The Most Effective Restaurant Online Marketing Strategies

You have a great restaurant, you get great reviews, but maybe should be getting a little more and your exposure just isn’t doing well when you search google, yelp and other places people are looking for restaurants like yours.

This can be frustrating as an owner, manager, or chef who is juggling 5 knives at once.

Here are some free tips on how your restaurant can show up in searches organically and with a little ad boost to get huge exposure in the digital arena.

Optimize Your Free Local SEO Listings

There are a lot of really nice restaurants that are listed in areas with hundreds, or thousands, of restaurants and the only category if any that they’ve listed in their Google listing is “restaurant.”

When you search for “pizza near me” or “sushi” do you stop and think, “oh I should just type in “restaurant”? LOL, no. So you should be categorizing your restaurant with all the applicable options to increase your ranking for people looking for the type of food you serve so well.

Are you even listed in all the free local listings? If not, it takes maybe a few hours to be up and running. Consider the top listings in order of importance: Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook, & Bing Local Places.

Google Restaurant GMB Categories and Features

It should be no debate that Google maps search results are the most important and effective way to get new business online. To start, make sure you list all of your applicable categories. You can find a full list here.

Be sure your listings are all correct with the applicable settings to include your address, that you are setup for visitors and not servicing customers outside of your business (unless you are a catering company, your correct hours of business, your correct website http or https:// and correct use of www. or no-www.

Your location should have the most applicable categories on top, with the primary category set to the type of restaurant matching your menu. You can also add “restaurant” and/or “bar” but this should be lower in the list of settings.

Free Listings in Yelp, Facebook, Bing Places & More

Duplicate the information as much as possible in your other local listings, making sure all of the information matches as much as possible. Having consistent NAP (name, address, phone number) is important to help you rank with authority in organic search results.

Be sure to also include images, and resize your images for different platforms so they are viewable by users in the way the platform shows them. Bing Local Places will show restaurant images in a square format, so if you add your Google images they typically get blurry and when resized in the upload.

One nice thing about Bing Local Listings is that you can instantly duplicate most all of your Google information when setting up, but you do have to add your categories, the most important item to remember.

There are also tools out there that push all of your information to the different platforms, which can be a big help if you have a larger client base and or multiple restaurants. Yext is a nice platform but expect to pay a little for the time it saves to help you with this effort.

List Your Amenities, Happy Hours, Menu & Ordering Information

Are you set for a big push to offer online ordering for take out & delivery with a 3rd party? TryCaviar, Toast Tab, Door Dash and others make this easy, just be sure to add images and a full, updated menu whenever possible, and feature these links in your listings if you want users to have easy accessibility. If you have wheelchair access, family friendly atmosphere or other amenities like cleaning for COVID protection be sure to list these as well.

Do You Offer Din-in, Takeout, Delivery?

Don’t miss the chance to let people know you are open when they see your location! Especially if they are looking for a feature that you offer, why not show that you offer delivery or that you are open with outdoor seating? In Google business listing platform, be sure to see the “+” sign in that amenity at the bottom of the list of features when you click the edit button.

Get Restaurant Reviews, Reviews & More Reviews

If you keep a list of emails from clients signing up for offers etc., consider sending a survey to find out who likes your restaurant, and offer them a chance to review your business in Google or Facebook. You can offer them an easy link to get to your reviews section.

While you cannot ask for Yelp reviews, according to Yelp’s review policy, you can display Yelp stickers at your business or website to help users remember to leave you a review on that platform.

Remember the good ol’ fashion way of marketing from word of mouth. Happy customers leave good reviews, so make sure people are talking kindly of your establishment. Have quick, regular meetings with your team to remind them to go the extra mile for customers. Find ways to improve and for goodness sake serve them good food or else!

The Best Paid Advertising Platforms for Restaurants

If you are looking for a way to boost your presence in online search results, these are the most effective strategies to get the biggest bang for your buck.

The most recommended platforms from most important are: Google Ads, Yelp Ads, Facebook Ads, Bing Ads. This order may change slightly depending on your performance and location. if you are in Alpharetta, GA, you may find people are not using Yelp much, but in San Francisco or NYC the Yelp presence may make or break your revenue goals.

The top ad types and targeting have been shown to use, yes here it is, Google Maps ads and Text Ads for searches of your food category and your geo-location (be sure you have your account setup correctly for this to optimally work, Display ads for remarketing in Google and FB, as well as Display in Google with custom intent, relevant topics and affinity targeting , similar audiences, and google optimized lists. Bid low in display!

Should Restaurants Pay for Yelp Ads?

No, but yes. Yelp ads are an easy way to put your location at the top of the page for category searches, but they can also be a huge waste of budget if you don’t set them up to work for your results.

The answer, find a digital ad agency like Golden Gate SEM who has a special agency platform on Yelp. Through this feature you can eliminate spend on broad or irrelevant categories or searches that would otherwise be getting traffic from users who will never visit you.

Measure Your Results With a Free Google Analytics Account & Conversion Pixels

If you don’t have a “GA” account, but have a website, then get one now. Be sure to setup goals to measure important event clicks like clicks to your reservations page, clicks to your ordering platform, and in some cases clicks to menu, email submissions and mobile click to calls.

You can import your “conversions” to google ads and view your traffic from sources like Yelp and Facebook, even though they also have their own performance platform.

Optimize Your Eatery’s Website

First things first. Online platforms have made it difficult for users to see your website, unless they search for you directly, so you want to make sure you are showing in the free and paid listings. Another crucial element to that is making sure your information lines up with your website info.

In many cases users will now just make a reservation, call, or order online from the links on the local listings, but many still visit the website, so you need to be prepared to show off your goods in a formidable fashion.

You don’t need a overly expensive site, but the site should be fast, it should have decent images, and it should have all the pertinent information like your logo, address, phone number and easy to find links for what people want. This could be reservations, menu, directions etc. And to ensure your site shows correctly in search results and social posts, make sure you have title and description tags nailed down, as well as at least basic SEO elements, and ensure you have a featured image tagged to show for social networks so when people share your links other users see great images that represent your brand!