local seo for restaurants

Local SEO For Restaurants – How To Dominate the Search Results in Google & Facebook

Local SEO is the act of building brand authority and relevance for your restaurant on the web.  Local SEO for restaurants is about getting your business found in the top local search results in Google and Facebook.  And this is quickly becoming a key reason in determining whether your restaurant succeeds.  One look at the growth rate of searches in Google and Facebook, especially via mobile phones, you would be remiss to think you can avoid these fundamental strategies to successful local SEO for restaurants.

There are two things that can no longer be ignored regarding local SEO for restaurants:

  1.  Over 90% of your patrons are using their mobile phone.
  2. Over 50% of your new patrons are searching for restaurants in Google and checking you (and other restaurants) out on Facebook.

The Relevance of Local SEO for Restaurants

Take a quick look around your restaurant and notice what behavior represents the least common denominator – besides eating, of course.  I would argue that people staring at their mobile phone is next most common behavior behind eating.

And if this is true when people are in your restaurants, it would be foolish to assume this is not the case when your patrons are on their way to your restaurant or searching for the best restaurant in your city.  Drill this down further, and perhaps it’s people searching for your particular type of restaurant in your city (i.e. pizza, Chinese, Italian, Mexican, etc…).

Go beyond search (i.e. Google) for a minute, and notice one of the most common apps that your patrons are using while in your restaurant.  Based on the fact that Facebook has nearly 1 billion active mobile users per month, I would argue that Facebook is the most common app being used in your restaurant.  And again, if this is the case of people in your restaurant, then it’s likewise the case outside of your restaurant.

Tip #1:  Local SEO For Restaurants in Google Search

Let’s first talk about local SEO for restaurants in Google.

Pull out your mobile phone and do a quick search using only the word restaurants.  Don’t even put your city name in the search box, just type in restaurants, and see what you get.

Here’s what I see (screenshot from my Google search app in Athens, Georgia):

Local SEO Tips for Restaurants

As I was typing the word restaurants into my Google search app, there automatically appeared the “near me” recommendation.  So once I got about five letters in to the ‘restaurants’, Google suggested I tap the “restaurants near me” search phrase.

And the screenshot above shows you what I came up after I tapped the “near me” phrase.

Local SEO Tip For Restaurants:  You Need A Google Business Page

The search results you see here are the coming straight from verified Google business pages.  In order to get your restaurant found in the local search results in Google, you must start with a verified Google business page.

The way you do this is as follows:

  1. Start by creating your Google business page .
  2. Proceed through the setup process and fill out as much information as you can about your business to include menus, hours of operations, street address, phone number, and your restaurants website URL.
  3. Select the most appropriate and relevant category for your restaurant.  Don’t just select ‘restaurant’ if you are specifically a Mexican restaurant – you want to make sure you select “mexican restaurant” as the primary category (as an example).
  4. Continue through the setup process until you get to where you need to request a verification post card, and then go ahead and request it.
  5. In about a week or so, a postcard from Google will show up with a five digit code.  You’ll need to then come back to your Google business page and enter that verification code to get verified.  This is a critical step in the local SEO process for your restaurant as Google will always give precedence to the verified business pages in the local search results.
  6. Finally, you need to make sure your website URL is verified and associated with your Google business.  This creates the symbiotic relationship between your Google business page and your website.  Likewise, the SEO techniques you carry out on your restaurants website will also influence the keyword phrases your Google business page ranks for.

Once you’ve verified your restaurant’s Google business page, you want to make sure you are continually updating your page with new posts that are relevant to your business.  The more active your Google business page, the more relevance will be attributed to your restaurant in the search results.

Finally, and this is a more advanced local SEO tip for restaurants, but I recommend you integrate the NAP (business name, address, phone number, and even the menu items) into your website using Schema language.  You can learn more about the technical side of Schema for restaurants here, but in summary it’s a way to leverage a recognized local code structural that all major search engines use to find local business information and categories.

From my experience, less than 10% of local businesses, including restaurants, leveraging the more advanced technique of Schema language integration.  So by doing this effectively can quickly set your restaurant apart as Google determines the most relevant restaurants to show in the search results.

Tip #2:  Local SEO for Restaurants in Facebook

The other key strategy to leveraging local SEO for your restaurant is Facebook.  And more specifically, a Facebook fan page for your restaurant.

The steps to creating your restaurant’s Facebook fan page are pretty straight forward.

How to create a Facebook business page for your restaurant:

  1. Go to facebook.com/pages/create
  2. Click to choose a Page category
  3. Select a more specific category from the dropdown menu and fill out the required information
  4. Click Get Started and follow the on-screen instructions

But of course I don’t want to just give you the surface level local SEO tips for restaurants… I want to give you the more advanced local SEO insights that will help your restaurant dominate and rise to the top.

We already know that nearly every (or all) major restaurants in your city have a Facebook business page.

But what they more than likely DO NOT have is a verified Facebook page.

Verifying your Restaurant’s Facebook Business Page

Verifying your Facebook business page is one way to quickly set your restaurant apart from the crowd in your market, and here’s the simply, step by step process to doing it:

  1. Simply go to your Facebook page >> https://www.facebook.com/[your-restuarant-facebook-page-url]
  2. Click “Settings” in the top right corner.
  3. Click “Verify this Page” link in the Page Verification line.
  4. Enter the phone number listed on your Google business page.
  5. Click the “Call Me Now” button.
  6. Facebook will call your phone and provide you with a 4 digit code.

