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Blog / May 22, 2019

Restaurant Digital Marketing Debate: Social Media vs SEO?

Bianca Esmond

Here’s the scenario – you’re managing a restaurant and looking to use the web to help drive more business. You’ve been approached by many different vendors and services, and you’re unsure which one will provide the most value for your investment. At the top of this list are two familiar buzzwords that you’ve heard before ‘social media’ and ‘SEO’. What do these digital marketing initiatives mean for your restaurant? Which one is more important? First, let’s get a high-level understanding of each effort: What is social media marketing? Social media marketing is creating content on popular social networks like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to connect, build relationships and share information with your audience. What is search engine optimization (SEO) marketing? SEO marketing results in being discovered in a search engine like Google or Bing. You can position your website or free Google Business listing to show favorably in search results for specific terms. Both social media and search engine optimization (SEO) are important ways to connect with your restaurant audience online.  To determine which one is better for you, let’s examine the major differences between the two:


Who is the audience using this channel and how can we speak their language?
  • Social Media On social media we know a lot about our audience’s likes and interests, but not as much about what they’re thinking the moment they see our content.  Remember, people on social media opened Facebook or Instagram to connect with friends and family. To connect with this audience your content must be emotionally charged and share-worthy.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) In a search engine we know a lot about what someone is looking for, but not as much about who they are.  Remember, in a search engine people are trying to find the answer to a question they have. To connect with this audience your content must be well-researched and informative.


What is the best type of content for each channel?
  • Social Media Strong visuals may often speak louder than words on social media. Visual content like images or video can cause your audience to have an emotional reaction that’s worth sharing with friends or family.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) When we ask a search engine for something, we’re using our words (whether we type them or use voice search like Google Assistant). Therefore, it’s words that are the most important aspect of how to rank well in a search engine. There is evidence to suggest that web pages with 1500+ words are more likely to show higher in search results.


How fast will I see the results from this marketing effort?
  • Social Media On social media, the content we share can have an effect on our audience within minutes of posting it.  It’s important to understand what your audience is doing when you post content on social media so you can increase the likelihood of engagement.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Changing how your website or business ranks in a search engine is a long term strategy that can take 3-6 months to show fruitful results. It’s important to do your research and understand the themes and trends of what your audience is searching for to avoid creating content that won’t be relevant later on.


How long will my content continue to provide value after I post it?
  • Social Media Social Media content can expire just as quickly as it can go viral.  It’s important to get the most out of your content in the moment, because once the moment has passed it’s less likely to continue driving value.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Although it may take 3-6 months to change how your website ranks in a search engine, the value from a search engine can be long term, lasting for months or years.

Conversion Rate

Which channel will have a higher conversion rate to create more sales per website visitor?
  • Social Media As we mentioned earlier, people on social media are first looking to connect with friends and family.  Therefore they’re not necessarily in a purchase mindset and will convert at a lower rate than search engine users.  Social media marketing is about raising awareness so that your audience remembers your brand when they’re ready to make a dining decision.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) People using a search engine tend to convert at a higher rate because they’re searching for the answer to a question (like “places to eat near me”). These users have a specific need, and if you can provide them with a solution they’ll be more likely to convert.

Measuring Value

How can we measure value on each channel, to determine which effort is driving more sales?
  • Social Media Since social media is more of an awareness marketing technique, it’s more difficult to attribute directly to sales. People who engage with your restaurant on social media may not convert directly to a sale, but their engagement has shared a genuine appreciation of your restaurant to their entire network of friends and family.  This can be extremely valuable, but difficult to track.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) In most instances, search engine marketing involves your website. This means that in order to get people from a search engine into your restaurant, they need to have visited your website. It’s much easier to track value on our website and determine how many people viewed our menu, made an online reservation or called the restaurant.
To summarize, both social media networks and search engines are popular channels where restaurant guests are spending a considerable amount of time online.  The same person who’s using social media apps like Facebook or Instagram is also using Google Search or Google Maps to research where to eat.  What’s different is their mindset when using each channel. Understanding this mindset can help you communicate naturally with your audience, and make the most of your digital marketing efforts. Interested in how you can drive more direct reservations through Google? Request a demo with SevenRooms today.

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