You’ve got the best menu in town. The most instagram-friendly decor. The best staff, delivering an unbeatable guest experience. But you still have to fill your seat with hungry guests.
Today, guests are largely discovering restaurants and booking reservations online. So it’s mission critical that your website is listed accurately, and highly visible, in local search queries. Before we dive in let’s first establish a common understanding of what Local Search is.
Local Search: When a user asks Google or another search engine to find something within a specific geographic area.
Google estimates that 43% of all Google search queries are local and 74% of local Google searches are conducted on mobile devices. With mobile device use on the rise, there’s no better time to learn more about improving your restaurant’s position in Local Search.
Google Search vs Google Maps
While Google is not the only service users rely on to search locally, it is the most important. In addition to being the most popular, Google also has (2) services where users search locally: Google Search and Google Maps. Google Search is when you search in Google using a regular web browser like Chrome or Safari, and Google Maps searches are performed in the Google Maps application or in a web browser using Google Maps.
Example of a local search for “restaurants near me” in the Google Maps mobile app
So why do certain restaurants show higher than others in local search results? There are many factors that Google uses to determine the order and results of a search query, but among the most important are:
- Proximity of the user to the business and
- The primary category association of the business to that search query
For example, if I’m standing next to a seafood restaurant that has correctly listed it’s primary category (on Google My Business) as a “Seafood Restaurant” then this restaurant will likely show first in local results for queries related to seafood restaurants.
If you’re interested in learning more detail about what makes your restaurant or local business show higher in search results, I would encourage you to read this annual study performed by Moz that monitors Local Search Ranking Factors.
The Top 5 Ways to Increase Your Restaurant's Visibility in Local Search
So now that we have a better understanding of what Local Search is and why one restaurant may rank higher than another in results, let’s discuss how we can influence these results.
- Create a Master Document with your Approved Business Information
As simple as this sounds, it may be the single most important tool to getting your business to appear higher in search results. Create a master document that lists all of the information you will use to fill out business profiles and listings online. Search Engines are more willing to show your business in local results if all of your information is perfectly consistent across all directories. Making sure you have an internal document that has all of the correct information is a great place to start. We’re happy to share a template that we use to do this called the Approved Business Information Sheet (ABIS) that you can download for free here.
- Doing Data-based Search Term Research before Copywriting
Local Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a long-term branding strategy that can take anywhere from 6 - 24 months to show significant results. It’s important to do your research first before starting this strategy. Choosing the right search terms should be part of this research. We like to use Google AdWords Keyword Planner, the Moz Keyword Explorer or the SEMRush Keyword Research Application to find the most popular search terms that accurately represent the brand or location we’re working on. These search terms should then be used to influence copywriting for your website and directory listings.
- Claiming Directory Listings
A directory listing is any website that lists your business information including the Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP). The quantity of directory listings that accurately list your restaurant location information will have a direct impact of how often that location shows in local searches. Some examples of popular directory listings are: Google My Business, Facebook, Yelp, Bing, Foursquare, Trip Advisor, Yahoo/Yext and Apple Maps. There are hundreds of directory listings, even some that are industry or geographically specific (hint: the more specific the better). There are a lot of online resources like Yext or Moz Local that can help manage and create directory listings for you. In our experience these tools can be helpful when used in combination with your own manual effort to claim and correct listings that these tools may not have access to.
- Making Changes to Your Website
The three most important changes that may need to be updated on your website to influence Local Search are:
- Keyword-rich Page Titles and Meta Descriptions
These are technical web page elements that you can’t see on the actual web page, but are used by search engine crawlers to determine how to classify each page.
- Including as much location information on your website as possible (including schema.org structured data if possible)
Search Engines will crawl your website looking for the same type of information that exists on corresponding directory listings. It’s important to make sure this information matches, and that there is enough information for a search engine crawler to process.
- The existence of a separate page for each location you are trying to promote in local search
If you are a restaurant group or franchise with multiple locations it’s important to have a dedicated page on your website for each location. This way search engines can easily separate each page for local search queries that match that specific geographic area.
- Going back to Audit Directory Listings
Claiming and making changes to your directory listings is a great start, but unfortunately it will take more than this to make sure all listings are accurate. Many directories including Google or Facebook may change this information without telling you, based on signals they see from other websites. Other directories can take a very long time to update their directory information even after you’ve manually submitted the requested changes.So even after diligently claiming and updating all possible directory listings, the information that’s live on the web may still be inconsistent. And whatever information is live is what search engine crawlers will use to associate with your location.
One of the easiest ways you can audit your directory listings is by Googling the name, address and phone number (separately) for your location and then surveying the results. What directory listings appear first? Is the information 100% accurate? By doing this we are getting an accurate idea of how Google and other search engines are identifying our location with these specific contact details.
Thanks for taking the time to learn more about Local Search!