For many years, restaurant owners and operators didn’t have to worry too much about SEO. But that all changed during the pandemic when on-site sales ceased, foot traffic dwindled to almost nothing, and the vast majority of marketing activity moved online.
What is SEO? It stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s the art and science of ranking higher on Google, Bing, and other search engines (but primarily Google). The majority of clicks go to the first two highest points, making them incredibly valuable real estate. This inevitably leads to fierce competition for Google’s good graces.
Restaurants consistently rank among the most searched local businesses, so good SEO can mean the difference between a successful restaurant and one that closes.
This article will mainly focus on Google since they host around 75% of all internet searches. Google makes it a priority to provide its users with relevant information for their searches. The tech giant is constantly redefining its algorithm to improve user experience and ensure that only the most relevant information appears at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs). 90% of SEO work is making sure your information can be easily found by Google bots crawling every corner of the internet.
Below, we’ll teach you 3 simple tips to make your online menu and website more Google-friendly.
1. Do Keyword Research
You need to figure out what specific terms people search for when viewing menus similar to yours. Defining exact terminology can make all the difference, not only in showing Google that you match the best result, but also in capitalizing on terms that receive higher search volume.
For example: Internet users search “Barbecue menus” eight thousand times a month on Google. Other spellings, like “Barbecue Menus” or “Barbecue Menus,” generate less than 400 searches in the same time frame.
Keywords can be used for your menu title, item names and descriptions, title tags, and more to ensure you align with your customers’ needs. There are many tools to help you with this process. Use these tools to start a list of your top 50 search targets, then refine it as you go. Some of my personal favorites:
Google Ad Words (now only Google Ads) — Start with the source itself. Google Ads will help you discover the search terms customers use to locate related businesses, both locally and nationally. The results might surprise you. It will also help you discover which search terms are realistic goals that you can potentially rank for. The most popular searches for your industry may be unrealistic targets for the top two rankings, so Google Ad Words can tell you which keywords you should target instead.
Google search bar — Plug a keyword into the Google search bar and see what appears in the drop-down list of suggested searches. Again, the results are often surprising, but they’re rooted in analytics derived from what people are actually looking for. This is a great way to discover long-tail searches that won’t be as competitive due to their specificity.
Keyword Volume — When you have a list of potential keywords, it is important to determine which ones are receiving the highest search volumes. There are many tools to help you, but I prefer https://searchvolume.io/. It’s easy to use and, most importantly, it’s free!
2. Create a separate URL for your menu
When it comes to displaying your menu online, there’s a right way and a wrong way. The harm is uploading a PDF of your menu to your website. Google’s scrolling bots not only can’t read PDFs, they’re still cumbersome to navigate on a phone and therefore difficult for customers to use.
So what’s the right way to upload your menu? In a separate, mobile-optimized digital form with its own URL.
Giving your menu its own page with its own URL immediately lets Google know the general content of the page. Google then knows that when someone searches for your menu, they can direct them directly to the most relevant information. Showing your menu alongside your other restaurant information can hurt your search results because Google doesn’t want to give its users irrelevant information. Yes, the menu may be there, but so are your personal reflections and amateur poetry.
So, if you are hosting your menu on your homepage, your first step should be to create a unique webpage for it. This same logic applies if you have multiple menus for main courses, desserts, specials, etc.
This will also allow you to populate page title tags and meta descriptions with keywords specific to your menu, rather than generic keywords for your entire website (more on this in part two). !)
Note: Menu template services such as MustHaveMenus allow you to create and publish menus online for free. They make it easy to design a new menu and introduce it to your customers.
3. Include a link to your menu on your homepage
“Link juice” is a popular term among SEO enthusiasts. It describes the importance that Google places on a link. Stronger links contain more “link juice” and are therefore more valuable for boosting your SEO. Links included on your homepage are more valuable because Google assumes that everything on your homepage should be important to your customers.
Including a link to your menu from your homepage is the quickest and easiest way to tell Google that your menu’s webpage has useful or relevant information. Burying your link in deeper, harder-to-find pages will signal the opposite.
Note: Placing your menu link in the footer doesn’t transfer the same “link juice” because Google knows people fill their footers with links, the majority of which don’t get much traffic. Since Google thinks you don’t weigh the link heavily, they won’t either.
Mark Plumlee is the editor of MustHaveMenusa menu template and marketing service for restaurants. Since 2007, MustHaveMenus has been striving to provide small businesses with one-stop online and offline menu management. The company’s mission is to help small businesses grow by using menus as a powerful sales and marketing tool. It has provided menu design tools, branding services, printing and online publishing services to tens of thousands of restaurants, bars, cafes, hotels and hospitality businesses around the world.