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Restaurants are generally still pretty oblivious to the opportunities that exist for them on the internet. Local companies often don’t connect the global reach of the internet to their little spot on the planet, but large opportunities still exist to connect their little world to their customers that use the internet. For most restaurants, this is almost their entire customer base.
Not saying “Hello” to your clients, continuing a relationship, and building upon the one you already formed is a large missed opportunity in the restaurant business. Use the following steps to start creating and developing your customer relationships.
1. Make Your Location Known
On your business website (you have one, right?), make sure you have citations of your location on most of the pages. Be certain it’s natural but especially try and get your contact information on the home page, about page, and contact page. These location citations are important to the search engines to prove that you are who you say you are, and your business is located in a set, established location.
2. Start Generating Local Citations
Similarly, the search engines need to find external citations of your business location on the internet to help solidify that you are who you say you are. These citations also generally serve as backlinks for your website, and are a good way to start establishing trust in the SERPs.
The first step is getting your restaurant listed properly in the search engines themselves. Use the following URLs to submit your restaurant to each major search engine:
- Google Places
- Yahoo! Local
- Bing Local
When creating your listing on Google, you’ll have the ability to add relevant local keywords for your restaurant. You can list up to five categories. Immediate recommendations for these keywords are “City restaurants”, and “restaurants city”, as well as restaurant type specific, such as “Chinese restaurants city”, or “City Chinese restaurants”. A picture of the Google interface for adding your restaurant is below.
Google is by far the most important local listing platform, but Bing and Yahoo still have areas where you should register your business. You should use best practices similar to the instructions given above to get your website ranking for the same keywords in the local listings.
Outside the search engines, there is an assortment of general and local business listing areas with a multitude of benefits, from actual traffic, to SEO value, to citation “local listing” value.
Websites with general business value, that generate direct traffic and walk-ins to your restaurant, are listed below. Fill these out carefully to ensure you are maximizing returns from your listings.
- Judy’s Book
The rest of these listings won’t generate as much direct traffic to your business, but it will start the ball rolling towards proving your restaurant’s legitimacy in the search engines, both locally and in the general search results.
- Yellow Pages
- Insider Pages
- White Pages
- The USA Explorer
- Mojo Pages
There are several ways to find places to create citations. Besides the given links on this list, you can find more creative, local specific citations with Rand Fishkin’s tip on SEOMoz.
3. Get Started on Facebook and Twitter
If you haven’t gotten your restaurant on Facebook or Twitter, you should. Before starting your page, begin “listening”. Look at other restaurants that use Facebook and Twitter successfully, see what they’re doing well, and see what parts of it you can incorporate into your own pages.
Restaurants should pay special attention to their Facebook page. There is more of your target market on Facebook to be reached, so it makes sense to most efficiently use exposure in the place where you can utilize it best.
To get you started, check out the following awesome Twitter and Facebook restaurant accounts:
- Wafels & Dinges in New York, New York: http://twitter.com/waffletruck | http://bit.ly/c6z3HT
- Kogi BBQ in Los Angeles, California: http://twitter.com/kogibbq | http://bit.ly/1oBx1s
- Devotay in Iowa City, Iowa: http://twitter.com/Devotay | http://bit.ly/arzb75
- Nine Mile in Asheville, NC: http://twitter.com/ninemile | http://bit.ly/9vLvgQ
- 21st Amendment in San Francisco, California: http://twitter.com/21stAmendment | http://bit.ly/bQS1Ps
Here’s an example from 21st Amendment’s website, where they link to their social profiles. Your restaurant should do this too. It’s also a strong recommendation to build in the social symbols into your menus, so your customers know they can connect on Facebook and Twitter.
4. Leverage Mobile and the “Restaurant Web”
Outside of Facebook and Twitter, more general-business opportunities on the internet, there are also several restaurant specific platforms you should take advantage of to make the most of your great food.
Yelp is the ultimate resource for restaurants on the internet, providing the biggest database of restaurant reviews online. Because of the popularity and mass of Yelp, it is impossible to ignore this resource. Check out Yelp’s business owner’s guide to get started and also Mashable’s Yelp for Business guide to maximize the benefit you can receive from Yelp.
GrubHub allows you to find restaurants in your area that deliver and gives you the ability to order online without ever having to speak to someone. Get your restaurant listed by going to the website and contacting customer service, and they’ll get you started towards generating new business leads today. Restaurants should also consider having online ordering capabilities for customers directly on their website.
OpenTable is a service that sets up instant dinner reservations online. Consumers looking to expidite the process will often come to OpenTable for the convenience it provides, and it’s a must for any busy restaurant. Start the listing process through their Restaurateurs page.
UrbanSpoon automatically redirects the incoming traffic to their local area, giving in-depth information about all the regional eateries. It offers a review system as well, making it a platform very similar to Yelp. To add your restaurant, use their submission form online.
Foursquare is a location platform that allows users to “check-in” at whatever location they’re at. For restaurants, this creates new customer loyalty opportunities. Your restaurant can offer specific deals through the platform for repeat visits, being the most loyal customer, or “wildcard” specials, so that a special is potentially available every time they check in. Learn more on Foursquare’s business page.
Learn More: 10 Free Local SEO Tools for Small Businesses
6. Coupon Sites
There are several coupon sites you can utilize to create awareness and increase loyalty for your website. Get your website listed on general restaurant coupon listings, get on Restaurants.com, or take part in Groupon.com to create huge results. Groupon.com is a “group coupon” service that requires large participation for the coupon to work, which means a potentially huge influx of customers for your restaurant.
To get you started, here are a few of the best coupon services on the internet:
There are plenty of opportunities in internet marketing to leverage technology to sell food to thousands of potential new customers. This guide is a great way to begin the process of driving thousands of new walk-ins to your restaurant.