Case Study: Can SEO Help Drive More Business to Local Restaurants?

busy restaurant during lunch

One of the more competitive niches in the world of search engine optimization is that of restaurants.  While they don’t command the large dollars that lawyers, doctors and dentists might, these sights often garner a large amount of genuine links independent of any outreach or link building tactics.  This is especially true of very successful restaurants like the Sparrow Bakery Northwest as they receive a large number of reviews from newspapers, magazines and food bloggers.

Successful Online Marketing for Restaurants

Given this competitive marketplace, alternative methods of driving leads should often be considered.  In recent years Facebook has become a popular platform for advertising.  Because the platform allows for such granular targeting, it is possible to go after just about anyone you want.  This includes based on the foods they eat, their geographic location, age, and even income levels.

Where many restaurants struggle is in quantifying the results they get from their investment.  A properly structured analytics platform is essential to measure the return you are getting on your advertising dollars.  This can include using coupon codes or other gimmicks that force customers to tell the business how they heard about them.

Reviews are Crucial

One of the most important methods of increasing conversion rates is to have a large number of reviews.  Even if a restaurant ranks very well, if the other businesses around them have more reviews, they are unlikely to get much business.  This means that each establishment must have a methodology in place that encourages customers to leave reviews of their experience.  Once they’ve attained enough, it will have a significant impact on their conversions and thus their bottom line.

Getting reviews from several platforms is important as well.  Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Google+ are the three most important.  This is largely because of the large number of users on these platforms.  Google+ doesn’t have nearly the traffic as the first two, but these reviews are what is displayed in the “Map Pack” above the organic search results.  This means if you don’t have any Google reviews, you’re most likely going to lose out to those that do, even if they rank below you.

Methodology for Getting Reviews

There are many ways to go about getting reviews for a restaurant.  Some typical methods are to have cards printed and left at each table the tell people where to find the restaurants various review pages.  Business cards with these sites are also a handy way of ensuring people leave a review.

One challenge that has come up in recent month is the fact that you can no longer leave a Google+ review from an iPhone unless you use the Google Maps app.  This can be very confusing and adds an additional layer of complexity to getting customers to leave their thoughts on their experience.  There are ways to shortcut this process, but they are still somewhat difficult compared to leaving a review on Yelp.com or Tripadvisor.com

Facebook Advertising

Given how narrow Facebook allows you to target your ads, this is seeming more and more like the wave of the future.  People enter so much information into Facebook, and businesses are learning more and more how to leverage this.  For instance you can run an ad within a mile radius of your business for women that are in town visiting from somewhere else.  This is incredibly powerful technology.  It will be interesting to see how restaurants, bars, and cafes use this going forward.

So while SEO is certainly one component in successfully marketing a restaurant in today’s competitive landscape.…