reserve with Google is set up, a “reserve a table” button appears on the first result page. Diners can then click on the reserve button.
The diner is then taken to a menu where they select a date, time, and number of guests. Once they fill that in and click continue, an overview of the reservation pops up. Diners plug in their information or sign in directly through Google, click confirm, and voila! Their dinner reservations are locked in and they didn’t even have to open a new tab. With such a convenient booking method, it’s no wonder diners are turning to Google.
Now that you know how guests search, what can you do to get found in searches?
The upcoming section shares two powerful ways. The first involves creating business profiles on the platforms and adequately optimizing them for searches. The second consists of building a mobile-friendly restaurant website and optimizing key pages for relevant keywords.
Let’s have a look.
According to ReviewTrackers, local searches account for 35% of all searches on the Internet. And, as you saw, “restaurants near me” is one of the most common “near me” searches in Google – and also potentially very profitable.
Whenever a customer types this search query into Google, they’re immediately presented with three restaurants.
(Don’t believe us? Stop reading, open a new tab in your browser, and type in “restaurants near me.” See?)
If you can get featured in the top three, you will improve your chances of being clicked on from a restaurant search. But how exactly do you optimize for these local searches?
Here’s a step-by-step guide.
Start by creating business profiles on all the major directories: Google, Bing, Yelp, Facebook, Foursquare, Apple Maps, and TripAdvisor.
There are more search engines, mapping services, and review sites, but these are the major ones and will give you quick wins with minimal effort.
Then, make sure all your business information is consistent across platforms. If you don’t maintain consistency – with different addresses or even a different business name, for example – Google will probably penalize you.
So how do you achieve consistency? Do the following:
You’ll also have to monitor, manage, and respond to the reviews on the various platforms. Why? Your review scores, the volume of reviews, and how quickly you respond to them are all ranking factors that determine how you rank for local search.
Here are a few tips for better review management:
If you don’t already have a website, we strongly recommend you make one. After all, a restaurant website:
Of course, to realize these benefits, you need to build your website the right way. The upcoming section shares three steps to create a stunning website and a few best practices for getting found in search engines.
Note: This section does not cover website design in detail – learn more about it here.
Get organized, browse other sites online for inspiration, decide on the layout and the types of pages you’ll have (about, home, contact me, etc.), and gather materials. Materials include your website copy, menu, and design elements. Finally, map out your site by opening a notebook and roughly sketching how you want each page to look.
With the building blocks out of the way, you can create. You’ll need the following to start building:
After you’ve completed your website design and checked your copy, it’s time to go live. Have friends and family on call when you do, so they can explore the site, test your reservations booker, and make sure everything’s working properly.
A mobile-friendly website improves the user experience and ensures you capture traffic from those customers who search with mobile devices – and there are many, with numbers growing rapidly.
In fact, research suggests that smartphone search queries have increased from 27% in 2013 to close to 60% in the first quarter of 2019, with growth in the restaurant industry, especially rampant.
For example, a study by SinglePlatform mentions that “81% of consumers have searched for a restaurant on a mobile app and 92% through a web browser in the last six months, outperforming other highly searched industries, such as entertainment, retail outlets, hotels, and personal services.”
Mobile-friendly websites also rank higher in Google, which means you show up on more searches and hopefully get more customers.
Note: If you use Wix or Squarespace, your website will automatically be mobile responsive.
If a website takes more than three seconds to load, 40% of people will leave. This means you need to concentrate on reducing page load time. You can do this by:
Finally, you need to select relevant keywords customers use to find your restaurant and optimize your website pages for these keywords. Again, an excellent place to start is to focus on local search terms that also incorporate the type of restaurant you are or even the type of food you serve.
If, for example, you run a vegan restaurant in Chicago – it makes sense to optimize a website page for the keyword “vegan restaurants in Chicago,” “veggie grill Chicago,” “fancy vegan restaurants Chicago” or even “best vegan places in Chicago.” And no, I’m not making these restaurant searches up – Google Keyword Planner reveals that these are actual terms people use to discover vegan restaurants in Chicago.
For more detail on getting found in restaurant searches and Google, read How to Win at the Google Game: SEO & SEM for Restaurants.
If you use a third-party reservation management software, like TouchBistro Reservations, you probably also have access to their consumer-facing app where diners can search and book reservations directly.
Here are a few tips for making the most of your profile on these apps:
Today, consumers are using a variety of platforms to find restaurants, including reservation apps, review sites, and search engines.
Although consumers do interact differently with these platforms, they’re invariably using specific terms and common criteria to search like location and cuisine type.
As a restaurant owner, it’s your job not only to understand how they search but also how you can capitalize on these restaurant searches. This post explored two ways:
Have you used any of these methods to show up in restaurant searches? What was your experience?
Katie is a former Content Marketing Specialist at TouchBistro where she writes about food and restaurant experiences. She doesn’t shy away from the finer things in life, but no matter how much success she continues to acquire, she stays true to her roots and still considers imitation crab as gourmet. If she isn’t writing, you can find her on a patio with friends and a pitcher of white wine sangria.
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