*This article was originally printed at SearchEngineNews.com.
 
Google and other search engines look for features on industry specific sites that qualify them as higher quality than their competition. Every industry seems to have a thumbs up indicator from Google for doing one thing which Google then rewards with better rankings. For restaurants it's quickly becoming apparent that what users want to know is - What's for dinner?!
 
When set up properly, your menu is not only your key to the top of the search results it's also its own doorway into your business. Google is rewarding restaurants that include their menu on their sites with higher quality indicators and better rankings. Here are the tips you need to know in order to properly optimize your menu.
 
Link to your menu from your homepage. You want it to be immediately available to potential customers, because there is a good chance it's the entire reason they came to your site, and eventually your restaurant.
  • Avoid using Flash - Using Flash to make your site seem more professional can just as easily make it look tacky. It can increase load times which doesn't really increase site satisfaction, and it's also difficult for search engines to deal with.
  • Avoid small print - If you have a large menu there's no need to try to cram it all onto one page with tiny fonts. While in a restaurant you only have so much room on a piece of paper, online there is no such worry. It's okay to have several pages each with its own section like seafood, entrees, soups, etc.
  • Don't scan in your menu - Scanning is just a cheap way to put that paper menu back onto the computer and it never looks good. Most scans are going to be images, and images tend to slow down your site, which will negatively affect its ranking. Though Google can in fact scan images for text and attempt to index it, it's not going to be perfect and some content could get missed. Avoid special rules, exclusions, and warnings - Posting minimum purchases and other rules can scare away a customer before they ever walk in the door. You want to appear customer friendly and your menu should attract people to your restaurant, not scare them away.
  • Create a PDF Menu - A simple PDF menu makes it easier for your customers to view and print off. Plus! Google is great at crawling the text from a PDF, which can easily be optimized much like a Web page. You should have ALT text for images, hyperlink logos, and add keywords to the meta-data of the document. Again, don't scan in your menu and put it into a PDF, it will have the same problems as before. Additionally, if you're making a PDF menu, be sure to put your contact information, address, and even have an embedded link within the PDF. Sometimes menus make it onto other sites (such as this blog for the Bay Area, CA http://510menus.blogspot.com/), and having a way for people to find you is never a bad idea.
  • List daily specials - People are always looking for a good deal, especially on a purchase as common as food. If they know what the special is on Mondays, or when your happy hours are, then they might choose your restaurant over another.
  • Display your prices - Lack of a price point is a really easy way to scare off customers. Potential customers can easily assume that your prices are going to be too high and not even give your restaurant a chance. If your prices change regularly for some reason, then simply add in a statement encouraging customers to call for up to date prices. Google Maps and other services attempt to provide an estimated price, and if they have a hard time doing so, you may lose some of that usability factor as well.
  • Distribute your menu via a service like Dotmenu - These services can also be indexed by search engines which can get your restaurant even more exposure.

If you use these tips to optimize your menu properly then anyone searching for a food related inquiry can find your menu and therefore your restaurant. When it comes to today's Internet savvy consumer, if your Web site doesn't have a menu - neither does your restaurant.

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