As long as you answer the phone number you entered, and that number is associated with your Facebook business page, you should get verified.

As this relates to Google’s local search results (remember the “restaurants near by” search), Facebook business pages carry a substantial amount of authority relevant to Google’s local SEO algorithm.  As such, doing everything you can to enhance the authority and relevance of your restaurant’s Facebook business page will likewise help you to achieve more authority and rankings in Google.

I just did a quick search for restaurants in Athens, Georgia on Facebook and looked at the top 10 search results (Facebook only gave me 10, but certainly there’s a lot more restaurants than that in Athens), but none of these restaurants have taken the additional step to verify their Facebook page.

Here’s a screenshot of the top 3 search results I see in Facebook for this particular search:

restaurant local seo tips

Again, none of the restaurants listed in the top 10 search results in Facebook have verified their Facebook business pages.

This means for any restaurant in any metro area in the U.S., taking the additional step to verifying your Facebook business page can set you apart from nearly all of your competitors.

Now, I’m not saying that by verifying your restaurant’s Facebook business page you will instantly and automatically shoot to the top of the search results in Google and Facebook.

But, verifying your restaurant’s Facebook page is one more step in the process of paying attention to details, and exploiting every opportunity to differentiate your restaurant in Google and Facebook.

And as I mentioned before, Facebook local business data is one of the most authority data sources in the world, and Google certainly is leveraging this data to gather information regarding the authority level of your local SEO for restaurants.

Tip #3:  Social Media – A Key Success Factor to Local SEO for Restaurants

Notice the common relationship between your restaurant’s Google business page and Facebook page.  Both of these platforms are part of a social media network.

Social activity is a key factor in determining the relevance and authority of your restaurant’s local SEO power.

Facebook pages that lay dormant with no activity or updates, are giving substantially less authority than those that are active in sharing updates, photos, and videos.

Likewise with your Google business page, the more active your restaurant is in sharing content such as links, photos, and videos, the more relevance Google attribute your Google business page.

And this directly impacts the overall authority, and subsequent rankings for your restaurant in the local search results.

Again, I’m not advocating that by creating a bunch of social media posts on Facebook and Google is the only thing you need to do to dominate the restaurant local SEO search results.

But it is another feather in your cap (so to speak) in doing everything you can to differentiate your restaurant from the crowd in these social media networks.

Differentiation leads to authority and relevance, which leads to your restaurant’s local SEO success.

Tip #4:  Ratings & Reviews:  Another Key Success Factor to Local SEO for Restaurants

Finally, this discussion on local SEO tips for restaurants would not be complete without talking about the impact of ratings and reviews in both Facebook and Google.

Notice the screenshots I shared above of the local restaurants in Google from my iPhone, and the Facebook search results for local restaurants in my city.

Both of these screenshots feature the ratings and reviews for the restaurants appearing in the search results.

Just like the other strategies regarding local SEO for restaurants shared above, none of these elements alone will drive you to the top of the search results.  But collectively, they will help you differentiate your restaurant, and in turn increase your authority and rankings in Google and Facebook.

And the ratings and reviews for your restaurant are another key component in determining your local SEO success.

Ratings & Reviews in Google for Restaurant Local SEO

Getting ratings and reviews in Google for your restaurant can happening two different ways:

  1. Google aggregates, or curates, ratings and reviews for your restaurant from other sources such as Yelp, Zomato, YP.com, and other local business directory sources.
  2. People with a Gmail (or Google Apps) account can directly leave a rating and review for your restaurant while logged in to their account.

Based on the overall ratings and reviews for your restaurant, Google will use this information in determining the overall authority of your Google business page.  Google will also aggregate this information and display your average star rating and number of reviews along with your Google business in the local search results (however, you must have at least 5 reviews in Google before your average star rating will appear the search results.)

Unless Google curates your the ratings and reviews for your restaurant from other sources, people will be forced to be logged in to their Google account in order to directly leave a rating and review on your restaurant’s Google business page.

Google uses this strategy to combat review spam and other techniques leveraged by those who are attempting to artificially inflate the authority of a Google business page.  By forcing direct submissions through the requirement of being logged in, Google can at least track your restaurant’s ratings and reviews back to a single user.

Ratings & Reviews in Facebook for Restaurant Local SEO

Getting ratings and reviews for your restaurant in Facebook is equally as powerful as those you receive in Google.

One look at the screenshot of the Facebook search results I shared above, and you’ll quickly see the relevance of ratings and reviews being displayed for these restaurants.

The powerful leverage from Facebook is that in order to leave a rating and review for a restaurant, or any business for that matter, the user has to be logged in to their Facebook profile.

But once a user is logged in to Facebook and visits a restaurant’s Facebook business page, it’s a pretty straightforward process for that user to go ahead and submit their rating and review.

This process helps to increase the overall authority of your Facebook business page, which in turn, empowers your restaurant’s local SEO influence in Google.

Conclusion

Your new and existing patrons to your restaurant are using Google and Facebook to find restaurants, and to leave ratings and reviews for restaurants they’ve already visited.  As such, it’s critically important that your restaurant remain engaged and proactive in the local SEO process.  Effectively implementing these local SEO tips for restaurants, you will be well on your way to the top search results for restaurants in both Facebook and Google.

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