By Brian Casel, founder of Restaurant Engine
You know the impact that Google and other search engines can have for your business. But understanding how to place your site in search results can be a mystery. Let's shed some light on this subject, shall we?
There are esssentially three factors that affect your website's Google search ranking. I also have five tips for optimizing your restaurant's website so it has a better standing in Google.
The 3 factors that affect your website's search engine ranking
1. How your website is built
If your website was built using the best standards and practices for a fast-loading, optimized website, then you'll be in good shape when it comes to Google. WordPress-powered websites are particularly well-optimized for search engines.
Flash-based websites are bad! If your website was built using Flash, it's basically invisible to Google, so avoid using Flash.
2. Your website's content
The text included in your website heavily impacts which keywords your website will rank for. The more relevant keywords you include in your website, the more likely your site will show up when someone types those keywords into Google.
For example, if you include "Italian food in Norwalk, CT" a handful of times throughout your website (but don't over-do it!), there's a good chance your site will begin ranking for this term and ones like it.
3. Off-site optimization
The third factor is off-site optimization, which includes things that happen outside of your website itself. A key factor is the number of links from other websites that point to yours. So it's a good idea to make sure your site is listed in all of the key Restaurant directories, with links pointing to your website.
Another form of off-site optimization is social media activity. Google now factors in the number of Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and other social media chatter about your website, so it's a good idea to be active on at least a few social networks.
5 Things you can do to improve your standing in search results
Now that we understand what three factors that affect your ranking in Google, let's break down a few tactics you can use to start seeing results:
1. Include key terms within your pages
Think about key search terms that people might search for that should lead them to your restaurant. Key search terms would probably be the type of cuisine you serve, your city name, and of course your restaurant name. Local landmarks might be relevant for you as well. Here are some examples:
"Burgers in Norwalk, CT"
"Italian food on Long Beach Boardwalk"
"Ray's Pizza, New York City"
Be sure to include these terms within the pages of your website, so that Google will detect and index your site.
2. Optimize Your Title Tags
The title tag contains the text shown at the top of the web browser. Your homepage title tag should include your restaurant name, the city or town you're in, and perhaps the type of cuisine you serve.
For example, a good title for a restaurant's homepage would be: Vitale's Restaurant, Fine Italian Cuisine in Norwalk, Connecticut
Editing the title tags of your website may require some code editing on your website, so you might need to ask your developer about this. Some partners, including Restaurant Engine, allow you to edit the title tags yourself.
3. Keep your site fresh with new content
When it comes to your website, don't "set it and forget it." Google rewards websites that come out with fresh new content on a weekly or monthly basis. Use your Content Management System (WordPress) to regularly post new content like blogs, upcoming events, or even just a couple new photos each month.
4. Register with Google Places
Be sure to register your restaurant with Google Places so that you show up both in search results as well as in Google Maps. It goes without saying that you should include your website URL and contact info in this listing.
5. Get listed on all the directories
Yelp, Urbanspoon, your local restaurant directories — not only do these provide great exposure to your target audience (local restaurant goers), they're a great source of off-site links pointing to your website, which will help your ranking in Google.
The Bottom Line
The truth is, getting your restaurant to show up on the first page of Google results for relevant keywords can take weeks, if not months, to achieve. It's not a simple switch that can be turned on overnight.
But with a few, easy-to-implement tactics, like the ones I shared above, coupled with a well-optimized website design, customers will find your restaurant on Google in no time!
* These tips are part of the free email course I released called Winning More Customers From The Web, available on the Restaurant Engine blog.
Brian Casel is a professional web designer and founder of Restaurant Engine, a website design solution for restaurants. For more advice on how to win more customers from the web, visit the Restaurant Engine Blog and get the free email course for Restaurant Owners.